- 1 pound and a half linguine (spaghetti)
- 2 egg yolks
- 2/3 of a cup heavy cream
- 10 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
- Zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Fresh flat-leaf parsley
Fill just about the biggest pot you can hold with water and bring to the boil. When you have friends coming for lunch, get the water heated to boiling point before they arrive, otherwise you end up nervously hanging around waiting for a watched pot to boil while your supposedly quick lunch gets later and later. Bring the water to the boil, cover and turn off the hob.
I tend to leave the addition of salt until the water's come to the boil a second time. But whichever way you do it, add quite a bit of salt — Italians say the water in which pasta cook should be as salty as the Mediterranean. When the bubbling's encouragingly fierce, tip in the pasta. I often put the lid on for a moment or so just to let the pasta get back to boil, but don't turn your back on it, and give it a good stir with a pasta fork or whatever to avoid even the suspicion of clagginess, once you've removed the lid.
Then get on with the sauce, making sure you've set your timer for about a minute or so less than the time specified on the packet of pasta.
In a bowl, put the yolks, cream, grated parmesan, zest of the whole lemon and juice of half of it, a pinch of salt and good grating of pepper and beat with a fork. You don't want it fluffy, just combined. Taste. If you want it more lemony, then of course add more juice.
When the timer goes off, taste to judge how near the pasta is to being ready. I recommend that you hover by the stove so you don't miss that point. Don't be too hasty, though. Everyone is so keen to cook their pasta properly al dente that sometimes the pasta is actually not cooked enough. You want absolutely no chalkiness here. And linguine (or at least I find them so) tend not to run over into soggy overcookedness quite as quickly as other long pasta. This makes sense, of course, since the strands of "little tongues" are denser than the flat ribbon shapes. But I made this sauce with a very fine pasta, some sort of egg tagliarini, once and regretted it. You need the sturdier, but still satiny, resistance offered up by the linguine, which is why I stipulated this very pasta. Good spaghetti or tagliatelle would do if linguine are not to be found. Since the sauce is the sort of thing you can throw together after a quick rummage through the shelves of the corner shop, it would be unhelpful to be too sternly dictatorial about a pasta shape that is not universally carried.
Anyway, as soon as the pasta looks ready, hive off a mugful of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and, off the heat, toss it back in the pan or put it in an efficiently preheated bowl, throw in the butter and stir and swirl about to make sure the butter's melted and the pasta covered by it all over. Each strand will be only mutely gleaming, since there's not much butter and quite a bit of pasta. If you want to add more, then do: good butter is the best flavouring, best texture, best mood enhancer there is.
When you're satisfied the pasta's covered with it's soft slip of butter, then stir in the egg, cream, cheese and lemon mix and turn the pasta well in it, adding some of the cooking liquid if it looks a bit dry (only 2 tablespoons or so, you don't want a wet mess, and only after you think the sauce is incorporated). Sprinkle over some just-chopped parsley and serve now, now, now.