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Bucatini with Arugula, Anchovies, and Fried Lemon Zest

May 12, 2011

I’ve fallen a bit behind in getting my citrus trees ready for the summer. Normally, I would have given them their first dose of citrus food by now but time seems to be scarce lately.  My kalamansi plant is a few years old and still hasn’t quite taken off.  Evidence suggests that a nocturnal creature has been feasting on its leaves each evening, so solving this will have to move to the top of my gardening list.  On the other hand, Mother Nature continues to shower my Meyer lemon tree with lots of love.  While this would normally be late in the season for the tree, the warmer weather kicks it into gear to produce fruit throughout the year.  It’s also a a mature tree and a wonderful product of this is large, flavorful fruit.

When I paid a visit to it this morning, I was happy to see an abundance of not only lemons but also flowers–a promise of more fruits to come, but more importantly, a bold declaration that it doesn’t need my help, thank you very much.

What you see above is today’s harvest, including the lone kalamansi fruit that was begging to be picked from my tiny tree.  Have you ever smelled a just-picked Meyer lemon?  The essence that perfume companies try to capture in a bottle has nothing on its fresh citrus scent.   Naturally, my original cooking plans have had to take a back seat to the opportunities offered by this basket of sunshine.

I do have a few sweet ideas for my Meyer lemon bonanza, but I opted for a savory dish to kick off the celebration.  I used the usual suspects in this pasta dish: garlic, anchovies, crushed red pepper, bread crumbs and lemon juice.  You’ve seen these ingredients here several times before but this time, I experimented with frying lemon zest.  We fry to improve texture and coax more flavor out most other ingredients so I thought lemon zest was fair game.

As it turns out, the idea was not half bad.  The lemon zest got just a little nutty when fried very briefly but it was the crunch that I enjoyed.  This dish has a moderately bold flavor profile due to the addition of anchovies and peppery arugula but the crunchy texture of the bread crumbs and lemon zest was a pleasant touch.

I shamelessly admit that this dish is my way of consolidating the salad course and main course on one plate.  I try not to use too much bottled salad dressing at home (though I keep a bottle or two around) but some days I can’t be bothered to prepare that in addition to everything else.  I “cheat” by taking advantage of a simple pasta dish like this one whose sauce contains most of the ingredients that I would use in a dressing to begin with.  Depending on the amount of anchovies and garlic used, the flavor should be assertive enough to accommodate the additional leafy greens that are tossed into the pasta right before serving.  Though it doesn’t seem like it in the photos, I added a few cups of greens to the pan.  In addition to the arugula, I also threw in some chopped organic greens that a Pescadero farmer gave to my husband yesterday.  This is a shortcut he doesn’t seem to mind ever taking with me.

Bucatini with Arugula, Anchovies, and Fried Lemon Zest

*  I used approximate measurements for some of the items below but the recipe is flexible

  • 1 pound bucatini pasta (or spaghetti)
  • 6 – 8 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 8 – 10 anchovy fillets (I use Talatta brand in olive oil)
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • Half an onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I didn’t have leftover bread so I used Panko)
  • Juice of 1 large Meyer lemon or two regular lemons
  • Zest of three lemons
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 – 3 cups arugula (or your choice leafy greens)
  1. Boil your pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat about 1/3 cup of olive oil in a pan large enough to accommodate the pasta over medium heat.  Fry the lemon zest briefly. Depending on how hot your oil is, this should take less than 30 seconds.  As soon as some of the pieces start to color, use a slotted spoon to transfer the fried zest to a plate.  Once the zest has been removed from the pan, add the bread crumbs. The bread crumbs will absorb most of the oil and will take a minute or two to start turning a nice light brown.  Don’t let them burn.  Stir occasionally to allow even browning then remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and add more olive oil.  I would add about 1/3 – 1/4 cup to the pan as this will be your sauce.  Heat to medium-high and add the anchovy fillets and crushed red pepper.  Within a minute or two, the anchovy fillets will dissolve so add the garlic slices and the onion at that time.  Don’t let the garlic brown.  As soon as the slices become fragrant add half of the lemon juice to slow down the cooking process.  Taste for seasonings. You may think that the sauce is too salty due to the anchovies but remember that you’ll be tossing it in a pound of pasta and lots of greens.  The flavors will balance out once the dish is finished.  Turn off the heat if your pasta isn’t ready.
  4. When the pasta is ready, drain and add to the pan with the sauce.  Toss to coat and add the greens.  Toss again.  You can also toss some of the bread crumbs into the pasta.  You can add the rest of the lemon juice at this point and even more olive oil if the sauce seems too dry for you.  Serve a portion on a plate and garnish with Parmigiano Reggianno and the fried lemon zest.

40 Comments leave one →
  1. May 12, 2011 10:42 PM

    Beautiful dish – so evocative of the Mediterranean. You’re so lucky to still have Meyer lemons! I love the photo with the basket of lemons in dappled sunlight.

    • May 17, 2011 5:25 PM

      Thanks, Priscilla. I’m lucky with our tree–it produces good fruit pretty much year round. I guess I’m spoiled! That basket was just a fraction of the harvest! 🙂

  2. May 12, 2011 10:43 PM

    Frying lemon zest is highly unusual- never tried that before. I like the idea of combining the salad with yoru main course- will have to try! Lucky you that you have a lemon tree in your garden, your very own little piece of sunshine.

    • May 17, 2011 5:26 PM

      Sukaina, I don’t know why I was inspired to do it and maybe there’s no huge gain for doing so but I did like the crunch–it worked well as a garnish to the pasta. 🙂

      Yes, indeed, the lemon tree is a welcome piece of sunshine in my yard. 🙂

  3. May 13, 2011 6:11 AM

    Happy Friday! This dish looks and sounds super delish. I love the lemon and arugula. I would even put the anchovie in it. 🙂 I might just have to make this over the weekend. Enjoy your weekend!!!

  4. May 13, 2011 8:12 AM

    This post is so sunny, I love your photos! This is a beautiful pasta dish-simple, bright, and delish. I wish I had citrus trees in my backyard, lucky you! 😀

    • May 17, 2011 5:29 PM

      Hi Nadia! Thanks so much–it was an easy dish to put together and saved me the extra step of preparing the salad. 🙂

      Yes, I do feel lucky to have the lemon tree. This is why I try my best to keep the deer away from it. They love it, too, LOL! 🙂

  5. May 13, 2011 8:43 AM

    This looks absolutely fantastic! Can’t wait to try it. Never thought to fry the zest, but how terrific!

  6. May 13, 2011 8:46 AM

    Wow, you have a kalamansi tree! Impressive. This pasta dish must be bursting with so much flavour. Beautiful photographs.

    • May 17, 2011 5:31 PM

      Hi Adora, my kalamansi tree is young and it hasn’t quite taken off yet but when it does I’ll be so happy! 🙂

  7. May 13, 2011 11:12 AM

    This is definitely my kind of dish. Especially the lemons and anchovies – definitely going to make this next week. Love your lemon trees!

  8. May 13, 2011 12:30 PM

    mmmmm I loooove that pasta dish! I can taste the yummy citrus!

  9. May 13, 2011 12:39 PM

    This looks like the perfect light and fresh summer pasta dish! I haven’t done much with lemons before, I look forward to reading all about what you do with your lemons! Thanks1

    • May 17, 2011 5:33 PM

      Hi Erin, I think I put lemons in almost everything! I’ve one more post or two that I plan to dedicate to the Meyer lemons. 🙂

  10. May 13, 2011 3:47 PM

    This looks very refreshing and light. Great recipe!

  11. May 13, 2011 4:16 PM


  12. May 13, 2011 4:27 PM

    Gorgeous dish! And I’ve never smelled a fresh picked Meyer lemon! But I want toooooo :).

  13. May 13, 2011 8:54 PM

    Fried zest. 🙂 We used zest in and on everything. That’s a great idea to maximize the flavor.

  14. May 14, 2011 9:23 AM

    Hi Jean, I love this post, it’s a classic Lemons&Anchovies! Your photos are wonderful, love the basket of lemons;-) This looks to be a fantastic bowl of pasta and I like your idea of combining fresh greens to make a salad and pasta dish in one;-)

    • May 17, 2011 5:34 PM

      Hi Patty! It’s my lazy dish but it works–I still get to have my greens without the extra step. 🙂

  15. May 14, 2011 9:29 AM

    A dish that has all my favorite ingredients- lemon, anchovies and pasta, especially bucatini. YES PLEASE.

    • May 17, 2011 5:35 PM

      Hi Ken! Isn’t bucatini an awesome pasta? Can’t twirl it around your fork but it’s still awesome. 🙂

  16. May 14, 2011 11:59 AM

    Jean,such lovely LEMON photos and a great post! I will surely try this one …my son loves anything with lemons…must try when he comes home. Envy you for having Calamansi! They are heaven! Thanks for sharing!

  17. May 14, 2011 12:02 PM

    A friend of ours gave us a basketful of lemons last week and I have been thinking of ways to use them. Lemon curd, of course, then preserved lemons perhaps. Thomas Keller has a great recipe for them. And then your post comes along… fried lemon zest… perfect! I can’t wait to try this out. I am crazy over anchovies, too so this is perfect. Thank you, Jean.

    • May 17, 2011 5:37 PM

      Hi Jun! I’ve got lemon curd and preserved lemons on my list, too! They’re a must-make, aren’t they? 🙂

      Hope you’re enjoying your time with your mom. 🙂

  18. May 15, 2011 12:52 AM

    This is perfection in a bowl 🙂 I’m so jealous that you’ve got citrus trees! I wish I had property of my own to grow such wonderful things. I’ll be making this dish soon!

  19. May 15, 2011 3:06 AM

    Oh my. Those Meyer lemons from your tree look divine and scream of summer. The fried lemon zest sure gives a certain joie de vivre to your pasta, and I do the same with the salad…throw it all in there and save on washing up the extra dishes!

  20. May 15, 2011 6:03 AM

    Hi 🙂 This is my first time visiting your blog and I love it! I was very surprised to see that your latest post had lemons & anchovies… how very cool 🙂 I am so jealous that you have citrus trees! That must be so awesome… I love your site & will be back for more… I hope you will visit mine too! 🙂

    • May 17, 2011 5:38 PM

      Marsha, thanks for visiting my blog. I’m so glad you like what you see. Will surely visit yours, too. 🙂

  21. May 15, 2011 2:47 PM

    I wish I had my own lemon tree in the backyard, lucky you!
    The fried lemon zest is new to me, never heard before but don’t think it hurts if I give it a try.
    Thanks for sharing this delicious pasta dish Jean, wonderful presentation

    • May 17, 2011 5:39 PM

      Roxana, I don’t know what inspired me to fry the lemon zest but it wasn’t half bad. Regular lemon zest would have worked just fine though. 🙂

  22. May 15, 2011 5:22 PM

    I want to live somewhere where I can have a lemon tree, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Such beautiful pictures. My favorite way to eat pasta is with a light sauce or a few herbs and spices. This looks amazing.

  23. May 15, 2011 9:30 PM

    OMG YUM! love the idea of lemon and ruccola in it.

  24. May 17, 2011 9:39 AM

    First: this pasta sounds outstanding. Every last bit of it. It’s on my to-do list.
    Second: I’m beyond jealous that you have a meyer lemon tree — I’ve never even been able to FIND a meyer lemon where I live!

  25. May 17, 2011 4:14 PM

    This looks absolutely divine! I must remember to try it out one day soon.

  26. May 25, 2011 1:21 PM

    Wow, looks so beautiful and stunning. Love the combo of anchovies with lemon…delicious!!

  27. July 12, 2011 11:04 AM

    Once again, I don’t eat fish but I used artichokes instead of anchovies. I can’t even explain how much I love this dish! It’s a must try!

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