Growing up in northwestern Pennsylvania, I never considered Italian food to be ethnic. I grew up eating at authentic Italian restaurants at least twice a month, and I'm not talking about your run-of-the-mill pizza place (although all these places did serve an amazing pizza). You could get a perfectly prepared veal Parmesan, delicious handmade gnocchi, or an inspirational fettuccine alfredo on your lunch break. Spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and stuffed shells were staples on my family's menu. It wasn't until I moved south of the Mason-Dixon line that I realized that Italian wasn't as common as McDonald's.
Living in North Carolina, I have come to appreciate being raised on these incredible Italian dishes. Although sometimes in this North Carolina summer heat, nothing sounds appealing to me about a heavy lasagna or alfredo sauce.
But if you're like me, you're not willing to give up your Italian food just because the mercury stays above the 90 degree mark. I've found a perfect summer pasta recipe that is fresh, light, and delicious, not to mention super easy and quick on a warm summer night!
Pasta with Lemon and Basil
1 lb. pasta (I like fettuccine for this dish as it works really well with this sauce, but use your favorite)
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese plus 2 tablespoons for garnish
Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Put oven-proof serving dish in oven to warm.
Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water.
Combine olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, and minced garlic in a small bowl. Whisk together. Add 1/2 cup parmesan cheese and whisk until thick.
Drain pasta and return to pan. Pour sauce over pasta and mix thoroughly. Add shredded basil, salt, and pepper and mix to combine. Transfer to heated serving dish. Top with additional parmesan cheese.
Serve with crusty Italian bread and a caesar salad.