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Lemony pasta is fast and fresh

Recipe: No butter or cream in flavorful side dish

Light, flavorful and fast: Lemon pasta, made here with fresh linguine.

Light, flavorful and fast: Lemon pasta, made here with fresh linguine. Kathy Morrison

Ingredients for the pasta dish gather on a counter
A tart lemon and a Meyer are the stars here.

Anything bright and fresh is welcome these days, as winter drags into its last weeks. I found this lively citrus pasta dish while looking for yet another way to use my lemon horde.

Made without cream or butter, the pasta beautifully complements a main such as grilled fish, crab cakes or baked chicken. But I could see it as an excellent vegetarian main course -- or vegan if you leave out the Parmesan cheese.

I recommend using fresh linguine (found in the refrigerated case at grocery stores) but it also will work with dried pasta such as angel hair or thin spaghetti. The fresh packages are usually 9 ounces, not 12, so either use part of a second package, or just cook the one package -- the sauce generally will not have to be adjusted.

I've made this dish using just Meyer lemons, but I prefer the blend of zest from one Meyer lemon and one tart lemon. For juice I used the golden Meyer. And don't skimp on the garlic or the parsley. They both add depth to the sauce.

One more note: This recipe moves quickly once you start cooking, so it's important to have everything grated, chopped, etc., ahead of time and at hand.

Fresh lemon pasta

Serve 4 as a side dish or 2 as a main


Two lemon halves and a pile of chopped parsley
That Meyer lemon is a beautiful orange-gold.

9 to 12 ounces long pasta, either fresh or dried (linguine seems to work best)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons good olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste

Zest from 2 medium to large lemons (about 2 tablespoons), Meyers or tart or both

Juice from the larger lemon, about 1/4 cup 

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving


Put a 4-quart pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When it starts boiling, add a dash of salt, and the pasta. If it's fresh, it will cook quickly, so be prepared. Cook pasta to al dente doneness, and save out 1 cup of cooking water before draining the pasta gently and setting it aside. 

Linguine in a saute pan
A spatula and pasta spoon help when tossing pasta.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium heat, then add the minced garlic and the red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, stirring, no more than 1 minute. Add the lemon juice and 1/4 cup reserved pasta water, then add the cooked pasta and toss, coating the pasta.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the parsley and lemon zest to the pasta, tossing to distribute well. Add the Parmesan and, if needed, more pasta water to get the strands well-coated. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve immediately with more Parmesan and an optional drizzle of olive oil.

Here are a few more of our citrus-with-pasta recipes:

Chill out with lemony pasta salad

Lemon plus herbs plus pasta = delicious

Pasta with prosciutto and orange


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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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