Weekend Recipe: Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil (al Limone)

Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil (al Limone)
Photo: Courtesy of Cook's Illustrated

For the perfect amount of lemon flavor in this Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil recipe, Cook's Illustrated mitigated the fresh lemon juice and lemon zest with cream. Using equal amounts cream and olive oil kept our recipe’s sauce creamy and fruity. To get the sauce to cling to the pasta, we let the sauced pasta sit covered for a few minutes to allow the pasta to absorb the flavors and the sauce to thicken.

Spaghetti with Lemon and Olive Oil (al Limone)
Serves 4 to 6


Table salt
1 pound spaghetti
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
¼ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons finely grated zest and ¼ cup juice from 3 lemons
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about ½ cup), plus more for serving
Ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves

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Let the dish rest briefly before serving so the flavors develop and the sauce thickens.

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta to boiling water; cook, stirring frequently, until al dente. Reserve 1¾ cups cooking water, drain pasta into colander, and set aside.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook until shallot is softened, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1 1/2 cups of reserved pasta cooking water and cream into pot; bring to simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat, return pasta, and stir until coated. Stir in remaining 3 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

3. Cover and let pasta stand 2 minutes, tossing frequently and adjusting consistency with remaining 1/4 cup reserved pasta water if necessary. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, drizzling individual portions with oil and sprinkling with cheese.

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