If you are a kind and generous person, and your friend tells you that he loves fettucine alfredo, but no one ever makes it for him, and by the way, he’s coming over for dinner this week, what do you do? Clearly, you make fettucine alfredo, even if you find it to be a cloying, dull dish. But, if you’re bossy like me, and you think you know better than a seven-year-old about what to have for dinner, you make lemon pasta and say something idiotic like, “It’s just like fettucine alfredo, but with lemon.”
I suspect that’s where I went wrong. If I’d just told Ellis we were having Anne’s favorite lemon pasta for dinner, I think it might have gone over better. Instead, I teased the poor kid with the promise of his most dreamed-about dish, only to let him down by tweaking it in a slightly adult way. As he said to me, his mouth half full of chicken sausage and a Patriots’ ski cap pulled down thugishly over his eyebrows, “It would have been better without the lemon.” But don’t let this disuade you. This lemon pasta is totally delicious, even if it’s a little adult. I know it looks like a fair amount of cream and butter, but somehow the lemon lifts the whole thing right off your tongue and makes the pasta taste bright. It is, very likely, the only creamy pasta dish I like to eat. But I fear there’s a classic fettucine alfredo in my future.
Adapted From Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons lemon juice
zest from 1 lemon
1 pound fresh or dried fettucine or linguini
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup Parmesan cheese
chopped chives, for garnish
In a large sauté pan with high sides, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in cream and lemon juice to combine and heat through. Cover pan and turn off heat while you cook the pasta. Once the pasta is al dente, remove it from the water, reserving some of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the cream sauce and toss to coat. Add the lemon zest, salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with a little of the pasta cooking water. Transfer the pasta to serving bowls and sprinkle with a tablespoon cheese and chopped chives. Serves 6 — 8 as a first course.