Spaghetti al Limone and Crispy Kale
I was in the mood for some good Italian winter comfort food that still was on the light side, and settled on the northern Italian specialty called Spaghetti al Limone (spaghetti in a lemon-cream sauce). It was super-easy, with a rich, smooth lemony flavor. And for a side dish I made crispy kale.
To make the crispy kale, I used “curly” kale, washed and dried it, and tore it up into bite-sized pieces. I tossed it in a big bowl with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a couple teaspoons of sea salt, until it was very well coated with the oil. (You can use all kinds of different spices, this time I was going for simple.) Then I spread it in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and baked it in a preheated oven at 350 degrees, watching it very carefully – I’ve found it generally only needs about 10 minutes. You want it to get crisp, not soggy, but you don’t want it to turn brown. When it’s perfect, it’s amazingly light and crispy and very fun to eat. I made this while the pasta water was heating up and while the noodles were cooking.
To make the Spaghelli al Limone (recipe courtesy of a cooking magazine plus a few little variations of my own):
1 pound of spaghetti (I use gluten-free, generally Tinkyada brand)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons minced shallot
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
black pepper to taste
2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves – I didn’t have any, but I did have some “basil in a tube”, it worked fine but I used less of it, maybe 1-1/2 tablespoons
Boil the pasta water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and pasta, cook til al dente. Keep a couple cups of the pasta water in a bowl or large measuring cup and drain the rest, and leave the pasta in a colander. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the same pot over medium heat, add the shallot and 1/2 teaspoon salt, cook a couple minutes, until softened. Whisk 1-1/2 cups of reserved pasta water and the 1/4 cup cream into the pot, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat, put the pasta in the pot, and stir until it’s well coated. Stir in the 3 tablespoons olive oil that are left, the lemon zest, lemon juice, parmesan, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cover and let the pasta stand for 2 minutes, but stir it every 30 seconds or so so it doesn’t clump, and add 1/4 cup more pasta water if needed if it seems too thick. Then stir in the basil, season with more salt and pepper, and serve with more cheese.
It was an excellent dinner, paired with a crisp Italian white wine.