A couple of weeks ago I went to Portland for the very first time. Portland was everything I was expecting, a lovely city with great food and beautiful hikes. There was one restaurant though, that I was slightly disappointed in. The overcooked spaghetti aglio e olio was bland and had clumps of parmesan cheese. It may sound odd, but this actually inspired me to go home and create a much better version of the pasta. Aglio e olio is a very simple pasta with just garlic, olive oil, parmesan, and sometimes red chili flakes. I took this idea and decided to up the flavors by adding an herb jam, green olives, and garlic breadcrumbs. This spaghetti with lemon herb jam is light but full of flavor and texture, just the pasta dish that I was looking for.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
The concept of an herb jam might seem strange, but it's actually quite simple and delicious. Think of it as a cooked pesto without all the cheese. Convinced yet?
Start by blanching the herbs including the spinach, parsley, basil, and cilantro to preserve their bright green color. Drain the hot water and shock the herbs in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain once more and squeeze out the excess water.
Finish the herb jam by slowly cooking whole garlic in oil. Mash the garlic, add the olives and chili flakes and the chopped herbs. Let everything simmer together so the flavors can marry and meld. Season with salt and pepper and finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. I like to make a big jar of this herb jam so I can smear on my avocado toast, pizza, roasted vegetables, pretty much everything.
While you're at it, you might as well make a large batch of garlic breadcrumbs. You'll want to make extra because what wouldn't taste great with a sprinkle of seasoned crispy breadcrumbs, am I right? Simply toast panko with garlic and olive oil until golden brown. If you want to go the extra step, make your own breadcrumbs, which in all honesty, would probably taste even better.
Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions and make sure to save the cooking water. This cooking water is crucial whenever you make pasta because it helps bind the sauce with the noodles. In this instance, the water also creates the sauce once it's combined with the lemon herb jam. Loosen the jam with the water, pour over the pasta and sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan on top along with the olives and butter.
If you like extra spicy, add more red chili flakes. Finish the spaghetti with the garlic breadcrumbs, more parmesan, and lemon zest.
This spaghetti with lemon herb jam waits for no one. It must be eaten immediately to prevent the breadcrumbs from getting soggy and the cheese from clumping. This shouldn't be a problem because once you have one bite, there probably won't be any left. The bright lemon with the briny olives, crunchy breadcrumbs, herb jam, and parmesan really is the best combination.
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