It’s late on a weeknight. You’ve come home from work, but you just don’t have the energy to muster up a fancy meal. Fast food temptations start to sneak in….but you want to keep things healthy (and high quality)!
For busy foodies out there, how do you strike this balance between wanting a quick meal and some downtime, while keeping things light, healthy, yet still irresistibly delicious? Enter: pasta al limone!
For decades (if not centuries), this incredibly simple pasta dish has graced many a plate, whether as a lavish entrée or a quick preparation requiring less than half an hour to make. That’s the most beautiful thing about pasta al limone, besides how it looks and tastes: the dish can be both these things!
But choices, choices: what type of pasta should you use? There’s no better type for pasta al limone than authentic Italian tagliolini, a fine egg-based pasta rich in flavor and requiring only a few minutes to cook. It perfectly pairs with light and creamy sauces, which is precisely what’s on the menu when you prepare pasta al limone…or, in this case, tagliolini al limone!
Some Background and History on Pasta Al Limone
Simply read the recipe name and you’ll know all about pasta al limone’s basic history and origins…it comes from Italy, that much is obvious! Still, this recipe’s specific origins are a little more difficult to put a finger on.
One thing’s for certain: this Italian cuisine favorite comes from the south of Italy in particular, and most likely Sorrento (and the Sorrentine Peninsula) near Naples, where it remains a popular culinary dish. Sorrento is famously known for its unique Sorrento lemons, which boast not just lemon’s trademark citrus sourness but even some sweetness, which perfectly elevate the rich Mediterranean flavors of pasta al limone.
The dish could also be Sicilian in origin. Sicily is one of the world’s top producing regions for lemons, the key ingredient that sets this preparation apart. Needless to say this dazzling Italian meal is definitely a star of the Italian Riviera. One taste will transport you to the Italian Mediterranean coast in all its culinary glory and natural beauty!
What makes tagliolini ideal for this recipe? An artisan Italian pasta from the southern part of the country (just like pasta al limon), tagliolini is made of egg and durum wheat. It has rich, earthy flavor that’s stronger compared to other pasta types; and though it’s considered a “ribbon” pasta, it has a more cylindrical shape.
Bigger, flatter, and wider pastas are best for thick, hearty sauces and ingredients because they can cling and stick to these types of noodles better without making them fall apart. Tagliolini’s cylindrical and slightly more delicate shape, on the other hand, is better for lighter sauces. It lends the final preparation just the right balanced texture for amazing mouthfeel and flavor.
And for pasta al limone, tagliolini is a match made in heaven! The combination of this pasta and the recipe’s ingredients create a light yet satisfying pasta sauce that weds perfectly with tagliolini’s more distinct flavor and curvy, exquisite structure. With both being prized foods and dishes of southern Italy, it’s a divine pairing if there ever was one.
How to Prepare Tagliolini Al Limone
If you search elsewhere on the internet, you’ll find that other pasta al limone recipes look just a little bit different. But that’s the beauty of it: there’s many ways to prepare tagliolini al limone (or any pasta al limone) and still have it come out incredible.
This recipe is perfect for those who love to “eyeball” recipes when they cook, or “cook by the seat of their pants,” so to speak! It doesn’t take exact measurements to get it right: only a little basic cooking knowledge.
Just about anyone can prepare some fairly amazing tagliolini al limone, and the total cooking time is only about 25 minutes at most.However, if you’re dedicated to measurements and getting this one perfect, we recommend the following ratios: for every 9 ounces of pasta, pair it with 250 grams (about 9 ounces) of lemon zest, 1.5 ounces of Parmesan cheese, and 2 fluid ounces of extra virgin olive oil.
We recommend using an organic lemon for zest, free of pesticides, because you’ll be using the outer skin of the fruit where agricultural chemicals tend to concentrate. Take care of your health and buy organic, or a similar label that is chemical free! We recommend getting a lemon from Sicily or Sorento, but lemons from Amalfi (or the French Riviera towns of Nice or Menton) offer amazing quality citrus fruits for this recipe, too…but of course, if you don’t live in these regions, any lemon will do.
What you need:
- Extra virgin olive oil (or olive oil with lemon – optional)
- Zest from 1 Organic Lemon
- Parmesan cheese
- Tagliolini pasta
–Start boiling the tagliolini. Though it takes only 3 minutes cooking time, remove it from the boiling water at the 2-minute mark and place in a pan on stovetop (make sure it’s a good non-stick pan or well-oiled). No need to strain the tagliolini.
– On medium heat, slowly ladle some of the pasta water into the pan with the tagliolini. Add 2-3 ladles worth progressively. This is key to helping it build up its creamy texture.
– Let the pasta cook until the water is fully evaporated, stirring occasionally and very gently. This final cooking will give the tagliolini extra creaminess and takes a little under 10 minutes.
– Next, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (or extra virgin olive oil with lemon) to the pasta. The amount you wish to add completely depends on your preferences…some prefer oily pasta, while others don’t. If you’re unsure, refer to our proportions in the intro to this recipe.
– Prepare the zest of your lemon and add that right afterward too, stirring gently. Be sure to only get the very surface of the lemon peel for the best zest and avoid the inner skin! This can add too much bitterness to the final product.
– Finally, add Parmesan cheese and stir it in until the dish is melty, cheesy goodness. Be careful not to add too much, which risks overwhelming the lemon flavor. Refer to the proportions in the beginning of this recipe to get it right!
– After this final step, the tagliolini is then ready to serve!