lemon Pesto Pasta

I love lemons! They are little powerhouses of flavor. Behind his (or her) bright yellow jacket, awaits an assertive little fruit just bursting to be squeezed or zest. This simple, summer pasta dish is perfect as a light lunch paired with a glass of Prosecco or limonata and enjoyed with friends al fresco. A fitting finish to this light lunch would be a slice of lemon pistachio crostata.

As for the pasta, normally I would advise you to cook it in a large pot with an ocean of water that is as salty as the sea.

However, that is not the case here. Cooking the pasta in a smaller sauce pot with only enough water to cover it, rather than a large pot, concentrates the starch in the water. This is important because there is no heavy cream in this dish. It’s the starchy water that emulsifies the cheese and creates a creamy, luscious sauce that coats every bite of pasta.


    • 4 cups water
    • 2 lemons
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 8-ounces orecchiette or other small pasta
      lemon Pesto:
    • 1/4 cup sliced, toasted almonds
    • 1/2-ounce chunk of Parmesan, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
    • 2-Tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon Extra-virgin olive oil
    • 6 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese, finely grated


  1. Using a Y-shaped vegetable peeler, peel one of the lemons into long strips, being careful to avoid the white pith which is bitter. Place the peels in a sauce pot with the water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let peels steep for two minutes. Remove the peels and discard. Bring the lemon water to a boil. Add pasta and cook al dente.
  1. Meanwhile, using a food processor, combine the lemon peels of the 2nd lemon with almonds, parmesan and sugar. Pulse until blended. Add the oil, pulse to incorporate (it will not be smooth). Set aside.
  2. When the pasta is ready, (reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water before draining), drain and return to pot. Add some of the cooking water (I used 3-ounces) to the lemon pesto, pulse a few seconds. Now add grated Parmesan cheese. Pulse until desired consistency, adding more of the reserved water if necessary.


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