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Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto

  • Author: Michelle Burns
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


  • 4 lemons, zest
  • 1 1/2 +1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • 1 pound spaghetti noodles, dry
  • 1/2 cup almonds, slivered
  • 1 1/2 ounce (without rind) Parmesan cheese, cut into small chunks
  • 2 Tbs Parmesan cheese, grated (GARNISH)
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbs chives, finely chopped (GARNISH) (Can substitute chopped Fennel fronds)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed chile flakes (OPTIONAL)


  • Using a vegetable peeler, zest the lemons in long, wide strips and do not include the pith
  • Divide the zest and set 1/2 aside
  • In a large pot, combine 2 quarts of water, 1 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, and half the zest strips.
  • Bring the water to a boil and boil for 3 minutes, then remove the zest.
  • Add the spaghetti noodles and cook until just al dente (about 10 minutes).
  • Remove the noodles to a large bowl.
  • Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the noodle cooking liquid. (NOTE: We use the remaining pasta water to blanch some vegetables to have with the pasta.)
  • While the noodles are cooking, prepare the pesto


  • In the bowl of a food processor, combine the remaining zest strips, the almonds, Parmesan cheese chunks, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper, and chile flakes if using.
  • Process until the mixture resembles coarse sand, about 10-20 seconds
  • Add the oil and process just until the oil is incorporated (the mixture will not be smooth), about another 10-20 seconds.
  • Set aside until the pasta is done.


  • Add the pesto to the noodles in the bowl and mix well.
  • Add 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid and mix with the noodles to create a coating that sticks to the noodles.
  • Add 1/4 cup and mix until the cheese mixture sticks to the noodles but has a creamy texture.
  • Top with remaining Parmesan cheese and chives when serving.

Optional:  Add 1/4 tsp crushed chili flakes to the pesto for more spice

Optional:  Replace chives with Fennel fronds


Source:  Milk Street 25 Best Tuesday Night Recipes

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15


  • Calories: 793
  • Fat: 40.93 g
  • Carbohydrates: 88.24 g
  • Protein: 17.88 g
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