Difference between revisions of "Spaghetti al Limone"

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This recipe was written and sent by Kasia Sznajder.

“Back in February the Internet was full of articles and pictures of grocery stores which shelves had been emptied: mainly toilet paper, canned food and even more so: pasta. Of course, it makes sense. But it’s interesting to witness what people across the world believe are the essentials to get in bulk when in panic. When looking closely at these empty shelves we couldn’t help but notice that one specific type of dried pasta was more popular than the others: spaghetti. There is indeed a quality to the long, thin spaghetti noodle, which is so basic (even too basic it may seem at times), yet can be the most surprising and satisfying vehicle of flavor and texture.

To be honest, I’m not a big pasta person myself and it’s never been a favorite of mine. My personal go-to dish, in particular during my studies, was everything and anything made with chickpeas. Pasta was and still is an ingredient I use occasionally. Having said that I have to admit that when the pandemic was all about to hit, we did stock up on some boxes of noodles. But it was a good 2 weeks before they made it on the menu. The first time we made pasta answered to a craving for something comforting and filling that required little preparation. The second closely followed as we realized that these recipes were pretty spectacular, and simple.

If you have a good quality pasta and can cook it exactly the way you like it, you’ve already won. I’m a fan of the simplest recipes: one single ingredient (almost) from the pantry. This time, two recipes: One with lemon, the other with shallots. For the lemon one, the acidity blends well with the creaminess of the Parmesan cheese, it makes it quite fresh. The shallots on is savory and warming and mixes sweet shallots with tangy tomato paste.

Note: as a pasta paring I recommend the movie Big Night with Stanley Tucci.”

Kasia Sznajder

On the history dried spaghetti

One of the first traces from the pasta drying technic

The first dried pasta industry was founded in Sicily in the 12th century. It is described by the Arab geographer Idrisi: "To the west of Termini, there is a town called Trabi. It is located in a large valley covered of large estates in which great quantities of “Tria“ (pasta in the shape of “strings”: “tria” in Arab) are made and dried. They are exported everywhere from Muslim to Christian countries to which many ships are sent.

The first methods to dry pasta would take up to 18 days. First dried under the sun to form a crust, they would then be stored in cold rooms for a night to get rid of most of the moisture. Then, they would be hanged and left to dry completely in rooms where the temperature was kept as stable as possible to guarantee a uniformly dried pasta. One mistake, and a ton-worth of pasta could be ruined!

Ultimately, Italian pasta makers realized that pasta could be dried more quickly thanks to the ovens with which bakers would bake bread on a daily basis. When all the bread was cooked, the oven door was left open and the pasta set next to it to dry in the warm air.

Calling on the same principle, pasta was soon dried in temperature controlled rooms, and the time reduced to 15 hours in the early 20th century. Thanks to this quick drying process, Italians were now able to expand their industry and export its production. With spaghetti being the most convenient shape to store and ship in compact boxes, Italy flooded the USA with the string-shaped pasta in the 1910’s. Quickly adopted, Italian-Americans produced the first contemporary industrial “Italian pasta machine”. Sold across Europe, the machines would turn the Italian “spaghetti” in the dried pantry staple that it is today

Lemon spaghetti Al Limone: the recipe

Pressing the lemons

Ingredients

1/2 lb (250g) spaghetti

Juice of 3-4 lemons

2/3 cup (150ml) olive oil

5 ounces (140g) freshly grated Parmesan

2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves picked and finely chopped

Finely grated lemon zest

Process

  • Zest the lemons and juice them.
  • Whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil, then stir in the Parmesan.
  • Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add more lemon juice to taste.
  • Cook the spaghetti in a generous amount of boiling salted water.
  • When al dente, drain the pasta over a pot to keep the starchy water.
  • Return the pasta to the pot.
  • Add the sauce to the spaghetti and shake the pot so that each strand of pasta is coated.
  • Add a splash of the pasta water to loosen up the sauce which should be thick and creamy.
  • Stir in the chopped basil and some grated lemon zest.
  • Serve warm.

BONUS: Shallot spaghetti Con cipolle: the recipe

The bonus recipe

Ingredients

3-4 large shallots, very thinly sliced

3 thinly sliced garlic cloves

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more to taste

75g of tubed tomato paste, or 110g if canned

A Handfull of parsley, leaves and tender stems, finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Flaky sea salt

(you can also add anchovies, about 6 anchovies for this recipe)

Process

  • Heat up the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add shallots and thinly sliced garlic, and season with salt and pepper.
  • Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shallots have become totally softened and caramelized with golden-brown fried edges.
  • Add the red-pepper flakes
  • Add tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Fry for about 2 minutes to get rid of the acidity of the paste.
  • Cook the spaghetti in a generous amount of boiling salted water.
  • When al dente, drain the pasta over a pot to keep the starchy water.
  • To serve, combine cooked pasta with the shallot mixture and little bit of pasta water.
  • Cook over medium-high heat, swirling the skillet to coat each piece of pasta.
  • Top with parsley, red-pepper flakes and flaky salt and pepper.

Related images