Monday, February 27, 2012

Spaghetti with Mascarpone, Meyer Lemon, Spinach, and Hazelnuts

I'm all for buying local produce when possible, but I love the fact that just as we're about to hit the dullest, greyest part of the year, our grocery stores get bombarded with all of the brightest citrus from down south. A bowl full of lemons and oranges cheers me more by its smells and colors than a bouquet of flowers, and we always buy the largest possible bag of grapefruits. This is the best time to explore some of the more exotic varieties of citrus. Meyer Lemons are a Chinese variety, believed to be a hybrid of a lemon and orange. The flavor seems almost lemonier than an ordinary lemon, probably due to the fact that it's less-tart juice allows the flavor to shine through.

This dish would be excellent served either as a primo piatto (pasta first course), or as a main dish. If it is your entree, I'd recommend upping the spinach (maybe as much as double, depending upon your tastes). I think next time I make this, I'll try it with rotini or something that tosses a bit more readily without turning into a big nest. As a last note, I usually cook with whole-wheat pasta, but decided to go with white for this dish, since I didn't want to overwhelm the subtle flavors.

Serves four.

zest and juice from one Meyer Lemon
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese*
1/2 teaspoon salt
a few grinds of fresh pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 pound spaghetti
5 cups (loosely packed) fresh spinach, washed, spun dry, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts

Combine the zest, lemon juice, mascarpone, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl. Whisk to combine.

Bring a pot of water to boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.

Return the pasta to the pot, and set over low heat. Stir in the mascarpone sauce. Add the spinach and toss so that the spinach begins to wilt. Add about 1/4 cup of the pasta water (more if necessary) to keep the sauce fluid but not too watery. Continue to cook and toss until the spinach is cooked. Add the hazelnuts and stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Note: You can, of course, buy mascarpone in the store. It can be a tad cost-prohibitive, though, so you can also make your own with just a couple of ingredients following this recipe.

No comments: