April 8, 2014

Lemon Basil Pasta

Often I post pictures of food to both my personal Facebook page and the blog page (you can follow ArmyLife here). I absolutely LOVE when I get requests for the recipe before I even have a chance to share it on the blog. Since this happened yesterday (and I was tickled pink!), I'm featuring my Lemon Basil Pasta a few days ahead of schedule.

That's cool with you, right? I thought so! 

Several weeks ago, I visited Venice with my pal Becky (more coming on that over the next few weeks). Whilst there, I purchased a few bags of pasta to bring home and try out with the Hubs. Honestly, the food in Italy was some of the best I've ever eaten. I'm a huge pasta fan. As in, if I was stuck on a deserted island and could only eat one type of food for the rest of my life… it would probably be spaghetti. Or lasagna. Or lemon basil pasta!

Pasta from Venice

I used this basil pappardelle (pictured above), but you can use any kind of pasta from your pantry, seriously. I've eaten this dish with penne, spaghetti, angel hair, fettuccine… they are all good.

Here's what you need to get started:

Utilizing fresh ingredients for this recipe is super important. DO NOT substitute, ok? You'll totally regret it. Also, be sure you purchase a high quality parmesan cheese, none of this weird crap in a plastic can.

We cool? Ok.

If you want to be extra bad, add some thick-cut bacon to this recipe. I mean, after all the cream and cheese, what can a little bacon hurt anyway? I use an amazing bacon I find at our local German grocery, but you can use the center, thick-cut style if you're in the States.

Chop about 6 slices (2 slices if you're using the German kind) into 1" pieces, like so:

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until done, then drain and set aside for later.

Add your pasta (1 box of your choice, between 13 - 16 ounces) to a pot of boiling, salted water. Cook until al dente. Reserve a small amount (about ½ cup) of the pasta water before you drain it. I usually forget this step, but I almost never need the pasta water because I like extra lemon juice. But if you'd like things a bit more subtle than me, save the water.

Drain your pasta, toss in a little olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside for later.

Since I like using as few dishes as possible to cook, I add 4 tablespoons of butter to the same pot I cooked my pasta in. Melt the butter over medium heat, then add 3 minced garlic cloves to the pot. This will smell fantastic after 3-4 minutes, at which point you'll add ½ cup - ⅔ cup lemon juice. The amount of lemon juice is up to you. I personally use ⅔ cup, because I obsess over lemon. I suggest trying it with the ½ cup on your first time, then adding more if you want it. But ½ cup is usually enough for most people.

Whisk to combine, then stir in 1 cup of half-n-half. Confession time: I sometimes use a whole cup of heavy cream. Don't judge me! 

Continue whisking until your cream is warm, then stir in 2 cups of grated parmesan cheese. Use the good stuff, ok peeps? Grate it yourself! Please don't use the fake powder junk here. The taste is 100% not the same, I promise.

Trust me.

Keep whisking until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Add some salt and pepper to taste. I also add a bit of lemon zest, about a teaspoon. Tip: If you're using bacon add a bit less salt to the dish, since the bacon will add this element for you.

Top left: Step 1, melting butter
Top right: Step 2, adding garlic
Bottom left: Step 3, lemon juice addition
Bottom center: Step 4, half-n-half addition
Bottom right: Step 5, cheese addition 

If your sauce appears too thick after the cheese is melted, this is the point you can add some of the reserved pasta water. Add only a little bit at a time, whisking after each addition, unit the sauce is the consistency you desire. I have never found this to be necessary, but it's nice to have the option.

To your sauce, stir in about ¾ of the basil you cut chiffonade style during your prep (about 30 fresh leaves). Save the rest of the basil to garnish your final dish.

Chiffonade basil 

Also add the cooked bacon at this point, if you're using it. Then it's just a matter of adding your pasta to the pot, tossing it in all the lemon goodness,  and serving it up! Add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a little extra basil for garnish too.

Mmmmmmmmmmm……. so good! I'm a huge lemon fan, so this is one of my favorite dishes ever. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. As always, the standard recipe is below.

Until next time, happy cooking, my friends!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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The Standard Form:

Lemon Basil Pasta


1 lb. pasta of your choice
4 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ - ⅔  cup lemon juice (3-4 large lemons)
1 cup half-n-half or heavy cream
2 cups fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
6 slices thick cut bacon (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
30 basil leaves, chiffonade


Slice the bacon into 1” pieces, and cook in pan until done. Drain and set aside.

Cook the pasta al dente, and reserve ½ cup of the hot pasta water. Drain the pasta. Add a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking, and toss. Set pasta aside.

In the same pot you cooked the pasta in, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook 3-4 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the lemon juice and whisk to combine. Add the half-n-half to the pot. Whisk until hot, then add in the parmesan cheese. Continue whisking until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and the lemon zest if desired.

Check the consistency of the sauce. If too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water to loosen. Stir in nearly all of the basil, reserving some for garnish. Stir in the bacon, if using. Add the pasta to the pot and toss to coat with the sauce.

Serve in a heated bowl, garnished with extra basil and parmesan cheese.

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