Friday, August 3, 2012

How do you mess up pasta?

Express Staff Writer

Once in a while, I make a recipe that completely fails.

Often I can blame this on my tendency to "wing it"—a trait inherited from my grandmother, who never made a recipe with the ingredients called for.

Under her tutelage, I learned how to substitute for everything from buttermilk (use yogurt or milk with a little lemon juice) to eggs (applesauce with a little baking soda).

Most of the time this works—but when it doesn't, the failures are spectacular. I have had cupcakes literally explode on me. I don't know what I've been doing wrong, but attempts to make various versions of a deeply rich Guinness-infused gingerbread have also gone awry in pretty incredible ways.

Other times, I have to place the blame squarely on the recipe. Proportions can go wrong if someone is not proofreading carefully, cooking times might be only slightly based in reality and flavors, for whatever reason, may just not come together.

A pasta recipe I was excited about a few weeks ago had this very problem. The recipe was for a penne with a creamy sauce made of butter, ricotta cheese and lemon zest topped with fresh herbs. It sounded incredible, a perfect light, vegetarian meal infused with zingy freshness from the herbs and lemon.

It fell flat. The sauce tasted as bland as the pasta—and despite a hefty dosage of salt, pepper, parsley, sage and rosemary, in addition to another splash of lemon juice that wasn't called for, the dish had absolutely no pep, no lightness.

The sauce that could have been so light and creamy was heavy and dense, with a deep lack of flavor that couldn't be salvaged by all the salt and garlic powder in the world. Maybe it needed more lemon juice or better ricotta cheese, but whatever the cause, it was inedible.

I don't remember what we ended up doing for dinner instead that night, but I suspect it involved saltines and peanut butter. These things happen—sometimes, recipes will fail, and if the worst that happens is that you have peanut butter and jelly for dinner, count yourself lucky and chalk it up to experience.

Here's a recipe for the kind of pasta I expected to get out of the aforementioned recipe. While there's no cream or cheese, the olive oil and lemon juice give the dish that rich, yet light flavor that I was looking for, and the parsley provides the herb-accented freshness.

It's the perfect summer pasta—and if it doesn't work out for you, remember that having peanut butter for dinner isn't a tragedy.


Lemon Pasta

Adapted from the food blog with Style and Grace

3/4 lb. spaghetti

4-5 garlic cloves, smashed to smithereens

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp. butter

1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain and return to pan. In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter. Add garlic and cook until tender and fragrant—but not brown (about a minute). Pour olive oil, butter and garlic over the pasta and toss with parsley, lemon zest and juice. Season to taste with Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Kate Wutz:

About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads

 Local Weather 
Search archives:

Copyright © 2020 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.