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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 March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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