Monday, December 20, 2010

Fettuccine with Lemon Sauce

Menu: Fettuccine with Lemon, Mixed Greens Salad with Vinaigrette, toasted slices of French Bread and Sliced Oranges or Clementines for dessert

Do you have a favorite, go-to dish that is simple to prepare, tasty enough for company and only calls for a few ingredients typically found in the pantry? One such recipe is Fettuccine with Lemon. The original version came from Marcella's Italian Kitchen (1986) by Marcella Hazan, and this pasta dish has been a winner for me for years. The pungent citrusy fragrance of lemon perfumes the kitchen or the boat galley, whetting appetites for the light, distinct flavor of the sauced pasta. An added bonus - the sauce takes less time to make than it takes to boil the water for the pasta. (OK, the grating of zest and cheese add an extra minute or two.) 

Here's the short version - 

Melt the butter and cream over high heat until boiling.

Add lemon juice and zest and keep stirring while reducing to almost  1/2. Turn off the heat and let the sauce sit while the pasta cooks.

Grate the Parmesan cheese.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss; add the grated cheese and toss. 
Plate and add your choice of optional toppings.

Fettuccine with Lemon
Fettuccine al Limone
Adapted from Marcella’s Italian Kitchen by Marcella Hazan (1986)
Serves 4 to 6 as a first course, 3 to 4 as a main course

4 TB butter      
1 cup heavy cream (non-fat half and half works just fine)             
2 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more, to taste)      
The grated zest of 1 large or 2 small lemons (no white pith!)
Fettuccine made with 3 large eggs and about 2 cups flour
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano, plus additional for the table
*Optional toppings

1.  Fill a large, deep pot and with water for the pasta. Bring it to a rolling boil.
2.  Meanwhile, in a skillet or sauté pan large enough to hold the cooked fettuccine later, add the butter and cream and heat to boiling over high heat.
3.  When the cream just begins to boil, add the lemon juice and stir thoroughly. Add the grated lemon peel and stir some more.
4.  Keep stirring and reduce the cream to almost half its original volume. You do not want to reduce it completely. The pasta will be tossed with it later in the pan and will absorb a lot of sauce.
5.  Turn off the heat and let it sit until the pasta is cooked.
6.  Drop the pasta into a pot of boiling salted water. When almost cooked but still firm, drain and add it to the pan with the lemon sauce. Turn on the heat to medium and toss the fettuccine thoroughly in the sauce for 15 or 20 seconds. It will finish cooking and will absorb the sauce.
7.  Transfer all the pasta and sauce from the pan to a warm serving bowl. Add the grated cheese and toss two or three times. Bring the bowl to the table and serve at once with additional grated cheese on the side. OR if your pan is attractive enough to serve out of, just add the cheese to the sauced pasta, toss and carry on with one less dish to wash up.

*Optional toppings:
Pignoli (pine nuts), minced green onions, chopped Italian parsley, toasted fresh breadcrumbs, or even a scatteringl of fresh lump crab meat. Use these topping suggestions singly or in paired combinations, but not all of them at once! Let the lemon shine through as the main flavor.

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