late-night lemon pasta
a bright & zesty antidote for when you're feeling down
A few months ago, when I first moved back to Washington, DC, I went to one of those networking happy hours in the hopes of meeting new people.
It was at a no-frills bar in Georgetown, with plenty of cheap drinks to go around and help break the ice. I wouldn’t say I’m a shy person—I’ve built a business around teaching workshops with the goal of making new friends—but I am an introvert, so events like these have a special way of triggering my anxiety. (If you’ve ever wondered why I rarely show my face on Instagram, now you know!) Even as a kid, my relationships grew out of one-on-one interactions; I was never someone with large, loud groups of friends.
The happy hour wasn’t bad. Everyone I met was friendly in the usual awkward, small-talk kind of way. But for some reason, even in a bar full of people, and even when I was craving post-pandemic in-person interaction the most, it was the loneliest I’d felt in a while. I’m sure many of you know the feeling.
When I got home, well past dinner time, I was a little sad and a lot hungry, or at least in the mood to eat something yummy that would lift my spirits. I searched the fridge and found a couple of cheeses, fresh herbs, and lemons. Of course, since comfort was on the menu, there had to be pasta, too. And so this dish came to be. I ate it straight from the pan and it brought a big smile to my face.
This recipe is so simple and so quick that it’s just as suited to late-night snacking as it is your dinner rotation. It also hits the sweet spot between soul-soothing and spring-forward: zesty and bright, with plenty of tang, and also intensely satisfying (thank you, Parmigiano-Reggiano!). This is not rich and creamy pasta al limone—it’s the pasta I’d eat if I made a quick jump across the sea from Italy to Greece.
In keeping with the ethos of a late-night pantry pasta, use whatever noodles you have (this is a great contender for the near-empty boxes of different shapes that might be lurking in the cupboard). As for me, I chose campanelle, “little bells” that have all the best qualities of a short-cut pasta—ruffles, tubes, and spirals wrapped into a lovely little rosette. The pasta itself is made by Flour + Water Foods, a new offshoot of the award-winning restaurant Flour + Water in San Francisco. I’ve been a Flour + Water fan for years—the eponymous cookbook by chef Thomas McNaughton is a staple of my collection—and I was thrilled to give their dried pasta line a try. Made from North American semolina and extruded from bronze dies (an essential process for great dried pasta), these campanelle checked all my boxes, with excellent bite and sauce-grabability.
If you’re interested in trying Flour + Water Foods for yourself, you can order directly through their website (it’s also on shelves at Whole Foods in northern California!), with more in-store availability coming soon. The team was also kind enough to offer Pasta Social Club readers an exclusive 20% discount on their pasta variety packs through March 17, so be sure to use code PASTASOCIALCLUB when you place an order. Best of all, 1% of proceeds is used to team up with farms and ranches to implement regenerative agriculture practices through Zero Food Print.
One more note before I go: The foundation of this dish is a soft, spreadable cheese that needs nothing but a little pasta water to melt into a creamy sauce. I opted for a feta-adjacent marinated cheese from Meredith Dairy that worked beautifully—it’s pricey, I’ll admit, but I think it’s worth it (I found this one at Wegmans). Alternatives include any soft goat cheese; creamy (not crumbly) sheep and/or goat milk Valbreso or feta; or ricotta for a more mild flavor—anything you’d happily eat smeared on a cracker.
Late-Night Lemon Pasta