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Meyer Lemon Pasta with Fresh Herbs, Shallots and Toasted Walnuts

Mariel here. I’m a creature of habit. I wake up at the same time everyday – 7:45 – whether it’s a weekend or a weekday; I always kick-start the morning with a big bowl of berries and cereal; and the Today Show eases me into my routine before hitting the road for a run with two groggy dogs. I actually love the Today Show’s cooking segments since they generally tend towards the effortless, and on Monday, they spotlighted a chef whose name is escaping me to drum up a last-minute Valentine’s Day dinner.

While my V-Day plans were on lock – my husband prudently made a reservation MONTHS ago at Alta – I made a mental note of the pasta recipe they whipped up on-air. It was brimming with juicy Meyer lemons (which are a bit sweeter and subtler than their tart cousins) along with a heaping mound of fresh herbs and jumbo lump crab. This is good mood food.

Since I don’t generally keep a lot of shellfish on-hand – what with the high price tag and dwindling “sell-by” date – I decided to add a little protein via toasted walnuts; pine nuts and parmesan would also work beautifully. The Today Show’s on-air chef noted that this bright, zesty pasta makes a great starter or, as I found, a lighter lunch, since it’s the kind of dish that doesn’t leave you rolling in pain after eating your weight in durum wheat. Although, to be honest, I did test the limits by eating both servings.

This is the perfect spring dish and remarkably healthy (particularly if you use whole grain pasta) and it can serve a bigger brood since it doubles or triples effortlessly. Added bonus: it whips up in well under 30 minutes yet it’s definitely guest-worthy, especially if said guest just returned from some fancy European vacay.

Meyer Lemon Pasta with Fresh Herbs and Toasted Walnuts
Serves 2

Pasta – $2.19
½-cup of reserved pasta water
1 extra large shallot, finely diced (I whipped out my Slap-Chop for this recipe) – $0.33
2 large cloves of garlic, minced – stock
1 Tablespoon butter – stock
1 Tablespoon olive oil – stock
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon (remember, you only want the waxy top layer of brightly colored skin, once you get down to light yellow, switch sections, that stuff is bitter) – $0.54
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon or approximately ¼-cup’s worth – calculated above
Ground black pepper – stock
Salt, to taste – stock
Small handful of FRESH herbs, I used curly parsley, tarragon and chives, finely chopped (but this combo can be adapted easily) – $3.50
½-cup of walnuts toasted (you can do this in the toaster oven or in a dry skillet, toast until just fragrant but avoid burning) – stock
Grand total assuming well-stocked kitchen: $6.56
Cost per serving: $3.28

1. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Once pasta has finished cooking, reserve about ½ a cup of the starchy pasta water.

2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over high heat. Once the butter has melted, reduce heat to medium-low and add the shallots and garlic. Saute one minute, stirring continuously, then reduce heat even further to low. Continue sauteeing for about 5 minutes, or until shallots are soft and fragrant.

3. Add the black pepper, lemon zest and and lemon juice. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for one minute.

4. Add the reserved pasta water, increase heat to medium-low, and cook for about one minute. Toss in the pasta, mixing well. Taste and add salt as desired (remember, there’s salt in the pasta water)

5. Remove from heat and toss with chopped herbs and garnish with toasted walnuts.