February 19, 2015

Leave it to Portland’s queen of simple ­elegance to devise an early spring pasta dish that ­balances creamy comfort with clean, citrusy brightness—using just six ­ingredients. One of the many things we love about Jenn Louis’ food is her remarkable restraint and instinctive understanding of how to make a star ingredient shine.

Here she honors Meyer lemons, which are reaching the end of their season. “It’s always hard to say good-bye to them,” Louis says. “They’re delicate and less sour than regular lemons.” (Cooks without access to Meyers can add a little sweet fresh orange juice to regular lemon juice for a similar effect.)

In this pasta dish, Louis says she sought a balance between rich and light. “I’m health conscious. I thought ricotta would make for a creamy sauce that wasn’t heavy.” Louis blends ricotta cheese, a touch of cream, and Meyer lemon juice and its fragrant rind into a smooth, silken sauce with a luxurious mouthfeel and alluring tang that keeps taste buds standing at attention. She smartly uses the starchy pasta ­water to thin the sauce to the right consistency and help it emulsify and cling to the noodles. Chopped fresh chives add a bit of pungency. Then she gilds this spring lily with a touch of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for salty umami satisfaction. Try Louis’ original version this month at Lincoln Restaurant in Portland.

Bucatini with Meyer Lemon Cream and ChivesHands-on: 20 min. Total: 20 min.Meyer lemons--with their hint of orangey sweetness--make a bright and irresistible flavoring for this early spring pasta dish. For an extra-special touch, you can garnish with lemon rind strips and serve with lemon wedges.

8 ounces uncooked bucatini or linguine pasta2 teaspoons grated Meyer lemon rind1/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice (about 2 lemons)1/4 cup heavy whipping cream4 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese (about 1/2 cup)1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives1 teaspoon kosher salt1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta over a bowl; reserve 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cooking liquid.

2. Place 6 tablespoons cooking liquid, lemon rind, juice, cream, and ricotta in a blender; process until smooth.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add ricotta mixture to pan; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated. Add pasta, chives, salt, and pepper. Add remaining 1/2 cup cooking liquid as needed to make mixture creamy. Remove from heat; stir in grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

SERVES 4 (serving size: 1 cup)CALORIES 331; FAT 10.3g (sat 6g, mono 2.8g, poly 0.7g); PROTEIN 13g; CARB 46g; FIBER 2g; CHOL 35mg; IRON 2mg; SODIUM 605mg; CALC 167mg

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