Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto recipe and cookbook review: Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean

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If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know that I love everything Milk Street does. Always phenomenal. If you’re already a Milk Street fan, you are going to love Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean. If you’re new to Milk Street, you’re in for a treat. They are absolute minimalists on everything but flavor. They’ll get you from the counter to the table in the easiest way possible. And they’re really strong flavorists.

I get a super lemony bundt cake on my birthday every year, and I like their Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto even better. It’s terrifically lemony. The lemons, almonds and cheese play beautifully together. It is absolute perfection. And Milk Street’s letting me share the recipe with you!

The recipe calls for 4 lemons, but only the zest is used, so make plans for that juice or use them to infuse water.

Excerpted from MILK STREET: TUESDAY NIGHTS MEDITERRANEAN. Copyright © 2021 by CPK Media, LLC. Photographs by Connie Miller. Used with permission of Voracious, an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto

This unusual pasta dish is modeled on the spaghetti al pesto di limone from Italy’s Amalfi coast. Amalfi lemons, best known for their production on limoncello, an Italian lemon liqueur, are enormous, with extremely thick skin and a sweet, floral fragrance and flavor. By comparison, the variety of lemons commonly available in the U.S. are sharper and more brash in taste. So to make a lemon pesto that approximated the original, we use a little sugar to temper any harshness. For an extra layer of citrus complexity, we add lemon zest to the pasta cooking water; the oils that the zest releases lightly perfume the spaghetti and reinforce the lemony notes of the pesto.

Don’t forget to remove the lemon zest from the boiling water before dropping in the pasta. If left in as the spaghetti cooks, the zest may turn the water bitter, and the strips are a nuisance to remove from the strands of cooked noodles.

4 lemons
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
, divided
1 pound spaghetti
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 ounce (without rind) Parmesan cheese
, cut into rough 1-inch pieces, plus finely grated parmesan to serve
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more to serve
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Using a vegetable peeler (preferably a Y-style peeler), remove the zest from the lemons in long, wide strips: try to remove only the colored portion of the peel, not the bitter white pith just underneath. You should have about 2/3 cup zest strips.

In a large pot, combine 2 quarts water, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon of sugar and half of the zest strips. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, then remove and discard the zest. Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water, then drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine the remaining zest strips, the almonds, Parmesan, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Process until the mixture resembles coarse sand, 10 to 20 seconds. Add the oil and process just until the oil is incorporated (the mixture with not be smooth), about another 10 seconds; set aside until the pasta is ready.

To the spaghetti in the pot, add the pesto and 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta water as needed so the pesto coats the noodles. Toss in the chives. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve drizzled with additional oil and additional grated parmesan on the side.

Let me show you more of what to expect with the book…

Scallops al Ajillo. This is a speedy and flavorful tapas-style scallop. The ingredient list is short, but it’s all flavor punches. Smoked papika, garlic, hot pepper flakes and parsley, with plenty of olive oil and crusty bread to mop it up.

Spiced Tahini Sea Bass with Cilantro and Pistachios. Oh, the flavors in this are divine! The recipe gives the option of sea bass, snapper, or tilapia, and the tilapia looked the peppiest at our fish counter, so I went with that. There’s a warm citrusy coriander, garlic, and a little heat from red pepper, a little sweetness from honey, and brightness from lemon in the background. Our hummus-loving kiddo made happy noises. Perfect.

Sumac-Spiced Chicken Cutlets with Tomato-Onion Salad. Oh gosh. Are these ever fantastic. Don’t laugh, but if you’ve ever realy enjoyed the pucker of a Sour Patch Kid, and you haven’t tried sumac, you’re missing out. The flavor of this dish is really unique and wonderful. 

Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto. Shoot! I get a super lemony bundt cake on my birthday every year, and I like this even better. It’s terrifically lemony. The lemons, almonds and cheese play beautifully together.

Lemony Lentil-Kale Soup with Sweet Potatoes. So much flavor. I’m not a big lentil fan, but I always try Milk Street’s lentil dishes. They never let me down. This is just a delicious bowl of health. It has a strong lemon and cilantro flavor.

Melon Salad with Arugula, Pistachios and Goat cheese. Super refreshing. Arugula, watermelon, cucumber, pistachios, marinated onions and goat cheese. The sumac is a great twist.

Greek Chicken and Potato Traybake. Yum! Super relaxing traybake. Chicken, potatoes, lemons, olives, capers, and dill. These should be bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, but I was at TJs and they only have boneless skinless. If you’re in that spot, give them a little olive oil to try to replace a little of the fat they’d get from the skins and pull them a little before they’re 160 degrees and then toss them under the broiler for a second to get them a little color.

Spanish-Style Flatbread with Roasted Peppers, Artichokes, and Proscuitto. So yummy and zero work. This one would great one to have the ingredients on hand for one of those “I’m exhausted but I still want a great dinner” nights. A little bag o’ salad  tossed in a vinaigrette or some cantaloupe and you’re done.

Green Shakshuka. We love shakshuka, and this oniony, spinach and pea version is terrific! The feta really makes it pop.

Pork with Kale, Red Wine and Toasted Garlic. The Earthiness of the kale and deep onion flavor play a gorgeous backdrop for the kale. We loved the oregano and hot pepper dusting. The chops were nice and juicy. It has a nice finishing acidic pop from a balsamic splash at the end. I just paired it with fresh oranges. Great dinner.

Flank Steak with Tomato-Eggplant Ragu. Fabulous. I make a similar dish with ground beef and parsley. Oh my gosh. I love the mint in it!

*I received a copy to explore and share my thoughts.

Need more Milk Street? Here are a few more recipes and books of theirs I reviewed…

Jalapeno-Apricot Glazed Chicken Thighs and Cookbook review: Milk Street: Cookish (Cookish)

Milk Street’s recipes for Israeli Hummus with Spiced Beef Topping and Lebanese-Style Tabbouleh (The Milk Street Cookbook)

Beef, Orange and Olive Stew (The New Rules)

Maple-Whiskey Pudding Cakes (Tuesday Nights)

Pinterest? Sure!

Here’s a link to all my boards.
Here’s a link to my recipes on Pinterest.
Here’s a link to my cookbook reviews on Pinterest.

Need anything? I’m an Amazon Affiliate. Any time you use one of my links to get to Amazon to make a purchase, Amazon gives me a tiny percentage. I put it back into next year’s blog fees. Thank you!

Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean


Milk Street The New Rules

Milk Street Tuesday Nights

The Milk Street Cookbook

My favorite knife. It’s a 7″ full tang Santoku. I chose the Ikon handle design, which is wonderfully ergonomic. I have spent hours on a produce sculpture before and my hand was just as comfy at the end. It’s worth the pennies.

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Wusthof WU4176 Classic Ikon 7-Inch Santoku, Hollow Edge, Black

My favorite cast iron skillet is a 12″ Lodge dual handle pan. Why, the long handles are too heavy to hold with a single hand when they’re loaded up. Since you’re using two hands anyway, you might as well get the ones that take up less space and stack so much better!

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Lodge 12″ dual handle cast-iron pan


14 thoughts on “Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto recipe and cookbook review: Milk Street Tuesday Nights Mediterranean

  1. these all look fabulous. I’ve never thought of a green shakshuka! I thought the lemon pesto pasta was going to be more like a gremolata, which would be yummy, but it really is a lemon pesto! Brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m new to your page but I saw this dish done by Chef Kelly on a video. He did not add sugar, but he used Meyer lemons that are very sweet. He incorporated garlic to the pesto sauce. Since I love garlic I added t to it. Also I used walnuts instead of almonds. From my experience with my version I know that yours is equally good. I’ll remember the sugar when I use regular lemons.


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