A Creamy, Cheesy Lemon Pasta for Quick Comfort, Any Night

Our new favorite pantry pasta.

April 12, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

Our latest contest, Your Best Pantry Pasta, was both the easiest and the most difficult one we've judged in recent memory. It was the easiest, because there's truly nothing we'd rather do than make and eat pasta. But it was also so very tough, because we knew that one day, all the pasta would end.

That day has come—with a dramatic pasta twirl in lieu of a drumroll, we'd like to announce the winner:

This Creamy Lemon Spaghetti With Crunchy Breadcrumbs by Jo Thrasher couldn't be simpler to execute, or more delicious to consume. From humble larder and pantry staples emerges a cheesy bowl of spaghetti full of flavor and texture (thanks, toasted breadcrumbs!).

We recently sat down with Jo to learn more about her recipe, and whether she thinks it's normal that we've eaten it for dinner five days in a row:

Could you tell us more about the development of this recipe? How has it changed over time?

This dish came about because I had some crunchy breadcrumbs leftover from a different recipe. My husband wasn’t home (he’s a lemon hater), so I threw together something to suit my tastes—creamy, lemony, crunchy, and a little bit cheesy. It hasn’t really changed much over time, but my hand has gotten heavier with those breadcrumbs for sure.

What are your favorite ways to riff on the dish?

Another nod to my tastes versus my husband’s—if I pair this with anything other than a chilled glass of rosé, it’s usually seared shrimp. Eddie doesn’t love seafood, so I don’t cook a lot of it at home, but I always keep a bag of frozen shrimpies on hand for solo dinner nights. Other variations usually just stem from what I’m trying to use up in the fridge: Parm instead of pecorino, chives in place of parsley, crème fraîche for cream cheese.

Why is this the perfect pantry pasta?

I think all pasta is perfect by nature, but I love this particular recipe because of that sharp hit of lemon. It makes something that could be quite stodgy a little more exciting. Also, I like snacking on the extra breadcrumbs while I wait for the pasta to cook.

How many times do you think you've made this recipe in your life?

I developed this recipe about a year ago, and I think I’ve eaten it about a half dozen times since then. Because I’m always testing and writing recipes for my blog, I don’t often have the time or appetite for a lot of repeats, but this one is both comforting and quick, so it’s made its way into the real-life rotation.

What are some of your other favorite recipes on Food52? If you had to pick a dessert to make after this pasta, which would it be and why?

I’ve been a long time fan of Food52, so I have a lot of favorites. A few that stick out as all-time winners are Coconut Tres Leches Cake, Roasted Fennel & White Bean Dip, Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad, and the Hervé This Genius recipe for chocolate mousse (which I would totally serve for dessert after having this pasta, because it’s dead simple, decadent, and I’ve already got heavy cream on hand).

What's the most memorable pasta dish you've ever tasted? Tell us about tasting it! Where were you? Why was it so darn good?

My husband and I went to Italy for our honeymoon back in October, so pretty much every bite of pasta we put in our greedy little mouths was incredibly memorable! But if I had to pick one, it would have to be the handmade trofie con pesto that we had at a very unassuming place in La Spezia. We were planning on a light dinner, as we had already indulged in a full day of eating, but when that bowl of bright green pasta hit the table, all bets were off. It was perfectly al dente, so herbaceous, and almost silky in texture. Amazing.

What's your most splattered, stained, dog-eared cookbook?

Probably the behemoth that is The Food Lab by J. Kenji López-Alt. I just love reading about the process and science behind a recipe or cooking method. Also my phone. Does that count? The internet has more than just cat videos, folks.

And your can’t-cook-without kitchen tool?

Definitely a microplane for things like zesting citrus, grating garlic and ginger, and finishing things with a shower of fluttery cheese. Also, it’s super easy to clean.

Are you a savory or sweet breakfast person? (Or, gasp, not a breakfast person at all?)

I love breakfast, even when it’s for lunch or dinner. But because I crave variety in all things, I’d say I ride the fence between sweet and savory. I can’t say no to biscuits and sausage gravy though, so I guess that’s where my heart really lies.

You’re on a desert island and you can have one dessert. What is it?

Chocolate cake or get out. Preferably one with barely a whisper of cream cheese frosting and a few sprinkles for fun.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. This post contains products that are independently selected by our editors, and Food52 may earn an affiliate commission.

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.