Baked lemon pasta (~6 servings)

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It seems I've dipped into another lazy blogger cycle lately. (I feel like I make this confession once a month or so.) Yes, my home life has been hectic lately, especially because of a grad class that keeps me super busy but so far has taught me nothing, but I've also just been lazy about cooking. This is my first February in North Carolina, and my body is so confused. It's the middle of February, yet I was outside in a t-shirt yesterday. To a Pennsylvanian girl, this is just mind-blowing. Of course, we always have a freak warm day or two each winter in PA, but I'm not used to gearing up for warm weather this early in the year. My cookbooks' winter recipes are still dog-eared, and my Crockpot is still sitting patiently on the counter, yet cold-weather recipes just feel out of place right now. I've been relying mostly on year-round staples like this and this and this, but I have tried a few new things lately, and one of the standouts has been the Pioneer Woman's baked lemon pasta.

Just typing out the name made me salivate a little.

You will need:

  • 1 lb dry spaghetti (I'm in love with Barilla's spaghetti rigati lately)
  • 4 Tbsp salted butter (vegan butter if you're going for the dairy-free option)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or sliced very thin
  • 1 whole lemon
  • 2 cups sour cream (see note below)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
  • a handful or two of grated parmesan (you can skip it or use nutritional yeast)
  • flat-leaf parsley, chopped (maybe 1/4 cup or so -- I didn't measure)

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. While it's cooking, zest the lemon and put the zest aside in a small bowl. Drain the pasta as soon as it's al dente.
  3. While the pasta is draining, melt butter and oil in a skillet over low heat. When the butter is melted, add the garlic to the pan; cook and stir for less than a minute. Squeeze the juice from the (naked) lemon into the pan and then turn off the heat.
  4. Add the sour cream to the pan; stir mixture together. Add in the lemon zest and salt. Taste to see if you need more salt.
  5. Pour the drained spaghetti and the sauce into an oven-safe dish and toss gently with tongs. Bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Then bake, uncovered, for another 7-10 minutes. You want the sauce to be nice and bubbly, but you don't want the spaghetti to turn brown and dry out.
  6. Remove the dish from the oven. Sprinkle the pasta with parmesan and parsley and a little more lemon juice, if desired. Serve immediately.

As you probably surmised, this isn't exactly a low-fat, low-calorie recipe. However, I see it as a lovely transition from winter to spring: it's rich enough for winter, but the bright, fresh flavors will remind you of a sunny spring day. However, if you want to make it slightly more healthful, you can do what I did and use vegan sour cream -- either storebought or homemade. I made my own, and while the tofu did make the sauce a little crumbly, I didn't find it distracting or off-putting. The lemon is really what shines through here. Don't expect the sauce to be sour; the combination of ingredients makes the sauce slightly sweet and very refreshing.