Pasta with Lemon & Creme Fraiche

The house is quiet. It's 11:40am and all I can hear are the birds chirping outside. Joan went to bed very early last night, conking out at 6:30pm after a long day in the hot city. So it was inevitable she'd wake early this morning. And inevitable she'd nap early today. She'll be in bed early tonight, too, which means another early start tomorrow, but that's fine with me. I quite like the pattern of snoozing and waking that comes with a child who is early to bed and early to rise. You just need to be sure to take yourself off to bed early, too. And to know how to make a good cup of coffee.

Yesterday afternoon, after arriving home, Joan and I began to pack for Hong Kong. Well, I did. Joan preferred to jump on the bed while I selected clothes, then folded and and placed them on her dresser, ready for the suitcase I must get out of the storage cupboard. During this packing process I dressed Joan in different outfits, ensuring we had suitable clothes for the wedding we'll be attending ("Pink dress, Mummy, a pink one!"), as well as general adventuring and dumpling-eating. Oh, the dumplings. Ben taught her to say "won ton min, please!". I expect she'll be repeating those words a lot over the next two weeks.

After I wrangled Joan out of the pink dress, the two of us went into the kitchen to prepare dinner. Whenever I cannot be bothered cooking anything elaborate, my mind wanders to pasta. In my fridge I had a tub of creme fraiche that needed to used, along with a bounty of lemons from our tree, and so I googled "creme fraiche lemon pasta sauce" and one recipe in particular caught my eye. It was from the River Cafe, so I knew it would be excellent. Feeling confident and energetic enough to tinker with it just slightly, I added some zucchini noodles to make it a more satisfying and colourful meal. A few Christmases ago, I was gifted a vegetable spiralizer - this one, to be precise. Soon afterwards I discovered I was pregnant and developed a strange aversion to zucchini (uhhh the very thought of it would make me gag), so for a long time the spiralizer sat unused in the cupboard. Recently, though, I remembered how much I enjoy the addition of vegetable noodles to pasta dishes, so I dusted it off. 

In terms of ratios, I prefer the bulk of the noodles to be regular pasta, with about a quarter zucchini noodles. To "cook" them, I usually put the zucchini noodles in a colander and pour the cooked pasta + pasta cooking water over the top. I find that by blanching the zucchini noodles in boiling water, they can make your sauce very wet. On this occasion, however, I had the idea to cook loads of crushed garlic in a skillet, with a little extra virgin olive oil and a lot of butter, before adding the uncooked noodles and quickly frying them over high heat. And they were really, really good. Though it seems I won't be making many more zucchini noodles, because the handle broke halfway into spiralizing this batch of zucchini. Drat. If you have a spiralizer or similar contraption to make veggie noodles, I encourage you to add them to this dish in the manner I describe below. For those of you who will be using solely regular pasta, stick to the River Cafe recipe. Though you could easily add cooked broccoli, broccolini, asparagus or peas to the mixture. I find a little extra green is always welcome.

Pasta with Lemon & Creme Fraiche

Adapted from the River Cafe recipe. Here's a video of the dish being made!

Serves 2-4, depending on your appetite

300g pasta*
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
A generous pat of butter
3 garlic cloves (less if you're not keen on garlicy flavour)
1 large zucchini
250ml creme fraiche (1 tub)
2 unwaxed lemons (for juice and zest)
1 handful of baby spinach or rocket (or peas)
1 generous handful gated parmesan, plus more for serving
Dried chilli flakes, to serve
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

* as the River Cafe recipe suggests, it's bets to use fresh pasta in this recipe. You want the noodles to be soft and yielding. Though when making this dish, I used Guzzi's fettuccini, which  worked brilliantly. 

1. Put a pot of salted water on the boil for the pasta and when boiled, cook it according to packet instructions, reserving 1 cup of starchy cooking water before draining. 
2. Meanwhile, crush the garlic cloves and set aside (leaving them for 10 or so minutes before cooking helps make the powerful stuff heat resistant - see this article for more details). 
3. Spiralize the zucchini. If you have a choice, select the thicker noodle setting.
4. Heat the olive oil and butter in a skillet. Add the garlic and cook until it begins to colour and become really fragrant. Add the zucchini at this point and cook for a minute to coat it in the buttery garlic goodness. Set aside to cool slightly.
5. To a large pot add the creme fraiche, zest and juice of lemon, spinach/rocket and parmesan. Give it a good stir and then add the cooled, garlicky zucchini, as well as the cooked pasta. Give everything a good toss with tongs, adding a dash of pasta cooking water if you need to thin the sauce a little. Season to taste and serve, with extra parmesan and chilli flakes.

Heidi xo