Follies of a Frazzled Chef: When Life Gives You Lemons…

…Make spaghetti al limone!

That’s spaghetti with lemon sauce, for those of you who didn’t quite make the leap there.

Yes, the Frazzled Chef was at it again, this time in a spiffy new grembiule (apron) that her dear friend gave her for her compleanno (birthday). And what’s a chef without an apron?!? Well, one very messy disaster, if you’re me.

But, I digress. Back to the pasta!

Lemon pasta can be made various ways. The first time I tasted it, it was penne al limone and it had been prepared by my Italian professor. This prof of ours wasn’t the stuffy, boring kind of prof you sometimes have the displeasure of trying to learn from. Oh no, this prof knew his way around the kitchen just as well as he did the classroom. He spoiled his students at the end of each term with a dinner at his place. The cena was always buonissima and the serata was always a pleasure to attend. (Grazie, D!) Twice he made penne al limone for us, and I loved it.

I’ve never had the pleasure of eating any sort of pasta al limone anywhere else, but my luck was changing. While leafing through one of his cookbooks,  I stumbled across Canadian chef and TV host, David Rocco’s recipe for spaghetti al limone. Naturally I just had to try it.

So out came the mixing bowls and on went the snazzy new apron. Spaghetti al limone seemed to be a pretty simple affair which required only fresh squeezed lemon juice, lemon zest, grated cheese, a few herbs and of course, the spaghetti. Semplice, or so I thought.

To set the mood and to help me to channel my concentration, I made sure I had an Italian playlist all queued up and ready to go on my iPod. A touch of the button and Andrea Bocelli’s voice was filling my kitchen, creating just the right atmosphere of Italianness that I needed to get going. While he sung on about how he missed someone  in Mi manchi (a beautiful song) I started hacking lemons in half and squeezing juice out of them until I could squeeze no more. After my cuticles were stinging sufficiently from all the acidity, I figured that I had enough juice, and went on to find some lemon zest.

Mom found me with my head and shoulders in the pantry. I was practically climbing around in there, looking for this elusive “lemon zest”.

“Ma, do we have any lemon zest in here? We’ve got everything else: oregano, thyme, basil, mustard powder, chili flakes…” I backed out carefully to look at my mom for an answer.

She had her hand in front of her mouth and it looked suspiciously like she was trying not to burst out laughing.

“Sarah.” She looked at me over the top of her glasses. “Lemon zest? Do you know where lemon zest comes from?”

“Lemons, Ma. Jeez, anyone knows that.”

“Yes, but do you know which part of the lemon it comes from?” She was talking slowly now, as if someone in the conversation didn’t quite understand something.

“No idea. Don’t care. Do we have any though?” I went back to rooting through the cupboard.

“Sarah, you get it from the peel! The PEEL!” she stressed.

“Excellent, Mom!” I turned back to face her. “But I need to know if we have any, not where it comes from!” Now it was my turn to speak slowly, like someone wasn’t quite catching my drift.

“Sarah! Youhavetogratethepeelyourself!” she yelled, exasperated.

“Gratethepeel…?” Just then, a little lemon-shaped lightbulb went on in my head. “Wait, I’m going to put lemon peel in my pasta?”

Mouth closed, mom gave an exaggerated nod. My left eyebrow arched up in question. Mom nodded again. Oh, the wonders of non-verbal communication!

“Fine.” I went to the counter and seized a lemon. “Thank you.” Mom set the grater on the counter for me and walked away. She was probably going to tell the world (i.e. Dad, my grandparents) about our hilarious little exchange. Humph!

I went back to my work with 100% seriousness. So while the musical stylings of Tiziano Ferro (La differenza tra me e te) swelled through the kitchen, I grated like I’d never grated before. I’d have the zestiest lemon pasta on the planet! After I figured I had enough zest amassed in the little pile on the counter, I dumped it into the lemon juice. It gave a satisfying splash. Then I thought of my next steps: fill a pot with water, don’t spill it as you set it on the burner, turn on the burner and let it boil. Check!

Next I had to finish that sauce. My iPod played on. At this point, I was adding the remaining ingredients and simultaneously doing a heartfelt duet with Fausto Leali to Ti lascerò. (Did you folks know I was multi talented?) I was belting out Ana Oxa’s part with all my heart as I added the grated cheese and herbs to my lemon juice and zest. I stirred in big, slow, sweeping motions in time with the music.

“…Lo faccio perchè in te ho amato l’uomo e il suo corraggio…” I started to sway a bit to the music. I sashayed over to the stove and lowered the spaghetti into the now-boiling water.

“…E quella forza di cambiare, per poi ricominciare!” I went back to my mixing, but with more gusto this time; The tension in the song was mounting.

I sat out a few verses so I could muster up all the sultry throatiness my voice could produce. This was it! Almost the end!

“Ti lascerooò!” Sway, sashay, flick of the wrist!  (See, I was singing, performing and cooking!)

Big ending now! Forza!

“Ti laaasceroooooò!!!'”  Sway, sashay, flick of the— Clang!

My metal mixing bowl clamoured to the floor. Obviously, the sauce went with it.

I’ll bet Fausto Leali and Ana Oxa never had to clean limone sauce off the stage after one of their performances. Humph!

For the record, I quickly re-made the sauce while the spaghetti boiled and it turned out quite well:

Spaghetti al limone

I’d call this a Frazzled Chef success!