As a college student — a college student who is a resident assistant, without a kitchen, for that matter — the back room of the dining hall began to feel like a second home this year. Besides the difficult task of finding time to trek to the dining hall between classes, homework, clubs, and being on duty, being a vegetarian takes the challenge to a new level when mealtime rolls around on campus.
I can’t say that I had it rough this year, though — one of my friends, Sage (if you’re anything like my dad, you’re thinking of some joke about cooking and her name being an herb), lived just floors above me as a resident assistant in apartment-style housing. This meant one very important thing — she had a kitchen! Both of us vegetarians, we took to cooking meals together almost once a week to give us a break from the monotony of the same salad, cereal, or pasta with red sauce found at the dining hall.
When I heard that I would get to make a recipe to feature this week, I immediately picked up the phone and began brainstorming with her about what vegetarian dish I should share, and this recipe, a favorite of her mom’s, was immediately a contender. A light and summery pasta, but still offering the kind of comfort necessary for this time that we call “spring” on the Island, it was the perfect fit.
I adapted the recipe a bit by making it lighter, so that its taste would match the taste of summer we had this past weekend, but based most of my cooking on Barbara Kafka’s Creamy Lemon Pasta recipe by Genius Recipes.
This pasta dish serves about two to four people, but we managed to get six servings, and some seconds, out of what we made. Prep time is quick, making it the perfect meal for your summer on the go — it maybe took 25 minutes total from boiling the water for pasta to digging into the finished product.
I started by prepping some of the components of the recipe I would need a little later on. You need two lemons for zest and juice. After using a microplane to get your lemon zest, juice the two lemons, and set zest and juice aside for use later.
Now it’s probably safe to start boiling the water — you’ll want to add some salt to taste. This recipe uses egg noodles, which are infamous for cooking incredibly fast, so you don’t want to start cooking them too early. We used egg-white noodles, to lighten the recipe even more. Once the noodles go into the water, set a timer for four minutes.
After adding the noodles, take your cream (I used half-and-half to lighten the recipe, but the original calls for heavy cream), and add it to a saucepan. Add the zest that you got earlier, and salt and pepper to taste. You will want to let this cook over medium heat for two minutes, or until the cream begins to boil.
The trickiest part of this recipe is probably that you want to stop cooking the noodles and drain them right before they’re fully cooked, right around that four-minute mark. It may be different, depending on the type of noodles you choose to use.
When you drain the noodles, you will want to save about a ladleful of the water. When you’re finished draining, add the noodles back to their original pot with the water you saved, and add the cream mixture and three to four tablespoons of the fresh lemon juice from before. All that’s left is to stir the pasta to coat, and until most of the liquid is absorbed, which only takes about two to three minutes.
Sage and her mom recommended adding peas and basil both for taste, and a bit of added flair. The additional flavors rounded out the dish and made it taste fresher, if possible. The only problem for us? We wished there was more.
This recipe is the perfect dish to dress up or down, and to tailor to the season. Using heavy cream and egg noodles with yolk would make for more of a comfort dish, while making the recipe with the egg white noodles, half-and-half, and fresh herbs and vegetables matched the summery atmosphere of the 70° weather. For a bit of extra summer flair, my mom even suggested adding grilled asparagus as a complementary flavor. This creamy lemon pasta truly offers a great base to build off of and customize to your tastes.
Creamy Lemon Pasta
12 oz. wide egg noodles
2 lemons (zest and juice)
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add noodles, and stir to separate. Cook for 4 minutes, until just barely tender. Drain, saving a ladleful of the water, and return both to the cooking pot.
Just before the noodles are done, in a small saucepan combine the fresh lemon zest, cream, salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat for two minutes, or until the cream comes to a boil.
Pour cream mixture over drained noodles, and add 3 to 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, and continue adding to taste. Stir to coat over medium heat, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Season with additional salt and pepper if desired, as well as fresh ingredients such as basil and peas, to add flair.