Celebrate Citrus: Biba’s Lemon Cream Sauce


It’s citrus season in the Sacramento region, and our stores and farmers’ markets are bursting with gorgeous, locally-grown oranges, lemons, mandarins, limes and grapefruit. Now’s the time to serve your family pitcherfuls of freshly-squeezed orange juice for breakfast (add blood orange juice for stunning color), and don’t forget to drop a tangerine or two into the kids’ school lunch bag.

One of the most decadent, satisfying ways I know to enjoy citrus is by whipping up a batch of Sacramento chef Biba Caggiano’s lemon cream sauce, which she pairs with a phenomenal beet gnocchi in her book Italy al Dente. But this versatile, brightly-flavored sauce is also wonderful on fettuccini and angel hair pasta, and can be enhanced with any number of creative additions, including – suggests Biba – prosciutto, cooked fresh peas, and thinly sliced, sautéed mushrooms. Note: I find the sauce is particularly fragrant when you use Meyer lemon zest.

Biba Caggiano’s Lemon Cream Sauce
Source: Italy al Dente

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup low-sodium canned broth (or Biba’s basic chicken broth – see Italy al Dente)
Grated zest of one lemon
Salt to taste
½ cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. As soon as the butter begins to foam, add the cream, broth, and lemon zest. Season with salt. Simmer the sauce, stirring, for a few minutes. Place the (drained) pasta of your choice in with the sauce. Add about half of the Parmigiano, and mix well over low heat until pasta and sauce are well combined and the sauce clings to the pasta. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve with additional Parmigiano if desired. Covers enough pasta for 4 to 6 people.