Friday, June 21, 2013

pasta with cream, pepper, lemon and basil

This is not really a recipe. It is more of a story about taking care of oneself with a decent little dinner. When my husband is out of town, I find myself using the opportunity to eat tater tots for dinner (oh man, do I love tater tots) or string cheese and olives. You know, basic random food grazing.

On one such Saturday (after a previous nights dinner of deviled eggs) I was teetering on the edge of a similar line. Feeling too lazy to go to the grocery store, the box of frosted flakes seemed like the most logical next step. 

Then I paused and realized what I really wanted was a nice dish of pasta- nothing overly done or fussy, but something with lots of fresh basil and a touch of cream. I started opening cupboards and fridge drawers. I found a previously overlooked package of spaghetti noodles, a decent looking lemon and in the fridge was some heavy cream, parmesan cheese, and a quarter of a red onion. 

I put on a large pot of water for the spaghetti. While the water heated up, I placed a glug of olive oil in a large skillet over low heat with about 2 tablespoons of finely minced red onion and a pinch of salt. I left it on low heat while the spaghetti cooked- I did not want to caramelize the onion, just soften it up slowly. I stepped over to the patio door and plucked all the fine small basil leaves off my basil plant. (Lest you think me some sort of skilled gardner, it is a basil plant from Trader Joes. I generally manage to keep them alive for about 2 weeks- just enough to completely plunder of all leaves and life. It is more economical and convenient then buying a package of basil leaves.) 

Once the spaghetti was done cooking, using large tongs, I pulled it out of the water and into the skillet. I have recently learned of the magical properties of pasta water in helping to pull a sauce together and try to avoid draining pasta water down the sink. 

As soon as the noodles hit the skillet, they were tossed with the onions. Into the pan I poured about 1/2 cup of heavy cream, grated in a few shaves of parmesan cheese, and a lot of fresh ground pepper. The pasta quickly absorbed all the liquid and so I added about 1/2 cup of pasta water to keep things from drying out too much. I then added the zest from one lemon, all the while tossing the noodles around with the tongs to get them completely coated in the peppery lemon cream. (I personally prefer lemon zest to lemon juice in pasta sauces. It seems to add the lemony brightness in the just the right way.)

I pulled the pasta from the pan, into a large wide mouth shallow bowl, topped with a little more lemon zest and, with my kitchen shears, slivered the basil leaves over. 

The result was pasta with a peppery silky cream sauce punctuated by the lemon and basil. For dinner for one, it was just perfection. 

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