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I add Preserved Lemon (1 1/2 TBS diced) as well as some juice from the jar instead of just lemon juice - it adds another layer of flavour.

Lemon zest and juice perk up this classic buttery and cheesy pasta dish. The secret lies in emulsifying the sauce to a satiny consistency using the starchy pasta water, not cream.

Why It Works

  • Using the starchy pasta water to emulsify the sauce creates a cleaner flavor than you'll find in renditions of this dish made with cream.

  • Cooking the pasta in a smaller volume of water than the frequently recommended "large pot" produces starchier water, which helps to better emulsify the sauce.


  • 5 tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter

  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, plus fresh juice to taste and additional grated zest for serving

  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 pound (450g) fresh spaghetti

  • 1 ounce (30g) grated Parmigiano - Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving

  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat until foaming. Lower heat to low, add lemon zest and garlic, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, in a medium pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until just shy of al dente. Reserve about 1 cup (240ml) of the starchy pasta water, then drain pasta.

  3. Add pasta to butter mixture, along with 1/2 cup (120ml) reserved pasta water. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring and tossing to coat, until pasta is glazed in a satiny, emulsified sauce.

  4. Add grated cheese and toss and stir rapidly until sauce thickens; if it becomes too tight and dry at any time, add more pasta-cooking water to loosen it sufficiently. Add lemon juice to taste, starting with 1 tablespoon (15ml), then adding more until desired tartness is reached. Season with salt and pepper.

  5. Serve spaghetti right away, topping each serving with additional grated lemon zest and cheese.

  • YIELD:Serves 4

  • ACTIVE TIME:10 minutes

  • TOTAL TIME:15 minutes



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