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 was very disappointing. 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.
Spaghetti with Lemon Herb Jam and Garlic Breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoon butter
- ½ cup panko
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
Lemon herb jam
- 4 cups spinach
- 2 cups parsley
- ½ cup basil
- ½ cup cilantro
- ½ cup olive oil
- 4 whole garlic cloves
- 6 green olives finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
- juice of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 8 ounces spaghetti
- 1 cup grated parmesan plus extra for finishing
- ¼ cup green olives sliced
- zest of ½ lemon
- Make the garlic breadcrumbs. Melt 2 tablespoon butter in a nonstick saute pan over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and garlic powder, stirring to combine. Cook until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, stirring often. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Make the lemon herb jam. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the spinach and blanch for 1 minute. Remove the spinach and shock in ice water. Drain and squeeze out the excess water. Finely chop the spinach with herbs either by hand or in a food processor.
- Heat ½ cup olive oil a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until browned and softened, about 5 minutes. Mash the garlic with a fork. Add the olives and chili flakes to the oil and saute for 30 seconds. Add the chopped herbs and spinach and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
- Melt 2 tablespoon butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the cooked pasta along with the reserved pasta water, lemon herb jam, and parmesan. Toss to combine, stirring until the cheese has melted. Season with salt and pepper.
- Portion the pasta into two bowls. Top with ¼ cup breadcrumbs per plate, sliced olives, extra parmesan, and lemon zest. Serve immediately.
**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 spinach to preserve its bright green color. Drain the hot water and shock the spinach in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain once more and squeeze out the excess water. Finely chop the spinach and herbs either by hand or with a food processor.
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. I like to make a big jar of this herb jam so I can smear it 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 powder 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.
Melt a pat of butter in a large saute pan and add the pasta. Toss the pasta with the herb jam, reserved pasta water, and parmesan, stirring until the cheese melts.
If you like it extra spicy, add more red chili flakes. Finish the spaghetti with garlic breadcrumbs, more parmesan, olives, 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.
For more pasta inspiration check out this sausage bolognese pasta with ricotta!