When I think of pasta I think big bowls smothered in sauce. And although most pasta dishes kind of make you wish you had those big, stretchy sweatpants on … not today. Light and easy is on my mind.
Can you believe this is Los Angeles? Need a pick-me-up.
In need of some of mother nature’s sunshine: lemons. Pasta, sans sauce, full of lemon and fennel with langoustine is dinner tonight. A light pasta perfectly suited for my slow and aging metabolism.
Where are you California sunshine that I know and love?
This is so LIGHT and EASY and READY IN LESS THAN THIRTY MINUTES!
And to all the naysayers who feel pasta and a good dose of sauce go together like peanut butter and jelly: pasta is downright delicious without the heaps of sauce. Some fresh seasonal ingredients and good olive oil are all you need. Yes! Your waistline will thank you.
The recipe came on a whim. I have never made this before. It came about from walking by the big bowl of lemons I have on my counter. Every time I would walk by I would get a nice whiff of lemon. Which reminded me that on a day like this pasta with citrus would be perfect. We have two lemon trees in the back that are wonderful to us. Lemons for picking all of winter and most of spring that I use up tirelessly.
You know how the lemon oil lingers on your fingers after you peel the zest? Isn’t it heavenly? I love that. So invigorating. One of my favorites scents … and fruit. I love cutting up a whole lemon into wedges as if it were an orange. Do you do that too? Tell me you do.
So I got a little excited and created this recipe around these fragrant lemons. I think you will love it.
But pasta with lemons alone didn’t feel like dinner, at least not for my 5 boys.
We need fennel too. Stems and all.
Hmm, what else.
While scouring my freezer I found bags of langoustine and the usual staples for pasta in the fridge: onions, and garlic. Then basil came to mind.
Ooh fennel, basil, lemon, and langoustine would go so well together … need to get some basil on my way to pick up …
If you’re not into langoustine (taste like mild lobster), add shrimp or chicken. If you are vegan, easily leave it out. You will still be getting a good helping of protein from the quinoa pasta and not to mention all the vitamin C to kick any cold bugs away. Heck, add a few splashes of white wine, or Pernod if you like. I would have but didn’t have any.
This dish is an open-minded one. And healthy. And feels so light while eating it that you may eat more (ahem) than you should. Kind of like a noodle bowl with Italian-inspired ingredients. Hmm, an Italian noodle bowl. Is there such a thing?
This pasta dish was a big hit amongst the family. Yeah, it was pretty delish …
Mom, the sliced lemons don’t taste bitter, what did you do?
Sliced them thin, that’s all.
Many loud slurps …
Mom this is really good. The lemons look like pinwheels. Cool.
What’s for dessert?
Um, no thanks.
Not your typical pasta dish but wait until you try it … enjoy!
Serves 6 bowls. Cut ingredients portions in half to serve 4 medium bowls.
4-5 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
2 pounds frozen langoustine (I used 2 bags of Trader Joe’s brand), thawed on the counter for 30 minutes
2 medium onions, diced
3 tablespoons minced garlic
2 lemons, zest then slice thinly (I used a mandolin on 1/8 inch setting)
juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons
1 fennel with stem, thinly sliced (also used a mandolin for this)
2 large handfuls fresh basil, stems removed, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons GF sherry vinegar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons crushed black pepper
5 quarts of water
2 packages quinoa pasta (I use Andean Dream)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil for serving
Optional: sliced lemon and fennel (we also love some slices raw), and fresh basil leaves for garnish
Optional: Red chili cayenne peppers (for some kick)
Preheat oven temperature to 400 degrees F (204 C)
Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper then add the drained langoustine (pat dry if needed). When preheated, bake for 8-10 minutes until opaque and bright in color. Set aside while preparing the other ingredients.
Note on lemons: You will need a mandolin to slice the lemons thinly so they don’t taste bitter. If you do not have one, I suggest zesting the lemons then peeling off the skin and pith (white part) and slice into segments instead. Keep your lemons at room temperature, it will yield more juice and taste more like lemon than refrigerated lemons.
Note on zest: I did this with a zest peeler, not a microplane. Use a microplane if you do not have one.
Meanwhile, slice and dice all your ingredients before cooking as this dish does come together quickly.
Now that the water for the pasta is on and all your ingredients are ready, set a large skillet on medium-high heat. When hot add olive oil; when it appears thin and runny add onions and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until opaque. Add garlic, stir for another minute.
Then add kosher salt, and pepper. Stir again. Add lemon zest, lemon juice, and sliced lemons, stir.
For the pasta: pasta water should be boiling by now. When boiling add tablespoon of kosher salt. Then add spaghetti (I cut ours in half for the kids, you can leave it whole if you like) and bring it back to a boil to cook 6-8 minutes.
Add sliced fennel, stir to combine for 1-2 minutes.
Add sliced basil then sherry vinegar to the skillet. Stir to combine well.
Add cooked langoustine with a slotted spoon (I don’t add the liquid residual from the langoustines since my kids think it tastes too fishy, add it in if you like for more seafood flavor, it will not affect the salt content).
Drain and add cooked pasta to the skillet.
Lightly toss to combine.
By the way, this brand of quinoa pasta tastes like the real deal. No starchy, sticky stuff like some other brands. It does cost a bit more but truly worth it. #notanad
Add a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil before serving and optional fresh garnishes. Taste before serving to see if additional salt or pepper is needed. Serve immediately.
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