Pasta With Fried Lemons and Chile Flakes Recipe (2024)



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I'm obsessed with this recipe. It's so "riffable": I'm daydreaming now about making it again with shallots and garlic fried along with the chile flakes, capers and Castelvetrano olives added at the end. Oil-packed tuna and arugula would also be awesome last-minute additions. The trick, I think, is to really be brave with the lemon. I let it get so caramelized I was worried it was burnt; it almost looked like a mushroom! And it tasted *perfect.*

Janice Sullivan

This is relatively easy to make - I loved the lemon technique. It is not particularly substantial. It is a GREAT side dish for grilled scallops. I serve it in three layers - a light bed of arugula, with the pasta/fried lemons on top, and add three - four simple grilled scallops to the top of the pasta - this makes it better for hardier appetites.

Chris McGee

When life gives you lemons - make this. If life hasn't given you lemons - get lemons and make this. In Step 5: Adding juice of 1/2 lemon first then drizzling remaining juice with olive oil on each portion I found adds an even fresher, less bitter yet still wonderfully fried lemony result. And for the love of all things, add the celery leaves & parsley! They are not as "optional" as some may claim.

Andree Abramoff

I made it with Moroccan-style preserved lemons, delicious!


I have made this dish twice. The first time, exactly as written, and we found it too bitter. The second time, I used Meyer lemons, added 2tbs each of garlic and capers with the zest and chile, and used the juice of a second Meyer lemon in the final step. It was absolutely delicious. We served with roasted asparagus on the side.


I followed the recipe exactly and it was inedible because of bitterness. The entire batch went down the disposer. I will try it again (probably with Meyers) because it looked gorgeous and has great potential. I am wondering if anyone else thinks the problem could be cooking the pasta in the blanching water. The recipe stated quite clearly this was the way to cook the pasta, but no one else has mentioned this as a potential problem. I might try using only zest next time, so there is no pith.


I feel like this could have been a really great recipe, but there really needs to be an express warning re: the lemons. If they are not thin-skinned and light, this pasta dish will be nearly inedible with bitterness, no matter how long you blanch or sweeten with sugar. I made this for my BF and we had to toss it. He's now at the grocery store picking up another box of pasta so we can go back to our basic red sauce... :(

Dessert person

Bitter and inedible. Might've helped if M.C. had included info about cutting off the inner pith in the written recipe, not just in the video, which I didn't watch till after cooking/failing.

Tom Morales

An out-of-the-park home run. I used Meyer lemons, as suggested by many. I also added chopped anchovies and minced garlic to the cooking lemon zest & chile flakes. I steamed a bunch of clams on the side, and used the resulting clam liquor in lieu of the pasta water. I added the cooked, chopped clams to the sauce at the end, with the pasta. While the pasta was cooking, I added diced broccoli stems, then the broccoli heads (instead of the celery leaves & parsley).


Variation in genes coding for taste receptors makes some people far more sensitive to bitter tastes than other people. I suspect the variation in readers' responses to this recipe has more to do with genetic differences in sensitivity to bitter tastes than to differences among lemons.


Important to note that one or more zested lemon from Step 1 might be needed for juice in the last step! I saw it too late and wished it had been noted in the ingredient list. Be sure to cook the lemons slowly so they are not only browned but the rind is well cooked. It took longer than a few minutes. This is a delicious simple recipe and you could add almost any leftover protein if needed, chicken or salmon would be delicious.

Cynthia C

I was thrilled with how this turned out: snappy spicy creamy lemony bliss. I assured my husband and step daughter that they would love it. They did not. Only a minor disappointment, because then I got to eat it ALL. Now I make it in secret, slurping it up in the wee hours or smoking up the kitchen when they are out of town. My husband wonders if I have a lover. I assure him “no honey - that’s just caramelized lemon you smell.” Could this be the end? #worthit


I'm made this a few times and like it. I've found that the lemons need to be sliced very very thinly in order for this dish to work well. Too thick and they are almost inedible.


Re: cooking the rind... I find if I zest the lemon first (thus reducing the thickness of the rind) and slicing thinly, the lemons cook up very well, easy to eat...


Winter citrus season is THE time to make this dish! We've made it three times, last season and this one included, using thin skinned Meyer lemons and each time. Splendid outcomes. Be sure to watch the video for how to prep the lemons before caramelizing them. Also while the recipe lists says he celery leaves and parsley are optional, they really do make a difference in the eye appeal and flavor of the dish.

Derek. 2.1.24

Cooked as directed (and not for the first time). Didn't have any of the scallops another reader had recommended as accompaniment, so topped with bacon. Fantastic.


Was a bit apprehensive to make this as so many comments talk about bitterness and I didn’t have Meyer lemons but it turned out great. I took care to remove the pith and slice the lemons very thinly, in addition to browning them well and all was well. Swapped the chili flakes for Aleppo and added some sumac to make it more middle-eastern.

Munjoy fan

This is a wonderful recipe, and definitely adaptable. Adding any green vegetable is a plus. You need to pick your lemons when you buy them..avoid the large, thick and rough skinned, pointy ended ones and snap up the smooth skinned, round ones whenever you see them. An old time greengrocer in my neighborhood taught me this 50 years ago when I was just learning to cook. I have followed his advice ever since. All lemons are not from the same genetic line.

Adrien SDaks

I've made this over and over again. Always a hit. I add spicy chicken sausage for a meat-eaters version.


Probably the best pasta I ever tried.I used "demi complet" spaghetti (half wholemeal wheat) and the nutty complex flavors added beautifully to the aroma.


I made this. Couple of nights ago. We liked it; there are 2 of us, so I halved the recipe without issue. I was careful to cut the lemons thin, and to dry them as instructed. I added spinach. I was surprised that my husband loves it. I am the lemon lover, and I thought it was good but not unbelievable. I might try adding capers next time, as someone suggested.


Delicious, but a million times better with minced or even simply flat-crushed garlic for a deeper and more flavorful pasta. And omit the lemon juice. The zest and the caramelized lemons + the juice it leaves behind with the olive oil are more than enough.


I loved this. I did not have Meyer lemons and so cooked the lemons without the rind, but was amazing. I added arugula at the end and was swept off my feet by the flavors.

maria elena

I LOVED this recipe, but I don’t understand the lack of salt in it. I heavily salted the blanching water before adding the pasta, used salted butter, extra parmesan and a fried egg on top. I found it really balanced the little bitterness left in the fried lemons.


Didn’t enjoy this one. Like quite a few others, I found it unpleasantly bitter. It wasn’t inedible - but I wouldn’t make it again.

Allison LA

This was okay - my caramelized lemons were still bitter. Perhaps the cutting directions weren't clear. My family used an aged Gouda at the table and that creamy cheese added more balance. I made sweet garlic endame to go with it, and it complimented very well.

Pat Junior

I had four cheap, large, thick-skinnned, nearly too old lemons and followed the recipe mostly but not entirely because I'm not a great cook and it still came out delicious and not too bitter at all. Used the blanche water, the sugar, and everything. It was delicious and fed six people, including one guy who doesn't like vegetarian food! Yay.

Gabi Keller

A wonderful dish, though not for everyone. I loved it, my husband didn't. And Chris McGee is right - celery leaves and parsley are essential, not optional.

Steve R

Just delicious all around. Slice the lemons just in the video, really thin. Mine was NOT bitter at all, and we lapped up every last bite. Would definitely try with capers, olives or tuna (or some combo)


Added zucchini, shrimp, and garlic.

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Pasta With Fried Lemons and Chile Flakes Recipe (2024)


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