Caramelized Lemon and Leek Bucatini

Bare with me here. Caramelized anything is amazing. Bucatini is amazing. This pasta is amazing. The acidity in the lemons balances out a creamier, lighter sauce, and the caramelization adds a great depth of flavor. So what I’m saying is it’s hard to mess this dish up. It will always be a hit.

I’m going to go a little more in depth about pasta shapes in a post down the line but let me get on record now that bucatini is the best pasta shape. Objectively. Bucatini is essentially spaghetti but with a hole running all the way through the middle. This means the pasta gets coated AND filled with sauce, and a beautiful thing happens. If you don’t have bucatini, obviously you can use any pasta shape your heart desires. But if you’ve never tried it, definitely try to find it.

Let’s face it. Cooking in college is not always glamorous. To counteract this, I try and find ways to incorporate little luxuries into my cooking. Fancy pasta noodles are one of these luxuries. They don’t cost that much, and they make a world of a difference. The caramelized aspect of this dish is also another little luxury. Caramelizing things is a great way to make something simple taste indulgent; sure, it may take longer, but it’s worth it.

But to make sure this dish tastes good, there’s a key step we can’t avoid. You have to boil the lemons before you begin to caramelize them. This takes away some of the sourness of the peel and ensures that the final product tastes a little lemony and a little sweet, rather than like something that leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth. We remove the lemons from the pan (instead of building the sauce with them) to keep them nice and crispy! If you’re not into that, seize the day and do your thing.

Also: don’t be afraid to let your lemons and leeks sit in the pan! You don’t want to be stirring them all the time. Letting them sit means you get to develop a niiiice ~Maillard reaction~. Aka you get nice crispy caramelized bits, AND you get to say the word Maillard. What’s the downside?

Okay, I’ve raved about bucatini and Maillard enough for one post. Here’s the recipe, enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • Two lemons
  • One leek (white and light green parts only, sliced in thin strips)
  • One shallot, sliced
  • 2 tbsp soy milk
  • 8 oz bucatini (or other long pasta)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (divided; more to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vegan butter
  • Vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Set a pot of water on to boil. Cut one lemon into small triangles, and drop in boiling water for about two minutes. Drain.
  2. Set a new pot of water to boil, salt heavily, and cook pasta for one minute less than package instructions. When draining, reserve one cup of pasta cooking water.
  3. Heat a pan over medium-low heat. Once hot, add half the butter and one tbsp of the olive oil. Add the lemon. Season with salt and add the sugar. Let cook on medium low until browned and crispy, being sure to let sit in pan.
  4. Remove lemon slices from pan once crispy. In the same pan, add the rest of the butter, a tbsp of olive oil, the leeks, the shallot. Season to taste and let caramelize, similar to lemons.
  5. Meanwhile, peel the other lemon. Cut the peels into long, thin strips- we will use these for garnish (optional: use lemon zest instead). Add the juice of that lemon to your pan, along with the soy milk and another tbsp of olive oil.
  6. Add pasta to pan and stir with tongs. Gradually add pasta water, tbsp by tbsp, until you reach your desired consistency.
  7. Remove from heat. Add caramelized lemon slices. Stir to combine.
  8. Serve, garnishing with pepper, vegan parmesan, lemon peels, and (optionally) a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

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