This is one of my favourite recipes of all time. Based on Nigella's classic and brilliant Lemony Linguine (which has rightly won itself a cult following - see Jeanette Winterson's homage here) it is one of those wonderful and rare dishes which is equally at home in the bleakest of mid-winters (now) or the salad days of summer (they'll come again, I promise)
It is essentially an extremely straightforward linguine dish in which the raw sauce is prepared in seconds whilst the pasta cooks, and like a sort of savoury custard - or dare-I-say-it - a riff on a carbonara, the heat of the pasta cooks the raw yolks of the sauce as all the ingredients are tossed together, creating a luxuriously creamy coating for each strand. The cream is wildly untraditional (but delicious and necessary) and the lemon essential for that inimitable lift and zing which makes this both sharpening and stimulating on a leaden January day, or light and lilting for a June lunch.
I included this dish in Bitter Honey because it was one of the few non-traditional pasta dishes Luca really loved, and he is a stickler for simplicity and generally Very Fussy, so if you needed any further endorsement, there it is. You can easily leave out the mascarpone if you don't have any and replace it with an extra tbsp of cream, I just had some that needed using up.
Serves 2, generously
2 egg yolks
2 Tbsp mascarpone
4 leaves of fresh basil, torn
Zest of 1 lemon, and juice of ½
2 tbsp pecorino
Bring a large pan of well salted water to the boil.
Meanwhile, mix the yolks, cream, mascarpone, pecorino and lemon in a mixing bowl, whisking well to remove any lumps. Add the butter and place the bowl over your pan of boiling pasta, to gently warm the sauce, or in a nearby warm place.
When perfectly al dente, drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water just in case (though I rarely need it here).
Throw the sauce into the pan with the drained pasta and stir vigorously, tossing the linguine well until every strand is coated and saucy. If things look too runny, turn on a low flame under the pan and continue stirring and cooking for a moment or two longer. Add the torn basil leaves, stir quickly and serve.