I’ve had this little doozy of a recipe sitting in my “to cook” pile for awhile. (Most people make “to do” lists. I make “to cook” lists.). The original blog I got this recipe from did a great job of selling me on this simple, elegant pasta. Her photos are fantastic, her instructions are great, and so I was inspired to make this dish.
However, like most recipes in my “to cook” pile, I was just waiting for the right excuse to make it.
I’ve been having bi-weekly girl dates with my friend Nicole for a little while now, and I always look forward to our time together. Nicole is married to Blake, who happens to be good friends with Nich. They have a beautiful little girl named Lillian, who I adore with my whole heart. (I blame Lillian for tugging at my heartstrings and reminding me that I do have maternal instincts hidden in me somewhere.)
Nicole and I usually go out for our bi-weekly girl dates and leave the boys (and baby) behind. But, since our husbands happen to be friends and like to hang out with each other – we decided that girl date this week would include husbands and baby. I was in charge of the main course, and Blake and Nicole provided sides and wine (Blake works for a wine distributor and always has access to fabulous wines). Since I was bringing food over to their place, I wanted something simple and relatively portable. This is the perfect recipe for such a situation.
I made the pasta and lemon cream sauce ahead of time, and tossed it together into a baking dish. The pasta bakes rather quickly (20 minutes or so), so I just brought the pre-baked pasta (and garnishes for post-baking) over to Blake and Nicole’s place, and finished it in their oven. It was quick, easy, and remarkably delicious. While it may not be the fanciest of dishes (it is, after all, baked in a casserole dish. and that just feels un-fancy.), it tastes quite elegant. To be quite honest…the more I cook, the more I realize that simplicity is best. It doesn’t need to look pretty, it just needs to taste good. And, I’m learning more and more that simple, fresh, and quality ingredients are the keys to great food. When using quality ingredients, the ingredients speak for themselves.
Baked Lemon Cream Pasta with Fresh Herbs
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
*note the original recipe did not use greek yogurt, basil, pine nuts, or nutmeg. I added those because I felt like it. I will say that in my opinion, the basil is necessary to the recipe. it is so good! the nutmeg, pine nuts, and greek yogurt are optional.
1 package of spaghetti or angel hair pasta (I used 1.5 packages: 1 package of whole wheat angel hair, and 1/2 a package of regular spaghetti. Its what I had on hand).
1 cup of sour cream (the original recipe called for 2 cups of sour cream, but I like greek yogurt better. hence my substitution)
1 cup of greek yogurt (I used non-fat. its what I had on hand.)
3-4 tablespoons of butter
2 tablesspoons of olive oil
2 lemons (the zest from one lemon, the juice from 2)
1/2 cup of finely grated parmesean cheese
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup Italian flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup of pine nuts (*optional)
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
salt & pepper, to taste
1. In a large pot, bring some salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Strain, and set aside.
2. While the pasta is cooking, you can make your sauce. In a large saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter. Add in the olive oil, and stir until combined. Add in minced garlic, and let cook for 1 minute. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into the butter and oil mixture (be careful not to get seeds in it!). Turn off the heat and gently stir in the sour cream, greek yogurt, the zest of 1 lemon, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
3. In a large bowl (or the pot you used to cook the pasta), combine the sauce with the pasta noodles, until everything is coated evenly. Feel free to add a bit more olive oil or sour cream if the mixture looks dry at all.
4. Place pasta mixture into a baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.
5. While the pasta is baking, toast the pine nuts in a small pan over medium heat until they are slightly browned (no oil is needed. use a dry pan). This should only take a couple of minutes. After the pasta has baked for 10-12 minutes, remove foil, and sprinkle the pasta with 1/2 of the parmesean cheese (set aside the rest for later) and pine nuts. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 of a lemon over the top. Place back in the oven and bake until the cheese has melted and the top of the pasta looks slightly golden (8-10 minutes).
6. Remove pasta from the oven. Right before serving, sprinkle with the rest of the parmesean cheese over the top along with the chopped basil and parsley. Squeeze a bit more lemon juice over the top. Eat and enjoy. :)