Spaghetti al Limone is a classic Italian dish with clean, bright flavours. The addition of fresh, lightly steamed spring vegetables in this Spaghetti Primavera al Limone elevates it to the sublime.
I first learned about Spaghetti al Limone when I read Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, My Father’s Daughter (or Notes from my Kitchen Table as it was titled here in the UK). I was lucky enough to meet Gwyneth just after the book was published, something I will definitely always remember!
Spaghetti Limone Parmeggiano is one of my favourite recipes from the book. Of course, me being me, I’ve adapted the recipe a bit and also come up with a few variations – my Pancetta and Lemon Spaghetti Parmesan is a family favourite. However I am making a concerted effort to reduce the amount of meat my family eats and with all the lovely spring veggies around it’s not a difficult thing to do.
I love all the wonderful fresh vegetables that are available this time of year but my all time favourite has to be asparagus. These tender green shoots just say spring to me! I love them simply steamed and drizzled with butter or hollandaise sauce – or for a special treat I serve them with softly boiled eggs for dipping.
Fresh asparagus is also perfect for my Spaghetti Primavera al Limone – although of course the recipe is adaptable enough that should asparagus be out of season there are any number of lovely vegetables you can substitute. Purple sprouting broccoli works well as do thinly sliced courgettes (zucchini) or even frozen peas. Or you can simply bump up the portions of the other vegetables called for in the recipe.
One of the other things I love about this dish is just how quick and easy it is to put together. There’s a bit of light peeling and chopping to do in order to prepare the vegetables but you can then steam the veggies while the spaghetti is cooking. The sauce comes together in moments while you are waiting for everything to cook.
Just one little note: It’s difficult to find authentic Parmesan cheese that has been made without the use of animal rennet, making it unsuitable for strict vegetarians. However there are a number of ‘Parmesan Style Cheeses’ available. I have used Twineham Grange in the past and find it very tasty.
Try this light, family-friendly dish with a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre for a real taste of spring!
- 2 leeks
- a large handful of fresh asparagus
- 2 large carrots
- 1 cup of green beans
- 1 pound spaghetti
- 1 lemon, rind and juice
- 1 cup finely grated Parmesan style cheese plus extra for garnish
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons mild olive oil
- about ½ cup of pasta water (you may not need it all)
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add a generous pinch of salt.
- Wash and trim the leeks, then slice thinly.
- Break any tough ends off the asparagus and cut each spear in half.
- Peel the carrots and slice in matchsticks.
- Top and tail the green beans, cutting them in half if they are very long.
- Place all the vegetables except the asparagus in a steamer basket in a large saucepan with water in the bottom (just enough to come up to nearly the bottom of the steamer basket).
- Add the spaghetti to the large pan of boiling water and cook according to package directions.
- Bring the water in the saucepan with the steamer basket in it to a boil and steam the vegetables for two minutes.
- Add the asparagus and steam for three minutes more or until all the vegetables are tender crisp.
- Meanwhile, grate the lemon rind into a small bowl and then squeeze the lemon, adding the juice to the rind.
- Add the grated Parmesan style cheese to the lemon juice and rind along with a generous pinch of salt and a few generous twists of freshly ground pepper (or to taste).
- Mix in the olive oil and add a few tablespoons of pasta water to make an very thick sauce.
- When the spaghetti is cooked, reserve a few more tablespoons of pasta water before you drain the spaghetti and return the pasta to the pan.
- Add most of the lemony sauce to the spaghetti (reserve about two tablespoons), tossing the pasta to coat it thoroughly. Add a bit more of the pasta water if necessary.
- Divide the spaghetti between warmed plates and top with the steamed vegetables, dividing them between the plates as well.
- Add another tablespoon or so of the pasta water to the reserved lemony sauce to make it drizzle-able.
- Drizzle the remaining sauce over the vegetables.
- Serve with additional Parmesan style cheese for sprinkling over top and more freshly ground pepper for those who want it.
More Spring Vegetarian Recipes
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