Pasta with Fried Lemons and Red Pepper Flakes


This is the first of several pasta recipes that are favorites of mine. Pasta with Fried Lemons and Red Pepper Flakes takes a little work, but it has an interesting taste and texture. Adapted from the NY Times cooking section (

  • Yield – 4 to 6 servings
  • Time – 30 minutes

You probably have a “go-to” pasta dish that you cook when there’s nothing in the house for dinner. Next time, try this one instead. It has all the usual players – olive oil, Parmesan, flaky sea salt — along with fried lemons for brightness and red pepper flakes for heat. Don’t skip the step of blanching the lemon slices before frying. It may seem fussy, but it eliminates any bitterness in the lemon pith and takes only a few extra minutes. Then dry the lemon slices well before adding them to the hot oil; this helps them brown more deeply.


  • 4 lemons – (two for zest, two for caramelizing)
  • 1 pound pasta (linguine or spaghetti)
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), more for drizzling
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ⅔ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (any parmesan will do)
  • Black pepper
  • ⅓ cup parsley, coarsely chopped


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Zest 2 of the lemons. Trim the tops and bottoms off the other 2 lemons and cut lengthwise into quarters; remove seeds. Thinly slice the quarters crosswise into triangles.
  3. Blanch the lemon pieces in the boiling water for 2 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to a dish towel. Blot the lemons dry.
  4. In the lemon flavored boiling water, add pasta and cook until just barely al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  5. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over high heat. Add the dried lemon pieces and season with a pinch each of salt and sugar. Cook until the lemons are caramelized and browned at the edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  6. Melt the butter with the remaining oil in the pan over medium heat. Add the red pepper flakes and zest of both lemons; cook until fragrant. Whisk in the reserved pasta water.
  7. Toss in the cooked pasta, juice of 1 lemon, Parm cheese, black pepper and the remaining salt. Cook until pasta is well coated with sauce.
  8. Toss in the caramelized lemon and parsley. Taste and add lemon juice if needed. Serve, topped with a drizzle of oil, and more parmesan cheese if you like.
  9. Serve with a simple side salad.

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