Q: I am in desperate need of a healthy recipe to prepare once all of the decadent holiday leftovers are finally finished! Any suggestions?
A: If your house is anything like mine during the holidays, friends and family are constantly over to share meals. So by the first of the year, not only are the last leftover crumbs nowhere to be found, but anything remotely edible is finito. Even with a barren fridge, I can rely on this six-ingredient recipe to get my family back on track, and back to the basics. Try a light and simple linguine with lemon to counteract a long month of indulgent holiday meals.
While I typically use dried linguine in this recipe, any pasta on hand will prove just as dreamy. And if you have fresh or frozen pasta in your post-holiday kitchen carnage, all the more power to you! Quality extra-virgin olive oil is essential in this dish, as there are so few ingredients, so I use Roi, San Giuliano or Primo. All of my favorite olive oils can be found at Eataly or in your nearest Italian market.
Although the varieties of pasta and oil can be substituted, I find that a Meyer or Sorrento lemon is key. The Meyer lemon — a cross between an orange and a lemon — is a relatively new import from China. Desirable because it’s sweeter than other varieties of this citrus fruit, Meyer lemon adds a slightly floral flavor and fragrant oil that bring all of these ingredients together harmoniously.
With its fragrant, medium-thick peel and fleshy inside, the Sorrento lemon is another top qualifier. This variety remains one of the richest lemons in ascorbic acid and is subsequently often incorporated as the acidic component in savory dishes. The peel of Sorrento lemons contains such culinary gold that in the early 20th century, they were sold individually and were handled only by women with trimmed nails and wearing cotton gloves. Sorrentos are the most widely used lemons for fresh consumption in Italy.
If any fresh herbs have survived the holidays, throw them on top of this dish to add a hint of color. Parsley and lemon are always a nice pairing, but almost any fresh herb complements the citrus.
This linguine with lemon pasta embodies everything I love about Italian cooking. It’s clean, it’s simple, and it leaves your appetite remarkably satisfied. Enjoy.
LINGUINE WITH LEMON
Excerpted from Molto Gusto (ecco, 2010)
4 lemons, preferably Meyer or Sorrento
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound dried linguine
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
Grate the zest and squeeze the juice from 2 of the lemons. Using a sharp serrated or other knife, cut off the tops and bottoms of the remaining 2 lemons to expose the flesh. Stand each lemon upright on the cutting board and cut away the peel and white pith in strips, working from top to bottom and following the natural curve of the fruit. Hold the fruit over a bowl to catch the juices and cut down along the membranes on either side of each section to release it, letting the sections drop into the bowl.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, and add 3 tablespoons kosher salt.
Meanwhile, combine the lemon zest, juice, olive oil and butter in another pot and heat over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Remove from the heat.
Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Add the pasta and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water to the lemon juice mixture and stir and toss over medium heat to coat the pasta well. Stir in the lemon sections and cheese (add a splash or two more of the reserved pasta water if necessary to loosen the sauce) and serve immediately, with additional grated Parmigiano on the side.
Mario Batali is the award-winning chef behind 24 restaurants, including Eataly, Del Posto and his flagship Greenwich Village enoteca, Babbo. In this column, Mario answers questions submitted via social media and by people he encounters daily in downtown Manhattan. Keep asking!