Thursday, January 21, 2010

The time is now for spaghetti with mascarpone, meyer lemon, spinach, and hazelnuts

“Just spotted this pasta dish on the Kitchn - I want I want!” Read the e-mail I sent to Esi from Dishing Up Delights on February 18th, 2009. I subsequently printed out the recipe for spaghetti with mascarpone meyer lemon spinach and hazelnuts with bold intentions to make it “soon,” and then, like most recipes I bookmark or print for later use, promptly buried it in the back corner of my mind.

I didn’t forget about the pasta dish completely, as I did still “want” it, but somehow it got lost in the shuffle of life. I was about to become an aunt, I was looking for a new roommate to move into my two bedroom apartment, and I was getting ready to give up chocolate for Lent.

Which of course meant that I was about to lose my mind. (And apparently my capacity for making new pasta dishes.)

By the time I regained consciousness from that tumultuous period of time meyer lemons, a key ingredient in the recipe, had gone out of season, and winter had rolled away. It was spring and I was craving lighter dishes – stir fries and quinoa, rather than a hearty cheesy pasta dinner that did not bode well for my ability to fit into my summer wardrobe.

The timing for the spaghetti was all wrong – the recipe and I were in different places, and I wasn’t ready to take it to the stove. I was waiting for the right moment to break the seal on that container of lush mascarpone cheese. The weather would have to be cold and depressing – giving my license to eat my feelings via comfort food. I would have to be willing to give the quinoa a rest, and, most importantly, I would need a reason to splurge on a $9 jar of nutmeg (though I’m sure I could have found cheaper bottle if I’d looked harder).

My move into a one bedroom apartment this past weekend presented the perfect opportunity for such a splurge. The stormy weather lambasting LA on Sunday night only further established the case for me to eat my way through a plate of cheese-coated strands of spaghetti. I was finally ready to make the pasta I had wanted so badly last winter.

I made a few adjustments to the original version – adding parmesan, slivers of zucchini and chicken that I sautéed with white wine and garlic, and amping up the proportion of meyer lemon juice/zest and nutmeg to mascarpone cheese – with fantastic results. Despite the seemingly liberal amount of cheese and the creamy nature of the sauce, the dish was surprising light – a bright note on a rainy day and a nice change to traditional preparations of spaghetti.

I won’t be waiting for a good reason to make this dish again. The only reason I need is the reason I always eat something at approximately 7:30-8 pm – it’s dinner time.

Spaghetti with Chicken, Mascarpone, Meyer Lemon, Spinach, Zucchini, and Hazelnuts
Adapted from the Kitchn
Serves 1 as a main course

1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest (from about 1/2 lemon)
3 tablespoons juice from a Meyer lemon
2 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon finely grated parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
a few grinds of fresh pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (original recipe calls for freshly ground)
1-2 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
2 cups (loosely packed) fresh spinach, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons chopped, toasted hazelnuts
4 ounces chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini cut into slivers
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon white wine

Combine the zest, lemon juice, mascarpone, parmesan, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in a bowl. Whisk to combine.

Bring a pot of water to boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Meanwhile sauté chicken breast with one tablespoon white wine and minced garlic. Season with pepper. When chicken is cooked through, add the zucchini. Cook together over medium low heat, then add the pasta and spinach. Set over low heat, add the mascarpone sauce and stir until well-combined and spinach is wilted. Top with the toasted hazelnuts and serve immediately.


Active Foodie said...

Oh my gosh, this looks heavenly! I know what I'm making tomorrow night for date night!!! Glad that you finally have found a place of your own!!

Gastronomer said...

Sounds like the wait made the pasta even better! If you think $9 nutmeg is pricey, I saw cardamom for $17 at Ralph's. Yikes.

Esi said...

*Fist pumping*! So glad you finally got around to it! I have had it saved too..maybe I'll get around to it as well.

Diana said...

Sonja - It would be perfect for date night! Especially in this wet weather. Let me know if you try it!

Cathy - That's crazy talk! I think I could do without the cardamom if the recipe called for it. The nutmeg was pretty essential here -- plus I can use it to make bechamel!

Esi - Haha, I thought you'd appreciate! Definitely give it a try!

Jenn said...

Not sure if I'm ready to eat spaghetti so soon after finishing off the leftovers I made from New Year's. But I'm willing to make an exception for this one. Good thing you got around to it.

The Duo Dishes said...

The meyer lemons seal the deal. They're all over the place nice. Perfect to lighten up pasta.

Anna A. said...

Wowzas! This sounds scrumptious. I love the lemon - nut - creamy combo yo got going on there. If only you had quinoa pasta!

Diana said...

Jenn - You won't regret the exception! It's a fantastic dish!

Chrystal & Amir - I've never worked with meyer lemons before so was very pleased and delighted to discover just how wonderful they are!

Anna - Haha, I think I'll stick to regular pasta for now. ;)

yutjangsah said...

This looks delicious. I'm not a big fan of whole wheat pasta which always turns out gummy but I may have to try this thing.