If your brain is ever too full, one way to unfill it is to lie on the floor and think about pasta.
The other week, I lay on the floor for a change. As I considered the ceiling and its annoying neutrality, my brain whirred gently, like a freshly hatched helicopter. But about six minutes and fifteen seconds into my carpet-time, I realised that all was thinking about was a large, glistening bowl of linguine, spiked with lemon and butter. It rotated in my mind’s eye and I watched it for a while, during which I harvested some more thoughts.
These thoughts included what to do about the flaccid courgette lolling around at the back of the fridge: I could fry it with some chilli flakes and capers and then my pasta would have flecks of green in it, just for fun. And the sauce? The main element would be butter; the second-main element would be parmesan. Everything would be held together – tenuously – by a few tablespoons of starchy cooking water. Initially, I liked the idea of how insubstantial the emulsion would be, then reminded myself that thinking about such simple food in arrogant, multisyllabic terms is unwise. It offers too much of a sensory contrast, like if the colour blue were hot, or if aloe vera plants were somehow argumentative.
I constructed the whole recipe in my head while the ceiling was still annoying me. But to make it, I had to move, which would have proved difficult anyway, ceiling or no ceiling. Eventually, though, the reality of courgette and lemon linguine was more appealing than just the thought of courgette and lemon linguine, so I heaved myself up (somehow my multisyllabic ideas had made me heavier) and shuffled to the kitchen to wake up the cast iron.
The whole thing went well, and I’m delighted to share the recipe – if you could call it that – in the detailed terms below.
To make buttery lemon and courgette linguine, you will need:
- Enough linguine or spaghetti for yourself
- Half a small courgette
- A clove of garlic, or more if you’re not doing anything in the shadows later.
- A pinch of chilli flakes
- Some salt
- An small lemon
- A few capers if you have them
- A handy pat of butter
- Some parmesan – around a squash ball’s worth.
Bring a large pan of heavily salted water to the boil while you heat up another frying pan very slowly with a tablespoon of butter in it. Chop the courgette into little coins, around the thickness of digestive biscuit, quarter them and pop them in the hot butter with a pinch of salt and the chilli flakes. Make sure the butter doesn’t burn – it should only just be beyond foaming. Add the linguine to the salted water, which should be at a rolling boil.
Finely chop the garlic clove, and once the courgette has a hint of colour on it, add the garlic in to the buttery frying pan, along with a fresh grating of lemon zest. Add in the capers if you’ve got some, and let all this mingle for a bit while you grate some parmesan.
When your pasta is al dente, drain it, reserving about an espresso-cup of the water, and add in a tablespoon of butter as you tip it back into the pan from whence it came. Working quickly, tip the buttery courgette mix into the big pasta pan, along with ¾ of the grated parmesan, a squeeze of lemon and a little splash of the cooking water. Stir it all about with a pair of tongs until each strand is coated. You can add a little more lemon zest here if you like too. Serve it with the rest of the parmesan grated over the top and don’t let the ceiling annoy you any longer.