Jeanette Sloan’s Lemon Spaghetti
This recipe was passed to me by my friend Lady Mulberry when I lived in Edinburgh. (She wasn’t an actual member of the aristocracy, rather an interior designer who ran a Mulberry Home concession when I worked at the sadly now departed Jenners on Princes Street.) Anyway, Lady M introduced me to the completely vegetarian, four-ingredient version.
And as tends to be my habit, I’ve fine-tuned it into the pimped-up version below, which is the perfect summer dish for pescatarians. I know the idea of lemon and spaghetti may sound weird, but this combination produces a fresh, flavorsome dish that’s not only incredibly moreish and satisfying but just as delicious when served cold the following day.
Yes, that’s right, cold lemon spaghetti.* I know, but trust me, you’ll love it. This dish is such a winner in our house that even though there’s only two of us, I always make sure there’s enough for leftovers—if indeed it lasts that long. Hopefully, you’ll also find that the more often you make it, the more likely your are to add your favorite additions such as green olives, asparagus or even rocket (arugula).
The quantities below will be enough for four, although I make this quantity for two, which allows for leftovers. Double or treble as needed.
- 56–85 g (2–3 oz.) per person of dried spaghetti (I prefer whole wheat as it tastes nuttier and has more bite.)
- 2 unwaxed lemons
- 100 ml (3½ fluid oz., or a scant half cup) extra virgin olive oil plus more to adjust for taste
- 65 g (2½ oz.) parmesan, freshly grated (Think fine strands rather than fine dust when you’re grating.)
- Large bunch of fresh basil
For the enhanced pescatarian version, you’ll need all the above ingredients, plus all or some of the following:
- 200g (7 oz.) smoked salmon
- 120 g (4½ oz.) cooked, peeled crayfish tails (or shrimp)
- 40 g (1½ oz.) capers
- 140 g (5 oz.) cherry tomatoes
Place a large saucepan of unsalted water on the heat to boil, and then you can get to work. Start by grabbing a large bowl in which you’re going to mix everything. Then, using a zester or fine grater, remove the lovely yellow peel from one of the lemons (take care not to include any of the bitter white pith) and place it to one side.
Pour the olive oil into the bowl along with the juice of the zested lemon. Whisk together until the two are blended into a smooth emulsion, then taste. It should be a lovely balance of oil and lemon; if it’s too acidic, add a little more oil; if it’s not zingy enough, add more lemon juice. Getting this balance to your liking is the key to this dish. Once you’re happy with it, add the zest. When the water is at boiling point, add the pasta. While it cooks for the recommended amount of time, you can do the rest of the prep.
Slice the smoked salmon into strips around 1 cm or half-inch wide, slice the tomatoes into quarters and roughly chop the capers. Last, finely slice the basil leaves, by which time the pasta should be done, and you’re ready to bring it all together.
Add the thoroughly drained pasta to the oil and lemon emulsion in the bowl. Sprinkle over the parmesan, basil, and the extra ingredients if you’re using them and turn with tongs or a long fork so everything mixes into a delicious, colorful bundle of flavor.
Grab a glass of your favorite chilled white wine and enjoy!
I’d love to see your versions of this recipe so share on social media using the hashtag #jslemonspaghetti and tag me @jeanettesloan.
*Here’s a tip if you want to serve it hot: assembling the dish takes no time at all, but it can cool very quickly, so it’s helpful to do all the prep before or while the pasta is cooking. It doesn’t reheat particularly well, and if you’re using smoked salmon, it’s only meant to warm through, not cook when added to the pasta. On the other hand if you’re serving it cold or at room temperature, relax, and enjoy the preparations while the pasta boils away. And on that subject, I cook the spaghetti without salt as the salmon and capers add enough of a salty hit.