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A citrusy take on pesto that flavors the pasta from the inside out
Milk Street Bowtie Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto

Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto

25 minutes

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Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto

Free

This pasta dish is modeled on the spaghetti al pesto di limone that Giovanna Aceto made for us on her family’s farm in Amalfi, Italy. The lemons commonly available in the U.S. are more acidic than Amalfi’s lemons, so to make a lemon pesto that approximates the original, we use a little sugar to temper the flavor. For extra citrus complexity, we add lemon zest to the pasta cooking water; the oils from the zest lightly perfume the spaghetti, reinforcing the lemony notes of the pesto.

4

Servings

Tip

Don’t forget to remove the lemon zest from the boiling water before dropping in the pasta. If left in as the spaghetti cooks, the zest may turn the water bitter, and the strips are a nuisance to remove from the strands of cooked noodles.

25 minutes

4 lemons
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1½ teaspoons white sugar, divided
1 pound spaghetti
½ cup slivered almonds
1 ounce (without rind) Parmesan cheese, cut into rough 1-inch pieces, plus finely grated Parmesan to serve
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
Ingredients
  • 4

    lemons

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • teaspoons white sugar, divided

  • 1

    pound spaghetti

  • ½

    cup slivered almonds

  • 1

    ounce (without rind) Parmesan cheese, cut into rough 1-inch pieces, plus finely grated Parmesan to serve

  • cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

  • 2

    tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Directions
  1. 01
    Using a vegetable peeler (preferably a Y-style peeler), remove the zest from the lemons in long, wide strips; try to remove only the colored portion of the peel, not the bitter white pith just underneath. You should have about ⅔ cup zest strips.
  2. 02
    In a large pot, combine 2 quarts water, 1½ teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar and half of the zest strips. Bring to a boil and to cook for 2 minutes, then remove and discard the zest. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Reserve 1½ cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  3. 03
    Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the remaining zest strips, the almonds, Parmesan, the remaining ½ teaspoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Process until the mixture resembles coarse sand, 10 to 20 seconds. Add the oil and process just until the oil is incorporated (the mixture will not be smooth), about another 10 seconds; set aside until the pasta is ready.
  4. 04
    To the spaghetti in the pot, add the pesto and ¾ cup of the reserved pasta water, then toss to combine; add more reserved pasta water as needed so the pesto coats the noodles. Toss in the chives. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with additional oil and with additional grated Parmesan on the side.
Tip: Don’t forget to remove the lemon zest from the boiling water before dropping in the pasta. If left in as the spaghetti cooks, the zest may turn the water bitter, and the strips are a nuisance to remove from the strands of cooked noodles.
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Reviews
Julie W.
September 9, 2022
Lemon Pesto Spaghetti
Really loved this easy dish! I added Gulf Shrimp that I boiled in lemon (peel) water.
Kimberly H.
June 28, 2022
Easy and Delicious
It was perfect for a weeknight dinner.
Eriche W.
June 5, 2022
Easy and Light
Delicious! Perfect for summer.
Jamie H.
July 6, 2022
Delicious!
Very simple, and so good. The same concept can be used for cacio y pepe. Try it without the chives first!
susan a. R.

I do not see any nutrishinal info or calorie info

Kathryn A.

I plugged this into the MyFitnessPal recipe builder and came up with 733 calories per serving.

Deborah K.

The spaghetti with lemon pesto was amazing. I added one squeeze of lemon in the pesto but otherwise followed the recipe as written. A new go to pasta dish from Milk Street. Really delicious.

Buzz M.

Can the lemon pesto in the recipe SPAGHETTI WITH LEMON PESTO, be made and frozen, for use later?
Thank you.

Lynn C.

Hi Buzz-

We haven't tested this, but we think this would work fine!

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Kathryn A.

While tasty, I reduced the pasta to 2 oz dry per serving and it was still too caloric to keep as a staple.

Elizabeth H.

Somehow, this came out like almond butter. Re-reading the recipe, I realize why this would be the case. Did anyone else have this experience, or did I goof?

Jennifer B.

Um sorry, I love lemon bit this was just too much. Maybe some garlic would have evened it out. Sorry, milk Street, not this time.

Clare M.

Can you use this with fresh pasta or is dried better to use?

Lynn C.

Hi Clare -

Since fresh pasta cooks so much faster than dried we worry that there wouldn't be enough time for the lemon-y cooking water to infuse fresh pasta.

Best,
The Milk Street Team

Tatiana R.

I suspect a Meyer lemon, which is now widely available (I remember a few years ago, it really wasn't the case), is going to be a good substitute for the Amalfi lemon without having to resort to using sugar.

Sanford B.

Tried this last night. Relatively subtle but good sprinkled with a bit of extra Maldon salt. Might use a touch of red pepper in the pesto next time.

However, "remove the zest in long, wide strips" and "remove and discard the zest" are much easier said than done. Some suggested technique here would have been a big help.

Astra F.

Far too lemony. I think next time I’ll roast the almonds, add far less lemon and some basil


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Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto

Get Ready to Cook

4

Servings

25 minutes

Tip

Don’t forget to remove the lemon zest from the boiling water before dropping in the pasta. If left in as the spaghetti cooks, the zest may turn the water bitter, and the strips are a nuisance to remove from the strands of cooked noodles.

Ingredients
  • 4

    lemons

  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

  • teaspoons white sugar, divided

  • 1

    pound spaghetti

  • ½

    cup slivered almonds

  • 1

    ounce (without rind) Parmesan cheese, cut into rough 1-inch pieces, plus finely grated Parmesan to serve

  • cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve

  • 2

    tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Step 1 of 4

Prepare Lemons

4
lemons

Using a vegetable peeler (preferably a Y-style peeler), remove the zest from the lemons in long, wide strips; try to remove only the colored portion of the peel, not the bitter white pith just underneath. You should have about ⅔ cup zest strips.

Step 2 of 4

Cook Pasta

Kosher salt
1
teaspoon white sugar
1
pound spaghetti

In a large pot, combine 2 quarts water, 1½ teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar and half of the zest strips. Bring to a boil and to cook for 2 minutes, then remove and discard the zest. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Reserve 1½ cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Step 3 of 4

Create Pesto

½
cup slivered almonds
1
ounce (without rind) Parmesan cheese, cut into rough 1-inch pieces
½
teaspoon white sugar
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
cup extra-virgin olive oil

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the remaining zest strips, the almonds, Parmesan, the remaining ½ teaspoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Process until the mixture resembles coarse sand, 10 to 20 seconds. Add the oil and process just until the oil is incorporated (the mixture will not be smooth), about another 10 seconds; set aside until the pasta is ready.

Step 4 of 4

Taste, Season and Serve

2
tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil to serve
Finely grated Parmesan to serve

To the spaghetti in the pot, add the pesto and ¾ cup of the reserved pasta water, then toss to combine; add more reserved pasta water as needed so the pesto coats the noodles. Toss in the chives. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with additional oil and with additional grated Parmesan on the side.

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