June 03, 2012

Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy

It is (almost) officially summer and that means lighter meals.  Most of us love cooking and ALL of us love eating (please tell me it isn't just me), but let's be honest for a minute...  Wouldn't you rather be outside instead of stuck in front of a stove on a blissfully perfect summer day?

This pasta dish comes together in record time.  From start to finish it's about 15 minutes and then it's off to the beach or hanging out in the backyard.  There is no heavy sauce here, just a light "vinaigrette" that comes together from the oil of the sundried tomatoes & artichokes,  a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of starchy pasta water.

A few big handfuls of spinach give it color and make a healthy addition to the pasta.  Spinach is rich in iron and the nutrients are more easily broken down and absorbed by your body with the addition of fresh lemon juice (and it's just good!)

Lemon Squeezy Pasta
  • 1/2 lb pasta
  • 3 big handfuls baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • 3/4 cup marinated artichoke hearts in olive oil
  • juice & zest of 1 lemon
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt & pepper
  • pasta water

Cook pasta according to instructions.  I like a short pasta with this particular dish, but use whatever you have on hand,  it isn't worth a special trip to the store.  

Reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta water before draining.  In a medium sized bowl, add butter to drained pasta along with the spinach.  Toss to combine.  The heat from the pasta will slightly wilt the spinach. 

Then add in artichokes & tomatoes, lemon zest and juice.  Toss again to combine.  The oil from the artichokes and tomatoes will make a light sauce with the lemon juice.  Add enough pasta water to get the consistency of the sauce that you like,  you may not need the entire amount you reserved.

Season with salt & pepper.  Using a vegetable peeler, shave a few curls of Parmesan on top and garnish with a little extra lemon zest.

There are endless variations on this pasta dish.  Try it with broccoli instead of spinach.  Add a few handfuls of broccoli to the pasta during the final 3 minutes of cooking, drain with the pasta and continue on...  Another addition that is delicious is ricotta cheese.  Stir in a half cup of ricotta just before adding the pasta water.

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