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Perfect Pairing: Spaghetti al limone

A dish that’s synonymous with the stunning Amalfi Coast, spaghetti with lemon and cream can be whipped up in a matter of minutes and invites a pairing with a similarly textured, juicy regional white wine, a Provence rosé or even a light red.

La Costiera Amalfitana, the Amalfi Coast, is also known as la divina costiera, ‘the divine coast’. This is no surprise to me because the whole area is magical, with its vertiginous terraces, historic churches and villas, pastel-painted villages clinging to the cliffs, all suspended between a clear blue sky and the sapphire waters of the Mediterranean. The Amalfi Coast is also where I was born and where I lived until I was 12 years old. Our home is Minori, one of the 13 villages officially included in the costiera. Even after we moved to the UK, we would travel back to Italy every summer to stay with my grandparents. To me it was, and still is, a paradise – even if it is a little busier now than it was during my childhood!

My grandmother cooked well, so she said, because she loved us well, and I treasure and cling to that thought. I also inherited my nonno’s love of lemons, and to this day, the very smell of lemons evokes the most wonderful memories, of heat and happiness, which is possibly the very essence of the Amalfi Coast and of Italy.

Spaghetti al limone

This is an iconic dish from the Amalfi Coast, with at least a thousand different variations – in essence, though, just five ingredients, and only 15 minutes to prepare.

Serves six

Ingredients

  • 600g spaghetti
  • 300ml double cream
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
  • grated zest of three lemons
  • 90g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

1. Cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling, salted water (only salt the water when it starts to boil) until al dente. This will very much depend on personal preference, so taste as you are cooking and stop when the pasta is cooked to your liking.
2. Drain the pasta, reserving 240ml of the cooking water.
3. Add the cream, lemon juice, zest and butter and mix very well. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to slacken the sauce if needed.
4. Season to taste and enjoy straightaway.


Ursula Ferrigno is an acclaimed and experienced food writer and chef, specialising in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. She trained at the Auguste Escoffier School of the Culinary Arts and has taught at cookery schools in the UK and Italy, including at Leiths School of Food and Wine. She is consultant chef to Caffè Nero and appears regularly on BBC TV. The author of more than 18 cookery books, she has also written for Olive, BBC Good Food, The Observer and Taste Italia.

Cucina di Amalfi by Ursula Ferrigno was published in March 2023 (£20 Ryland Peters & Small). It details 75 recipes from the southern Italian region, ranging from antipasti and soups to bread, fish, meats and plenty of vegetables, coupled with essays on the traditions and food culture of the area, along with scenic photography.

The wines to drink with spaghetti al limone

On the face of it, this recipe couldn’t be easier, but lemon is always a bit of a tricky one. Do you go for a citrussy white like a Sauvignon Blanc, for example? In my view it’s too similar, so I’d personally opt for a more linear Italian white, such as a Greco di Tufo from Campania or a not-too-fruity Falanghina, both from the same region as the recipe.

The more interesting choice, however, would be a light red – a combination I first came across at the River Café in west London where they poured a Valpolicella with a similar dish. It’s enough of a contrast (a straight Classico, not a ripasso, I suggest) to bring something else to the party without overwhelming the delicate balance of the sauce. Bardolino and Frappato would be good alternatives.

The other interesting option at this time of year would be a Provence rosé, especially one with a significant proportion of Cinsault, which has a lightness and freshness that would chime perfectly with this dish.

By Fiona Beckett

Wines selected by our Decanter experts


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