Inspired by Italian pasta al limone, in which lemon juice and zest are combined with cream and butter for an intensely rich and fragrant sauce, this version makes use of preserved lemon paste instead, contributing its floral complexity and brine to the mix. Because of how varied and salty preserved lemon paste can be, do not salt the pasta water as heavily as you might normally do, especially since at least a cup of it will ultimately be added to the sauce. Instead, taste the pasta after it’s been tossed with the sauce, and season with additional salt as necessary.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Salt very lightly.
- Meanwhile, in a large rondeau pan or Dutch oven (it should be large enough to hold both the sauce and the pasta) over medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmery. Add the Swiss chard and sauté until wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove the chard to a bowl and set aside.
- Add the preserved lemon paste, red pepper, and heavy cream to the pan. Bring to a gentle simmer, whisking constantly to avoid scorching, about 2 minutes. Add butter to the pan 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking thoroughly to fully incorporate each addition before adding the next. This will ensure a smooth emulsion. Once all the butter is added, remove from heat and set aside.
- Add the bucatini to the boiling water. Cook until nearly al dente, about 3 minutes less than the cooking time on the package.
- When the pasta is nearly ready, return the cream sauce to medium heat. Remove 1 cup of pasta water from the pot and add it to the cream sauce, whisking to incorporate. Bring to a gentle simmer.
- Using tongs, transfer the pasta to the pan with the cream sauce and toss to incorporate. Add the grated parmigiano and continue tossing. Cook until the sauce has thickened to coat the pasta, and the pasta is al dente, about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce has thickened too much, add another few tablespoons of pasta water. It should be loose enough to pool in the bottom of the pan, but thick enough to coat every strand of pasta.
- Add the reserved cooked chard and toss it with the pasta. Remove from heat. Transfer to individual bowls and serve immediately, topped with additional parmigiano and crushed red pepper, if desired.
Alex Testere is a writer, editor, and illustrator based in Brooklyn. He spends most of his time cooking and thinking about his houseplants.