lighter pasta al limone recipe from the faux martha

I’m not sure how to be online right now and hold space for everything in the periphery, which is taking up the little, foggy, postpartum brain space I have left, and filling every offline conversation with friends and family. Recipes feel trite and yet we still eat. This 15 minute Lightened Up Pasta al Limone has saved us once or twice lately. My words sound hollow and yet I still jot thoughts in the Notes app and on here, mostly little poems, if you can even call them that. There’s one titled “The Moon Still Hangs and So Does My Empty Stomach,” a hopeful poem written on an early dark New Years’ morning with a headache from only drinking half of a Cosmo. 

how to make lighted up pasta al limone recipe from the faux martha

And there’s one from last week, after the terrorist attacks on the capitol, about Donald Glover and Night at the Museum and wax figures and traffic jams.

It went like this:

Yesterday was like watching Night at the Museum with wax figures from our past melting into our present.

It was like sitting in a rush-hour traffic jam before Google Maps, making you think you’ve traveled farther than you have.

It was like listening to a Donald Glover or song for the first time.

This is America. And we’re stuck in a hot wax figure museum, in a traffic jam, with our history melting into our present. Can you hear the prophets singing? Where is the love? This is America. 

pasta boiling

How are you processing everything between breakfast and dinner? Between at-home school and baby naps. Between sorting the mail and cleaning the toilets? Between boiling the water and dragging the pasta into the bright lemony sauce?

I’m writing little notes. I’m not sure why. And making dinner. Because we have to eat. And trying to find bright spots. Like lemons in the middle of winter. While not discarding the sour notes. Because there’s always both. 

lighted up pasta al limone recipe from the faux martha

Note: I posted this recipe on Instagram the other day, but does anyone actually cook from a tiny Instagram square? I don’t. So I’ll leave this extra quick and extra simple recipe for Lightened Up Pasta al Limone here—for tonight or later, in between a crisis or a bright spot. Don’t be fooled by the words lightened-up. It’s every bit as delicious with a lot less butter and cream than the original recipe. The starchy, salty pasta water does most of the work here, which is a sight to behold and a flavor to taste. I fell upon this recipe under a haze of pregnancy exhaustion, after finishing the Pinch of Yum Studio Design last year, just before The Nordic Winter Party. Basically, a year and a lifetime ago. 

PS: I’m running The Minimalist Kitchen Course beginning January 21. I’d love to have you. To sign up, head this way.  

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lighter pasta al limone recipe from the faux martha

Lightened Up Pasta al Limone

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  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 3-4 servings 1x


This recipe for Lighten Up Pasta al Limone was adapted from Bon Appétit, with less butter and cream but every bit as delicious. Grab a sweet Meyer lemon for this recipe, though any will do. Oh, and don’t forget to heavily salt the pasta water. You’ll thank me later.


  • 1 meyer lemon, for zesting and juicing
  • 1 tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 12 oz. spaghetti noodles
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 c. pasta water, divided
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into slices
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan, plus more for garnishing


  1. Bring water to a boil, using a little extra than normal. We’re going to use some of the starchy water to bring the sauce together. Once the water comes to a boil, heavily salt, about 1 tablespoon. Feel free to eyeball it. Cook noodles according to package directions, until al dente, slightly undercooked. We’ll finish cooking them in the sauce.
  2. When the pasta has about 4 minutes left, begin making the sauce. Using an OXO citrus peeler or a very sharp paring knife, cut several large hunks of the meyer lemon peel off, about 1/3 of the lemon, being sure to omit the white pithy parts. Thinly slice and set aside.
  3. Zest the rest of the lemon into a saute pan. Add the heavy cream and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Steal about 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water from the pot to get things started. Whisk together and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Then whisk in the butter slices one at a time until creamy.
  4. Once the pasta has finished cooking, reserve 1 additional cup of the starchy water. Set aside. Drag the al dente noodles into the sauce using tongs, tossing to coat. Pour in the parmesan and toss to coat. Cook for about 4 more minutes over low heat, adding in more starchy pasta water as needed to keep a creamy sauce.
  5. Remove from heat and squeeze about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice over the pasta. Taste and adjust as needed. Plate to serve. Garnish with the prepared lemon peel and additional parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with something green, like curly parsley, for color. 
  • Prep Time: 5 min.
  • Cook Time: 10 min.
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