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You'll Owe Everything To Sophia Loren's Lemon Spaghetti

In Celebrity Recipes, we tackle a favorite recipe from a beloved star, past or present.

Sophia Loren famously said, "Everything you see I owe to spaghetti." Coming from one of the most desirable women the world has ever known, this pasta argument was sound. Loren, an Italian, was the first actress to win an Oscar for a foreign-language performance (for Two Women in 1962), inspiring much devotion as she became a global star. No less than Cary Grant himself wanted to marry her on the set of Houseboat, but she remained devoted to her much older paramour, Carlo Ponti, to whom she was married for over forty years until he died in 2007.

Now an octogenarian, Loren hasn't been seen on the big screen in a while (her last major appearance was in 2010's Nine), but along the way she became the first actress to release her own perfume; she has her own line of eyewear; she and Ponti owned a massive art collection; and yes, she released cookbooks, like 1972's In The Kitchen With Love and 1998's Sophia Loren's Recipes And Memories. She stated, "Cooking is an act of love, a gift, a way of sharing with others the little secrets—'piccoli segreti'— that are simmering on the burners."

So, in perusing Loren's own culinary secrets, one recipe immediately stood out: her lemon spaghetti. Not only is it a major nod to the dish that Loren said was responsible for her great beauty, it's an amalgamation of a variety of wonderful things: garlic, lemon, cream. Really rich as is—I adapted a recipe I found on Tasty Kitchen—I like my lemon spaghetti even more lemony, so I added some juice as well as zest, plus more parmesan and basil.

But I was astonished at how easily this dish came together: You can make the whole sauce while the water is boiling. Just be careful not to burn the butter (or the garlic), but once you mix the cream in, it all combines easily. Once you combine the base sauce with your spaghetti, fettuccini or other thin pasta, then you are free to amp this dish up with whatever you'd like. At the end you will have a deceptively simple—and delicious—pasta dish.

It's one of those go-to meals that could fit so many occasions: Late-night snack. Potluck dinner contribution. Brunch. Perfect side dish for some salmon. We added extra cracked pepper and shaved lemon rind at the end along with the basil, and then my tasters and all fought over the bowl. It was a little rich, but it was also intoxicating—just like Sophia Loren herself.

Amped-up Lemon Spaghetti inspired by Sophia Loren

Serves two

  • 8 oz. spaghetti (half a package)
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest from 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, divided
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, with extra for serving
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (not dried)
  • Salt a large pot of water and turn your heat to high. When the water is boiling, cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté lightly. Add 1/4 cup of the cream. Add salt and pepper and stir until smooth.


    When the pasta is finished cooking, drain and add to the saucepan along with the remaining cream. Add in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Toss well, making sure that all the spaghetti gets covered. Add parmesan, chopped fresh basil, plus salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste. Top with more lemon zest if desired.