by Elizabeth Passarella
Meyer lemons and mascarpone team up for perfect pasta sauce
Mascarpone is a soft, scoopable, sweet cheese. Not sugar sweet, but mild and milky with just the tiniest bit of tang. The Meyer lemon has that same quality: sweeter than a regular lemon but still tart. They make a great sauce together, lighter than a typical cream sauce but still silky and rich.
The hazelnuts in this sauce were a last-minute addition. I made this pasta once without them, and even tested a few bites with the nuts sprinkled on top before I dumped the whole lot into the pan. They really elevate this dish to something special, in my opinion, by adding another texture and flavor.
I didn't bother pre-cooking the spinach. Instead, I threw it in with the warm pasta and sauce, adding a tiny bit of pasta water to keep the mixture loose while I continued to heat it over a low flame. The spinach wilts in no time. In fact, the entire dish doesn't take more than 15 minutes to pull together.
Spaghetti with Mascarpone, Meyer Lemon, Spinach and Hazelnuts Recipe
Serves 2 as a main course.
1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced (about 3 tablespoons juice)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 pound spaghetti
5 cups (loosely packed) fresh spinach, washed, spun dry and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts
Combine the zest, lemon juice, mascarpone, salt, a few grinds of pepper and the nutmeg in a bowl. Whisk to combine.
Bring a pot of water to boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta until al dente, taking it off the heat about 1 to 2 minutes before you would normally remove it. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Return the pasta to the pot, and set over low heat. Stir in the mascarpone sauce. Add the spinach and toss so that the spinach begins to wilt. Add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water (more if necessary) to keep the sauce fluid but not too watery. Continue to cook and toss until the spinach is cooked. Add the hazelnuts and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
Pasta Recipe, Italian Cuisine