Sicilian Lemon and Pepper Pasta literally bursts with sunny Mediterranean flavor, and it takes just minutes to throw together this wonderful meatless meal!
This simple pasta dish is just the kind of thing I rely on to get me through especially busy weeks. Everything can be found in the pantry, except the lemon, and if you don’t keep a supply of fresh lemons on your counter then I can’t help you ;)
This pasta has got some serious lemon flavor, serious red pepper heat, and serious oil cured olive action going on. It’s a blend of sharp flavors mellowed out by the pasta that I keep coming back to in one way or another. Simple vegetarian pasta dishes like this one are made really rich and satisfying when you don’t hold back on these strong Mediterranean flavors.
I’m trying out a new strand pasta I found yesterday. Fedelini is finer than thin spaghetti, but slightly thicker than angel hair. I love fine pasta, but I have trouble working with angel hair, it clumps and doesn’t toss with other ingredients easily, at least for me. I like this one because it’s not too much starch, and doesn’t overwhelm my beautiful flavors.
The lemon is important in this dish, so I used a sharp vegetable peeler to slice off the entire rind. Use only the yellow part; the white part tastes bitter, like biting down on a lemon seed. The rind gets ground up with the Parmesan cheese in a small food processor, so the lemon flavor is as strong and fresh tasting as possible. Lemon cheese…yum.
The walnuts are for garnish, but they add a lot, and I think they’re a nice change from pine nuts. I can’t believe how much fresher and crunchier walnuts are when you get them right out of the shell. This is the season when the stores have whole nuts available, and I highly recommend grabbing some. I don’t have a nut cracker, so I gently bashed them with a small hammer. Worked great!
These amounts aren’t sacred, it’s more the combination of flavors that is important. Change them up according to your taste. Oil cured olives often come with their pits intact, I found that my cherry pitter did a quick job of pitting them.
I can pretty much guarantee that this pasta will blow you away, as long as you use good quality ingredients.
- 1 large lemon, washed and dried
- 3 1/2 to 4 oz Parmesan cheese, cut in chunks
- 1/3 cup good olive oil
- 1 heaping Tbsp crushed red peppers
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 cup whole black oil cured olives, pitted
- fresh parsley
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
- 3/4 lb Fedelini, or thin spaghetti
- chopped walnuts
- Peel the zest from one lemon. Be sure to get only the yellow part. Put it in a small food processor with the cheese, and process until both are finely ground. You should have about 1 cup when you're done. Set aside.
- Cook the pasta according to the directions, until just al dente.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the crushed red peppers and garlic. Heat gently and let the peppers and garlic sizzle for a minute or two to infuse flavor into the oil. Don't brown the garlic.
- Add the juice of the lemon, and the salt and black pepper to taste.
- Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the cooking water.
- Add the pasta to the pan, along with the lemon/cheese and enough reserved pasta water to make a creamy sauce. Toss well with the parsley, and garnish with chopped walnuts..
- Serve right away