Meyer Lemon Parmesan Pasta with Garlic Breadcrumbs / by Chelsea Zwieg

I am so so happy to be writing this post right now. Not just because it's about the lemon pasta of my dreams, but because I am typing on my computer (!!!). About 30 seconds after I posted my brownie recipe last week, my computer had the kind of meltdown that could only be rivaled by a really spoiled toddler in the middle of the grocery store. No, actually the toddler would have to burn down the grocery store to even come close. It was bad. So I rushed it to the computer hospital/Apple store and sure enough they also couldn't reign in the tantrum. So they whisked it off to be repaired and said "you'll be fine without it for a few days, right?". HA. Not wanting to come off as the raging macbook addict that I apparently am I said, of course! And 5 seconds after I got home I realized how pathetically dependent I am on my computer. How was I supposed to blog? or edit photos? or waste time when I didn't want to do other stuff? (let me break here to tell you that I know this story is not an actual problem. It might even be too dumb to be called a first world problem. But I'm going to continue anyways. Sorry bout it.) They ended up repairing it faster than they said and we were eventually reunited in a teary eyed homecoming (just kidding. Or am I?). I feel like this is where I should tell you that my computer-less few days took me back to a simpler time. That I rediscovered the joys of letter writing and watching the sunrise and I might just stop using my computer all together. But my handwriting is too messy to write letters and I am up 4 hours before the sun every darn day and also, I need this thing to blog. So welcome home, my sweet little computer. Oh, how I missed you. 

Now, let's talk pasta. 

I was recently working on an article about citrus where I pretty much had every single citrus fruit rolling around my kitchen. But in those few days of eating oranges on lemons on limes, the one thing that stuck out to me most was Meyer lemons. I don't remember ever having them before but seriously what was I waiting for?? They are a sweeter version of the traditional lemon, closer to a cross between an orange and lemon. Which means they can provide all the good parts of lemon flavor but in a much more approachable, not so overpowering way. They blend into the background of a dish better but still make it bright in the way only lemons can. Also, they make for some seriously good pasta.

This is a slightly changed version of a lemon pasta that I started making years ago. It is the simplest ingredient list you could imagine and takes less than 30 minutes to make but delivers unbeatable flavor every single time. The most important thing is to use really good ingredients. Since olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan are the only things going in, you can really taste each one. So make sure you use an oil you like the flavor of, freshly grated parmesan (none of that shaker business) and of course the prettiest, golden skinned Meyer lemons you can find. You can also make this pasta with regular lemons, but I would use about half of the required lemon juice and add from there so you don't end up with too-tart pasta. Finish it all off with some crispy, garlicky breadcrumbs and you have your new go-to weeknight dinner all winter/Meyer lemon season long. 

Meyer Lemon Parmesan Pasta with Garlic Breadcrumbs 

Serves 4-6

| Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pasta of your choice (I've done spaghetti, angel hair, etc. This time I used this pasta from Whole Foods) 
  • 1/2 cup meyer lemon juice (2-3 lemons) 
  • 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped 
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumbs 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest of 2 meyer lemons

| Instructions

  • Prepare pasta according to package directions, but stop it 3 minutes short of al dente. Drain pasta in a colander, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid in a measuring cup.  
  • While the pasta is boiling, whisk lemon juice and 1/2 cup olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside. 
  • Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and stir to coat. Toast the breadcrumbs, stirring often, until they are just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the breadcrumbs are a deep golden brown. Stir in the lemon zest and transfer the breadcrumbs to a paper towel to drain and dry out.
  • Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel and return to the stove on low heat. Add the lemon juice mixture, 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and the pasta and toss to coat. Gradually add the parmesan, stirring until it is melted. Add the remaining cooking liquid, a splash at a time, until the pasta is moistened and the sauce is silky and coats each noodle. You might not need to use all of the cooking liquid. If you add a bit too much, just increase the heat and let it cook off. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped parsley. 
  • Divide the pasta into bowls, top with breadcrumbs and serve.