Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto | Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street

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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

Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto

Free

This unusual pasta dish is modeled on the spaghetti al pesto di limone from Italy’s Amalfi coast. Amalfi lemons, best known for their use in the production of limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, are enormous, with extremely thick skin and a sweet, floral fragrance and flavor. By comparison, the variety of lemons commonly available in the U.S. are sharper and more brash in taste. So to make a lemon pesto that approximated the original, we use a little sugar to temper any harshness. For an extra layer of citrus complexity, we add lemon zest to the pasta cooking water; the oils that the zest releases lightly perfumes the spaghetti and reinforces 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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Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto

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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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