Lemons - everywhere you go on the Amalfi Coast you see them. The season for this gorgeous fruit is long - March to late July and the production is so prolific that the lemon has become an iconic symbol of the area. They are in every painting, they decorate the gorgeous ceramic platters, they are turned into magnificent treats such as limoncello, lemon filled chocolates, olives marinated in lemon rind and spices and delizia al limone, a delicate cake filled with a creamy, gorgeous lemon filling. These are just some of the products you find on every little street of every little town that line this coastline. Believe me, I am not complaining. The lemons of Amalfi have a flavor that is unmatched. Vendors sell them along the road and they are ready with a knife and a little bit of sugar to sprinkle over the top. Lemonade doesn't get any fresher than that.
But my favorite lemon dish, the one that makes me swoon, is pasta with lemon cream sauce. The simplicity of the dish makes it seem as though it would be bland but this could not be further from the truth. The combination of cream, lemon and parmesan cheese with fresh pasta is incredible. I don't think it hurts that while you are enjoying this pasta along the Amalfi Coast, your view is that of what I believe is one of the most stunning coastlines in the world. A meal should be a feast for all the senses and dinner on the Amalfi Coast always fits the bill - the sound of the water, the beauty of the sun setting or the moon rising, the taste of the prized lemons. It is an experience that must make your bucket list.
In the event that a trip to Positano is not in the cards this year, bring Positano home by making this wonderful, unexpected dish.
Tagliarini with Lemon Sauce (from Patricia Wells)
Tagliarini al Limone
4 T (60 g) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 c (250 ml) heavy cream
1/4 c (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pound (500 g) fresh tagliarini, tagliatelle or fettucine
Grated zest of 3 lemons
3 T fresh flat Italian parsley, snipped with scissors
Freshly grated Italian Parmesan-Reggiano cheese, for the table (optional)
1. In a skillet big enough to toss the cooked pasta later, combine butter, cream and lemon juice over low heat. (note: melt butter, add lemon juice, stir, and then slowly add the cream to prevent curdling.) Remove from heat when thoroughly combined.
2. In a large pot, bring 6 quarts (6 liters) to a rolling boil. Add 3 tablespoons salt and the pasta, stirring to keep pasta from sticking. Cook until tender. Drain, leaving a little water clinging to the pasta so the sauce will adhere.
3. Transfer pasta to the skillet, tossing to blend. Add the lemon zest and toss again. Cover and rest for 1 to 2 minutes to allow pasta to absorb sauce. Transfer to warm shallow bowls, sprinkle with parsley leaves, and serve immediately. Grated cheese optional.
notes: Fresh pasta is necessary because this is a delicate sauce.