Weekend Recipe: Garlicky Spaghetti with Lemon and Pine Nuts

Garlicky Spaghetti with Lemon and Pine Nuts
Photo: Courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

The key to this Cook's Illustrated recipe that yields a flavor-packed spaghetti made from pantry ingredients is making the most of the garlic.

We mince our garlic to make sure that all of it cooks at the same rate. Toasting the garlic over low heat in ¼ cup of extra-virgin olive oil ensures that it cooks to a pale golden brown. Any darker and its flavor goes from delicately buttery and sweet to bitter and harsh.

We cook our spaghetti in just 2 quarts of salted water in order to ensure that the pasta cooking liquid is loaded with starch. We reserve a portion of this liquid and add it to the spaghetti along with the oil. The starch helps the oil cling to the pasta and gives the dish a perfect — not greasy — texture. Adding 1/2 teaspoon of raw minced garlic near the end of cooking helps to balance garlic’s dual attributes — the buttery sweetness of toasted garlic and the fire of raw garlic.

Garlicky Spaghetti with Lemon and Pine Nuts
Serves 4


2 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon minced garlic
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound spaghetti
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest plus 2 tablespoons juice
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 ounce Parmesan, grated (½ cup), plus extra for serving
½ cup pine nuts, toasted

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A garlic press makes quick work of uniformly mincing the garlic, which in turn ensures that the garlic browns evenly. Serve with a salad for a light, quick supper.

1. Combine 2 tablespoons garlic and oil in 8-inch nonstick skillet. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is pale golden brown, 9 to 12 minutes. Off heat, stir in pepper flakes; set aside.

2. Bring 2 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add pasta and 2 teaspoons salt and cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to pot. Add remaining ½ teaspoon garlic, lemon zest and juice, reserved garlic-oil mixture, and reserved cooking water to pasta in pot. Stir until pasta is well coated with oil and no water remains in bottom of pot. Add basil, Parmesan, and pine nuts and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing extra Parmesan separately.

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