You probably already have a favorite pasta dish that you habitually make up when there’s nothing in the house for dinner. Next time, try this one instead. It has all the usual ingredients – olive oil, Parmesan, flaky sea salt — along with fried lemons for brightness and chile flakes for the heat.
Don’t skip the step of blanching the lemon slices before frying. It may seem fussy, but it eliminates any bitterness in the lemon pith and takes only a few extra minutes. Then dry the lemon slices well before adding them to the hot oil; this helps them brown more deeply.
4 Sunburst lemons
1 pound linguine or spaghetti
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
Pinch of sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon chile flakes, more to taste
⅔ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, more to taste
Black pepper, as needed
½ cup celery leaves, coarsely chopped (optional)
⅓ cup parsley, coarsely chopped (optional)
Flaky sea salt, for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Finely zest 2 of the lemons and set aside. Trim the tops and bottoms off the other 2 lemons and cut lengthwise into quarters; remove seeds. Thinly slice the quarters crosswise into triangles. Blanch the lemon pieces in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a dish towel. Blot dry.
In the boiling water, add pasta and cook until just barely al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat. Add the dried lemon pieces and season with a pinch each of salt and sugar. Cook until the lemons are caramelized and browned at the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Melt the butter with the remaining oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the chile flakes and zest of both lemons; cook until fragrant. Whisk in the reserved pasta water.
Toss in pasta, juice of 1 lemon, cheese, pepper and the remaining salt. Cook until pasta is well coated with sauce. Toss in the caramelized lemon and the celery leaves and parsley if using. Taste and add lemon juice if needed. Serve, topped with a drizzle of oil, more cheese if you like, and a sprinkle of sea salt.
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180 South “E” Street
Porterville, CA 93257