Dear readers,

I am sorry it has been so long since I have written to tell you about my adventures in the kitchen. I’ve been cooking away, I promise. The thing is, everything I’ve made has recently has pretty much sucked. There was only one outright disaster, but everything else was just mediocre—not even bad enough to merit a disaster post.

Short disgression, though, about the disaster: Nigella Lawson has this glorious clementine cake, which everyone should make immediately, and which I was so looking forward to adapting with Meyer lemons. It includes the odd step of boiling the citrus for two hours. Dear readers, when you do this, make sure not to let the water boil off entirely. If that happens, you will have a citrusy, smoky mess, especially if you’d disabled the smoke alarm and were dozing on the couch and therefore failed to notice the early signs of burning. Like, uh, smoke.

Anyway. Nothing else was that bad. Just meh. Until I made this pasta, which made me feel that maybe I was getting my cooking mojo back. Or maybe that was the mascarpone sweet-talking me with its cool, creamy ways.

Hey, baby. It's the mascarpone talking

There may be no better meal that pasta with lots of stuff in it.  This particular stuff goes together unusually beautifully—the mascarpone melts into a lovely sauce, the Meyer lemon makes it bright and floral (although I suspect a regular lemon would also be fine), the hazelnuts add an unexpected crunch, and the spinach makes you feel virtuous. (For added virtue, I genuinely enjoy Barilla multigrain pasta—I don’t even notice anymore that it’s not standard-issue white-flour pasta.) The whole thing can also be whipped up in the time that it takes for the water to boil and the pasta to cook.

In case you wondered about the presence of the Meyer lemons in both the ill-fated cake and this pasta recipe, yes, I did buy four pounds of Meyer lemons at Costco. I then proceeded to squander them in the aforementioned disaster cake and subpar recipes, as well as my very first attempt at a real pie crust. The crust did not go so well, but the lemon filling in Smitten Kitchen’s Shaker lemon pie will live on in my heart forever.

Sunshine.

Spaghetti with mascarpone, lemon, spinach, and hazelnuts
Adapted from The Kitchn

1 teaspoon Meyer lemon zest (from about 1/2 lemon)
juice from one Meyer lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
a few grinds fresh black pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 pound spaghetti or other long, thin pasta
10 oz spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped, toasted hazelnuts or pine nuts [but hazelnuts are really good]

Combine the zest, lemon juice, mascarpone, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine. Taste this sauce, because it’s lovely.

Bring a pot of water to boil and salt generously. Cook the pasta per the package directions; about a minute before the pasta is done, add the spinach.  Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Toss the drained pasta and spinach with the mascarpone sauce, adding pasta water as necessary to keep the sauce fluid but not too watery. Add hazelnuts and stir to combine.

Serves 3.  Sadly, this is not nearly as good reheated.

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