This is one of those super-fast pastas that you will be happy to add to your repertoire. You’ll even have time to make a green salad while the water comes to a boil, and prep the rest of the ingredients while the pasta cooks. You can make a complete dinner in less than half an hour. Woohoo!
People often wonder how much to salt the cooking water for pasta. The answer is probably more than you’d think. Some chefs say the water should taste like the sea, which may be a bit extreme, but a solid tablespoon of salt in a large pot of water is not overdoing it. The point is that salting the water really lets the salt absorb into the pasta while it’s cooking, adding flavor in a way that adding salt later cannot. Even if you add more salt to your sauce, this first salting step is essential.
For this recipe you’ll want to be judicious with additional salt. Two reasons: You will be using some of the salted cooking water in the sauce, and you will be adding cheese. Parmesan can be salty, and feta as well, so as you toss the pasta with the cooking water, cheeses and other ingredients, taste as you go. Remind yourself of the golden rule of salt: You can add more but you can’t take it out.
This version is vegetarian, but you could add some cooked shrimp or cubes of chicken (sauteed, poached, grilled, whatever you like). This would be a great way to use up a couple of leftover chicken breasts.
LINGUINE WITH LEMON, FETA AND BASIL
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 pound dried linguine
- 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more if needed
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Before draining, remove 1 cup cooking water. Drain.
Immediately return pasta to pot and add olive oil, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, basil, about 3/4 of the crumbled feta, and half of the cooking water. Toss to combine, add salt and pepper, and toss again. If it’s a bit dry and can use more salt, add some or all of the remaining cooking water and more olive oil.
Turn pasta into a serving bowl and top with remaining feta, and pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, if using. A final grind of pepper is a nice touch both flavor-wise and visually. Serves 6.
Approximate nutritional information, per serving: 457 calories, 18 g total fat, 6 g saturated fat, 28 mg cholesterol, 510 mg sodium, 59 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 15 g protein.