Lemons are one of the most heroic ingredients ever. Somehow, they’re able to stand up to salads, main dishes, and dessert squares alike. Lemons show up in our roast chickens to sustain us through winter, and they brighten up our summer in sorbets.
In Andy Baraghani’s bestselling debut, “The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress,” lemons are the undisputed star of a multitude of versatile dishes, from buttered potatoes with salted lemon to spicy cauliflower ragu with lemony breadcrumbs.
“Lemons are my favorite,” Baraghani writes. “Regular ol’ lemons.”
If you also believe that lemons belong in pretty much everything, I recommend you march into your kitchen tonight and make Baraghani’s gorgeous cacio e pepe with caramelized lemon. Melty, puckery citrus gives the beloved pantry supper standby a glamorous upgrade without adding a whole lot more time or fuss. When I recently made it for my family, I proceeded to shock myself with how much I greedily put away. It’s the kind of dish you make and then want to make again the very next night because you can’t stop thinking about it.
I omitted the rosemary from Baraghani’s recipe for a more summery flavor, and swapped out shallots for garlic, because frankly, that’s what I had on hand. Feel free to adjust this recipe to your own preferences, so long as you remember to be very generous with the cheese and pepper. You won’t be able to stop making this dish.
Recipe: Caramelized Lemon Cacio e Pepe
Inspired by Andy Baraghani’s “The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress”
- 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 small Meyer or regular lemon, thinly sliced, seeds picked out
- 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Fresh pepper and a generous pinch of sea salt
- 1 pound of your favorite pasta
- 1⁄4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
- 1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the lemon slices and sauté, flipping from time to time, until they’re lightly browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the slices to your serving bowl or platter.
Add the chickpeas into the oil and cook, stirring until slightly crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt and lots of pepper and give everything a stir. Cook another 5 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until just shy of al dente.
Remove 2 cups of the starchy pasta water from the pot and add them to the chickpea mixture. Simmer over medium heat. Stir in the butter, one piece at a time.
With a slotted spoon or kitchen spider, transfer the pasta to the sauce. Continue to cook, slowly adding in the Parmesan. Keep stirring until the pasta and sauce look well blended, about 3 minutes. You may need to add a tablespoon or two more of the cooking water.
Turn off the heat and stir the caramelized lemon back in, then return everything to your serving platter. Add more cheese and pepper before serving.
I used gemelli to make the dish seen in the photograph.
Because I like burned things, I let my lemons get a little more blistered.
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