Fast and flavorful: Cooking up some linguine with lemon, feta and basil
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 can let the salt absorb into the pasta while it's cooking, adding flavor in a way that adding salt later cannot. You will probably add more salt as you put together your dish and make your sauce, but this first salting step is hard to make too much of.
Then, for this particular recipe, you'll want to be judicious with additional salt. Two reasons: You will be using some of the salted cooking water to make the sauce, and you will be adding cheese to the pasta. Parmesan can be a little 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 later but you can't take it out.
This pasta dish 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.
And while linguine is the suggested noodle here, any pasta shape would work. But every once in a while, it's just plain fun to have a pasta that you can twirl — ask any kid.
LINGUINE WITH LEMON, FETA AND BASIL
Start to finish: 25 minutes
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 to serve (optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and then cook the pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Before draining, remove 1 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta.
Immediately return the pasta to the pot and add the 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 to taste, and toss again. If it's a bit dry and can use a touch more salt, add some or all of the remaining cooking water, and also another glug or two of the olive oil.
Turn the pasta into a serving bowl and top with the remaining feta, and the pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, if using. A final grind of pepper is a nice touch both flavor-wise and visually.
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