Thin spaghetti simply dressed with butter, freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and thinly sliced young scallions has long been a spring standard at my table. I start making it when the first beautiful, slender little scallions appear in the market in late winter, and have it at least once a week throughout the season.
It's the very essence of spring and so perfectly balanced that even thinking of adding a thing risks falling into an exercise in gilding lilies.
But whenever I happen to have fresh thyme on hand, a few of its leaves inevitably find their way into the bowl. The thing is, I'm a hit-or-miss gardener and have never had much luck growing thyme. When it's called for in a dish, therefore, it has to be purchased. And once the amount needed goes into the pot, it seems a shame to let any of the remainder go to waste.
Its addition to this pasta, however, is no mere afterthought. The marriage of its bright, fresh flavor with good butter and scallions is golden, but there's no lily-gilding about it. It makes a lovely side for just about anything from a simple omelette to roast beef, chicken, lamb, or pork. It's the perfect side for an intimate Easter dinner.
Thin Spaghetti with Scallions and Thyme
This can't be made ahead, but the pasta can boil while you're doing finishing touches to other things, and the sauce isn't cooked at all, but simply tossed with the hot noodles as soon as they come out of the pot. If you have everything ready to go, it's really no trouble at all to put this together at the last minute.
4 small, very thin scallions or 2 very thin spring onions
12 ounces (¾ pound) thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta
4 tablespoons best quality unsalted butter
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, plus more for serving
Whole black pepper in a mill
1. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Wash, drain, and trim the scallions, removing any discolored leaves. Pat dry and thinly slice them.
2. When the water is boiling, add a small handful of salt and stir in the spaghetti, separating the strands as they soften. Cook until al dente, firm to the bite but cooked through, using the package cooking directions as a rough guide.
3. Have ready a warm serving bowl. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water and quickly drain the pasta, taking care not to over-drain it, and immediately add it to the bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and toss until the butter is just melted. Add the scallions, thyme, and half the cheese. Toss rapidly until the cheese is melted and forming a creamy coating on the pasta. If it seems too dry, add a spoonful or so of the reserved cooking water. Season lightly with pepper and toss.
4. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and half the remaining cheese. Toss until the butter is melted and the pasta is evenly coated, then add the remaining cheese, and toss. If it looks a bit dry, add another spoonful or so of cooking water and toss until incorporated. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, toss, and serve at once with more cheese passed separately.