From Barbara Krauss -- A Favorite Recipe from the Sicily Tour

WYSU group dining at La Contessa Giovanna's Casa Bianca, Sicily
WYSU group dining at La Contessa Giovanna's Casa Bianca, Sicily

In Italy, the first plate after the antipasto is called Il Primo, and it is most often a pasta dish. One of the highlights of our luncheon was a superb lemon pasta, which I have tried to recreate in my own kitchen. Nothing could compare with the Contessa's, of course, but I think this might be a respectable effort.  

LEMON PASTA A LA CONTESSA GIOVANNA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 pound penne pasta                                                              
  • 1/4 cup combined olive oil and butter
  • Zest and juice of 2 medium lemons*
  • 3-4 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Pasta water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A few tablespoons grated Parmigiano Regiano cheese (or the equivalent)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (optional)
    *Note: I love lemon, so I used two. If you prefer a milder lemon taste, use just one.

TO MAKE:

In a large skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the cream and simmer on low heat for a minute or two until thick. Add the lemon zest and juice, stirring occasionally.
Taste first, then add salt and pepper as needed. Keep on low heat.

In a separate pot, boil pasta in salted water until very al dente. Don't overcook, as the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce.  Drain pasta, but be sure to reserve some of the pasta water -- at least a cup. 

Add pasta to the lemon/cream sauce and cook over medium heat until the pasta is the desired texture. Add a few tablespoons of grated cheese. 

If the mixture is too thick or there is not enough liquid, add pasta water a little at a time until you get your desired consistency. Don't be afraid to add more pasta water as needed, as the pasta will absorb a lot of the liquid as it continues to cook. 

Add more grated cheese to taste and the fresh basil, if using.

ENJOY!   --  BK