A couple of weeks ago I went to Portland for the very first time. I have been wanting to visit for years now but just never had the opportunity. Portland was everything I was expecting, a lovely city with great food and beautiful hikes. There was one restaurant though, that I was slightly disappointed in. It probably wasn’t the smartest idea to go eat at an Italian restaurant given that I went to Italy recently, but my craving for pasta won that night. Sadly, the spaghetti aglio e olio was nothing but overcooked noodles with clumps of parmesan cheese.
It may sound odd, but this actually inspired me to go home and create a much better version of the pasta. Aglio e olio is a very simple pasta made with just garlic, olive oil, parmesan, and sometimes red chili flakes. I took this idea and decided to up the flavors but adding an herb jam, green olives, and garlic breadcrumbs. This spaghetti with lemon herb jam is light but full of flavor and texture, just the pasta dish that I was looking for.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
The concept of an herb jam might seem strange, but it’s actually quite simple and delicious. Think of it as a cooked pesto without all the cheese. Convinced yet?
Start by blanching the herbs including the spinach, parsley, basil, and cilantro. Blanching the herbs before cooking it with the other ingredients helps preserve their bright green color. Drain the hot water and shock the herbs in ice water to stop the cooking process. Drain once more and squeeze out the excess water. Finish the herb jam by slowly cooking whole garlic in oil. Mash the garlic, add the olives and chili flakes and the chopped herbs. Let everything simmer together so the flavors can marry and meld. Season with salt and pepper and finish with freshly squeezed lemon juice and olive oil. I like to make a big jar of this herb jam so I can smear on my avocado toast, pizza, roasted vegetables, pretty much everything.
While you’re at it, you can also make a large batch of the garlic breadcrumbs because what wouldn’t taste great with a last minute sprinkle of seasoned crispy garlicky breadcrumbs, am I right? Simply toast panko with garlic and olive oil until golden brown. If you want to go the extra step, make your own breadcrumbs, which in all honesty would probably taste even better.Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions and make sure to save the cooking water. This cooking water is crucial whenever you make pasta because it helps bind the sauce with the noodles. In this instance, it also creates the sauce once it’s combined with the lemon herb jam. Loosen the jam with the water, pour over the pasta and sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan on top along with the olives and butter. If you like extra spice, add more red chili flakes while you’re at it. Once the parmesan has melted and the noodles are well coated, finish the spaghetti with the garlic breadcrumbs, more parmesan, and lemon zest.
This spaghetti with lemon herb jam waits for no one. It must be eaten immediately to prevent the breadcrumbs from getting soggy and the cheese from clumping but once you have one bite, there probably won’t be any left. The bright lemon with the briny olives, crunchy breadcrumbs, herb jam, and parmesan really is the best combination.
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.