When I want comfort food, sometimes only a plate of cheesy, creamy pasta will do. Fettuccine Alfredo satisfies all these cravings, but sometimes I can only eat a few bites before the flavors get a bit too monotonous and rich. Adding lemon and fresh dill, however, suddenly transforms it into a complex dish that I can easily (and happily) eat a full serving of.
This is one of those super-quick pasta recipes where the sauce comes together while the pasta boils. I sear cut lemons in butter, where they caramelize while the butter itself turns nutty, brown, and deliciously fragrant with the oils of the lemon. Cream and Parmesan cheese are then added to the pan to form the base of the sauce.
When the pasta is cooked, it gets tossed into the sauce with the juice of the seared lemons, lemon zest, and a lot of fresh dill. Dill and lemon are a classic pairing, and they work surprisingly well to lighten up the creamy, cheesy sauce. This pasta is still rich, a treat to enjoy occasionally, but the bright hits of dill and lemon help to make it a much more well-rounded dish.
Creamy Triple Lemon Alfredo
2 medium lemons
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 pound dried linguine or fettuccine
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more for seasoning
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, finely grate the zest of the lemons on a Microplane; set the zest aside. Quarter 1 of the lemons (reserve the second zested lemon for another use). Add the pasta to the pot and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the lemon pieces, cut-side down, and sear until both cut sides are browned, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the lemon pieces from the pan and juice them when cool enough to handle. Discard the juiced lemon pieces.
Add the cream to the pan and bring to a simmer. Add half of the Parmesan, salt, and pepper; stir to combine; and remove the pan from the heat.
Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Add the pasta, the remaining Parmesan, reserved lemon juice, and 2/3 cup of the pasta water to the pan of sauce. Place the pan over low heat and toss until the cheese is melted, adding more pasta water as needed to reach the desired sauce consistency.
Remove the pan from the heat and toss in the reserved lemon zest and dill. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.