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From the pages of an old book: fresh lemon tagliolini

Before Elizabeth David and Joanne Harris, before collecting cookbooks, memoirs of passionate cooks and any other book about food and the related world, before of all of this, there were two books that had triggered persistent culinary fantasies, which still come back to visit me.

The first is a book of my childhood, one of those first proper books that children read, one of those of the old times: it’s Heidi by Johanna Spyri. I still have here before my eyes the vivid images evoked in the chapter where Heidi arrives to his grandfather’s mountain cabin in the Swiss Alps, the precise words describing her first frugal dinner made of rustic bread, cheese and warm fresh milk. I still feel on my tongue the genuine taste of the cheese, of the buttery milk and crisp bread.

Lemon tagliolini

The second book dates back to my teenage years, two short lines in the book Voices written by Dacia Maraini, a writer who had already inflamed my imagination with the Silent Duchess and Bagheria, bringing me into a baroque world of Mediterranean flavours.

Voices is a novel set in a hot Roman summer, a crime story which ignites sensations and questions.

The protagonist is Michela Canova, a journalist trying to shed a light on the murder of her neighbour. She invites some friends over for dinner and cooks for them lemon spaghetti.

The two sentences describing Michela cooking the spaghetti are not particularly evocative, though, all my senses and perceptions were already kindled up by the highly sensors and vivid writing of the author. The bright yellow, the butter and the freshness of those spaghetti got impressed on my mind, as if I had actually tasted them, as if my task was to recreate after many years a map of original flavours.

Lemon tagliolini

Fresh lemon tagliolini

After ages, yesterday I entered into the kitchen with a precise purpose. I wanted to make those zesty lemon spaghetti and give a real taste to an idea. Yet, I opted for delicate fresh pasta tagliolini, dressed with a generous dusting of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and some fresh thyme, to enhance citrusy freshness of the lemon.

This is an every day dish, one of those essential preparations that remind you how good simple things are.

Lemon Tagliolini

I would grate lemon zest almost on everything. I crave its zing, that cuts through the richness of many winter comfort foods. Think about lemon tagliolini, where the acidity of lemon perfectly balances the richness of butter, the fresh egg noodles and the cheese. 
4.12 from 9 votes
Print Recipe Pin Recipe
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Pasta resting time 30 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course First course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 people, or 2 hungry ones


Fresh pasta tagliolini

  • 100 g all purpose flour, or 00 flour
  • 100 g semolina flour
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 eggs

To dress tagliolini

  • 50 g butter
  • 1 organic lemon, juice and zest
  • 3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
  • ground black pepper
  • fresh thyme
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  • Sift the semolina flour with the all purpose flour, place it on a wooden board and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs in the centre of the flour, add a pinch of salt and pour in the extra virgin olive oil.
  • Mix the flours and the eggs with a fork, then start kneading the dough, until the dough is soft, elastic and it doesn’t stick to your fingers anymore. You’ll need about 10 minutes.
  • Let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature, wrapped in cling film or covered with a bowl.
  • After the resting time, roll out the dough: you can use a classic rolling-pin or the pasta maker. The most important thing, either you’re using the rolling-pin or the pasta maker, is to keep rolling and flipping and rolling and flipping until you get a dough that is paper-thin.
  • Let the pasta sheets dry on a wooden surface dusted with semolina flour for about 20 minutes, then cut them into thin noodles. Arrange them well apart on the wooden surface or on a large tray to dry.
  • In a skillet melt the butter over low flame with the juice and the grated zest of one lemon.
  • Cook the tagliolini in boiling salted water for about 1 minute, drain them al dente and pour them into the pan with a tablespoon of cooking water.
  • Add the grated Parmigiano Reggiano, the freshly ground black pepper and some fresh thyme. Toss the tagliolini for a minute or two, thus allowing the cheese to melt with the butter and lemon juice into a creamy and zesty dressing from the pasta.
  • Add some fresh thyme and serve immediately.
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And what about you? Do you have any recipe inexplicably impressed on your mind after reading a book that has nothing to do with cooking? I mean, maybe an elfic recipe from The Lord of the Rings, or the mind-blowing butterbeer of Harry Potter (I need to find that recipe)?

Link Love

  1. Jamie Oliver has another great recipe for Lemon linguine, spiced up with a bunch of balsamic fresh basil.
  2. Which is your favourite recipe for lemon tagliolini? Link it here, I’m just craving for more zesty pasta!
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This Post Has 29 Comments

  1. I love reading books where the food is evoked so clearly and have sometimes tried to recreate the recipes myself. Lemon tagliolini is such a simple pleasure, and you’ve perfectly captured it here 🙂

  2. I miss fresh pasta so much. I should make it more often!!! This one looks so fresh and yum! I could it a big bowl of this fresh lemon tagliolini!

  3. Gorgeous! I’ve never made my own pasta, but have always wanted to. I am terribly intimidated though, because I don’t own a pasta maker.

  4. I love the simplicity of this spagetti dish.

    My first awareness of food was also from Heidi. Like you I remember being excited by the descriptions of the milk and cheese. On my ‘about page’ i talk about toasting the cheese over the coals and trying it myself as a child. I am thrilled to read how you felt when readng Heidi.

    1. Oh, I am so glad to share with you such a powerful memory, children books are usually amazing, and everyone has his favourite, but apparently that cheese episode is highly impressive for children: again, it’s the simplicity of the preparation and the genuinity of that food that still make us warm and happy!

  5. Oh yes, the flaming Christmas pudding in English movies always leaves me intrigued. I have that on my list of “to dos/learn about”. I also started drinking tea and making scones because of all of the British movies that I watch. Lovely, lovely scented pasta dish you made. I was perusing the aisles of the store the other day looking for that spaghetti that is hollow. Not to be found! Now I want to search it out even more!

    1. Oh, not mention me British food, you know I’m passionate about it… cream tea, and I am an happier person!

  6. Combining literature and food: My favorite. I remember reading A Year in Provence in my tiny first apartment all alone on a Saturday and trying to recreate the flavors I read there.

    Love the pasta recipe, I’ve been trying to get my pastas to have a lighter dough. Is semolina flour like corn flour?

    1. it is different, semolina flour is made with durum wheat, not with corn, but it is more yellow and grainy than the usual flour. If you cannot find the semolina flour, use just plain flour, better than using corn flour!

  7. I am still so in love with Heidi and also still remember the chapter about the food! A few years ago we went to ski with work, I din’t ski of course but sat in a chalet high in the hills imagining being in the chalet of Heidi. I was eating simple mountain food and gazing over the hills. Thinking back of those stories of my childhood…
    I love this dish Giulia!

  8. WOW! That pasta looks fabulous! I can almost taste and feel its texture by looking at your beautiful pictures!

  9. “To make fresh pasta follow this recipe or watch this video, adding the black pepper along with the salt in the dough.” the links don’t work for me. Neither in Google Chrome, no FireFox or Internet Explorer. Do they work for others?



    1. It is actually perfect for spring, when you can play along with different herbs, to enhance the fresh flavour or maybe add a deeper balsamic note with some basil… just choose your favourite bunch of herbs and make it special!

  10. 5 stars
    This is so simple and delicious. I made my own tagliolini and wanted a simple way to use the leftover pasta. The recipe is super simple anyone could make it. There’s so many ways you could vary this if you wanted without a fuss; stir through peas or rocket or capers. Light, spring or summer primi option you shouldn’t go past ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    1. thank you so much Belinda! you are so right, so many possibile variations! I can’t wait to try these tagliolini with some peppery rocket!

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