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On the Amalfi coast, chunks of sweet-tart lemons melt into a silky pasta sauce
Milk Street Bowtie Lemon-Garlic Fettuccine

Lemon-Garlic Fettuccine

40 minutes

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Lemon-Garlic Fettuccine

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In Amalfi, Italy, we were taught a delicious, bracing pasta dish of handmade lemon fettuccine tossed with a simple, quick sauté of garlic, olive oil and fresh lemon segments. To mimic the sweet, mild flavor of Amalfi lemons using the standard lemons available in U.S. supermarkets, we temper their tartness and acidity with a little sugar. Briefly cooking the lemon segments softens both their tang and texture so the pieces break down and disappear into the noodles. In place of freshly made lemon pasta, we opt for store-bought fresh fettuccini but boil it in water infused with strips of lemon zest; we later use some of the pasta water to build the sauce, and we chop the softened zest strips for tossing into the tangle of noodles.

4

Servings

Tip

Don’t forget to remove the seeds from the lemon segments, as they have an unpleasant texture and flavor. Also, don’t use more than 2 quarts water to boil the pasta. The goal is to create starchy, well-seasoned pasta water with which to make the sauce.

40 minutes

4 lemons
2 teaspoons white sugar, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve
9 ounces fresh fettuccine
2 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Finely grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
Ingredients
  • 4

    lemons

  • 2

    teaspoons white sugar, divided

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 3

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve

  • 9

    ounces fresh fettuccine

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, finely grated

  • ½

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • ¼

    cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Directions
  1. 01
    Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from 2 lemons in long, wide strips; try to remove only the colored portion of the peel, not the bitter white pith beneath. Grate the zest from the remaining 2 lemons; reserve in a small bowl. Using a paring knife, cut about ½ inch off the top and bottom of one of the lemons and stand it on a cut end. Working from top to bottom, cut away the pith following the contours of the fruit, exposing the flesh. Now cut along both sides of the membranes separating the sections to free the segments. Remove and discard the seeds from the segments, then add the segments to a small bowl along with the juices. Repeat with a second lemon. Reserve the remaining 2 lemons for another use.
  2. 02
    To the grated zest, add ½ teaspoon of the sugar and ½ teaspoon salt. Mix together with your fingers, then stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil; set aside. To the lemon segments and juice, add ½ teaspoon of the remaining sugar and ½ teaspoon salt; stir to combine and set aside.
  3. 03
    In a large pot, combine 2 quarts water, 2 teaspoons salt, the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar and the zest strips. Bring to a boil, cook for 2 minutes, then remove and reserve the zest. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Reserve 1½ cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Finely chop the zest strips; set aside.
  4. 04
    In a 12-inch skillet over medium, cook the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the garlic and pepper flakes, stirring, until the garlic is light golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon segments with juices and cook, stirring, until fragrant and warmed through, about 30 seconds. Immediately add the mixture to the pasta in the pot along with ½ cup of the reserved pasta water, then toss to combine. Add the grated zest mixture, the parsley and the chopped zest, then toss again, adding more pasta water as needed so the pasta is silky and lightly sauced. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Serve drizzled with additional oil and sprinkled with Parmesan.
Tip: Don’t forget to remove the seeds from the lemon segments, as they have an unpleasant texture and flavor. Also, don’t use more than 2 quarts water to boil the pasta. The goal is to create starchy, well-seasoned pasta water with which to make the sauce.
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Reviews
Gautam J.
August 18, 2022
Delicious!
We had a memorable meal like this in Umbria years ago, and it was great to see that this simple recipe can come together so quickly with just pantry staples.
Pamela B.
July 5, 2022
THE Best summer pasta
Made this with homemade fettuccini and it was absolutely delightful... light but very flavorful. Served it with grilled blackened chicken and light salad.
Michael C.
May 22, 2022
Delicious and simple
We’ve made this recipe several times and love it. We add grilled shrimp. If the lemons are very large you might want to cut back on the quantity… I made this once with very large lemons and it was too lemony.
Diana F.

Fabulous, we had this with salmon and micro greens. It was delicious. The lemon flavor does not disappoint.

Don F.

The article mentions that Amalfi lemons are sweeter than American lemons. Would Meyer lemons be an acceptable substitute for standard American lemons plus sugar?

Lynn C.

Hi Don -

Yes, I think Meyer lemons would be an acceptable substitute. However, because they have such a short season of availability (Dec-Feb) we decided against calling for them in this recipe. By using regular lemons, the pasta can be made year round. Which we really wanted to be able to do since we think this is a great, light dish for summer. If you can get them, though, definitely give them a try!

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Grace D.

I used Meyer lemons to make this the other day and one drawback is that Meyer lemons are VERY delicate. It was hard to get the segments separated from the membranes, and ultimately it ended up being a little bitter because of it, otherwise, I can't wait to try this recipe again.

Grace D.

I used Meyer lemons to make this the other day and one drawback is that Meyer lemons are VERY delicate. It was hard to get the segments separated from the membranes, and ultimately it ended up being a little bitter because of it, otherwise, I can't wait to try this recipe again.

Mary Ann M.

Is there any reason I can't use dried egg fettuccine in this recipe? I'm very picky about my pasta, and there are several imported brands I buy online from Ditalia in Chicago that are superb. I make my own fresh pasta fairly often, but that takes some time, and part of the attraction of this recipe is that it's quick. The fresh pasta available in my supermarket is terrible.

April D.

Mary Ann - you can definitely use dried egg fettuccine, cooked to al dente with strips of lemon zest in the water, and have great success with this recipe. A high-quality dried noodle from a brand you know and love is a good option instead of a mediocre dried pasta. Go for it!

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Nicholas W.

My wife loves the flavor of lemons, so this is definitely on my to-try list. I'm a big fan of making my own pasta, and would love to try making my own lemon fettuccine. I'm thinking perhaps a couple of tablespoons of fresh lemon zest incorporated into a lb of pasta dough? Anything else you would suggest?

April D.

Nicholas - a little bit of lemon zest worked into homemade pasta will be a great addition to this dish. Just be sure not to go overboard: for a pound of pasta, I would start with the zest of one medium lemon, and be sure that you aren't getting into the bitter pith when zesting it. A bit of parsley could also be a nice addition to the dough, to add another dimension to the fresh parsley that you'll add at the end; either 2 teaspoons dried parsley, or up to 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, would both be great.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Nicholas W.

Sounds great, I’ll give it a shot, thx!

Nicholas W.

Sounds great, I’ll give it a shot, thx!

Dennis Alden D.

I would like to suggest that you add one word in your recipe at the end when you say "Taste and season with salt and black pepper." Add the word "sugar" too. I think there is just too much variability in lemon sizes and tartness to know that it will come out the same for everyone. Wow, this was tart! Also, it was a lot of work getting lemon segments and seeds separated from the membranes. Not sure the payback was commensurate with the effort. I've been loving all your recipes as written, and perhaps got a little complacent with this one.

Michael Y.

Agree with the last commenter. I think the pasta cooked in the lemon water is delicious. The sauce was too tart/bitter and I think needed less lemon juice and zest. Separating the lemon segments was very involved. I recommend some gloves when doing this.

Jennifer B.

I love pasta and I love lemon, but did not love this combination.

Scott P.

I enjoyed this dish even though I know quite a few people won't because of how pronounced the lemon taste is. The kick from the lemon and the kick from the crushed red pepper make this a wow dish.


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Lemon-Garlic Fettuccine

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

40 minutes

Tip

Don’t forget to remove the seeds from the lemon segments, as they have an unpleasant texture and flavor. Also, don’t use more than 2 quarts water to boil the pasta. The goal is to create starchy, well-seasoned pasta water with which to make the sauce.

Ingredients
  • 4

    lemons

  • 2

    teaspoons white sugar, divided

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • 3

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve

  • 9

    ounces fresh fettuccine

  • 2

    medium garlic cloves, finely grated

  • ½

    teaspoon red pepper flakes

  • ¼

    cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Step 1 of 4

Prepare Lemons

4
lemons

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from 2 lemons in long, wide strips; try to remove only the colored portion of the peel, not the bitter white pith beneath. Grate the zest from the remaining 2 lemons; reserve in a small bowl. Using a paring knife, cut about ½ inch off the top and bottom of one of the lemons and stand it on a cut end. Working from top to bottom, cut away the pith following the contours of the fruit, exposing the flesh. Now cut along both sides of the membranes separating the sections to free the segments. Remove and discard the seeds from the segments, then add the segments to a small bowl along with the juices. Repeat with a second lemon. Reserve the remaining 2 lemons for another use.

Step 2 of 4

Add Sugar and Salt

1
teaspoon white sugar, divided
Kosher salt
1
tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

To the grated zest, add ½ teaspoon of the sugar and ½ teaspoon salt. Mix together with your fingers, then stir in 1 tablespoon of the oil; set aside. To the lemon segments and juice, add ½ teaspoon of the remaining sugar and ½ teaspoon salt; stir to combine and set aside.

Step 3 of 4

Cook Pasta

Kosher salt
1
teaspoon white sugar
9
ounces fresh fettuccine

In a large pot, combine 2 quarts water, 2 teaspoons salt, the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar and the zest strips. Bring to a boil, cook for 2 minutes, then remove and reserve the zest. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes. Reserve 1½ cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Finely chop the zest strips; set aside.

Step 4 of 4

Finish and Serve

2
tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2
medium garlic cloves, finely grated
½
teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼
cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Finely grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

In a 12-inch skillet over medium, cook the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the garlic and pepper flakes, stirring, until the garlic is light golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon segments with juices and cook, stirring, until fragrant and warmed through, about 30 seconds. Immediately add the mixture to the pasta in the pot along with ½ cup of the reserved pasta water, then toss to combine. Add the grated zest mixture, the parsley and the chopped zest, then toss again, adding more pasta water as needed so the pasta is silky and lightly sauced. Taste and season with salt and black pepper. Serve drizzled with additional oil and sprinkled with Parmesan.

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