“I don’t often trust myself to cook pasta for more than four people, because the timings are too delicate. As they say in Naples: ‘people wait for pasta, not the other way round.’ Overcooked pasta is a cook’s worst nightmare, while pasta eaten cold when it should be hot is not much better. But this recipe – like eating a bowl of sunshine – is so simple that even I can happily chat and bring it together at the same time. I prepare the sauce in advance and leave it covered on the hob, then, while the pasta is bubbling, slice the lemon, shuffle everyone to the table and assemble the dish once they are sitting down, so they eat it hot.”
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
220ml single cream
1 egg yolk
A small bunch of thyme
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, finely zest both the lemons and toss the zest into a deep frying pan, then add the olive oil and set it over a medium heat. Gently fry the zest for a few minutes until it begins to take on a deep, vibrant yellow colour.
Now pour in the cream and the egg yolk, mix well with a wooden spoon, then reduce the heat and leave to gently cook for 5–10 minutes, giving it a stir every now and then.
Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water, and, when it begins to gallop, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente according to the packet instructions. Finely slice one-third of a lemon.
When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water (roughly 1⁄4 cup). Squeeze the juice of the remaining lemons into the sauce, add salt and pepper to taste, then toss the pasta into the frying pan. Add the reserved cooking water, throw in the lemon slices and toss everything together so the pasta is well covered with sauce.Tear up the thyme sprigs, sprinkle generously over and serve immediately.
Extract taken from A Table for Friends: The Art of Cooking for Two or Twenty by Skye McAlpine (£26, Bloomsbury)