This Creamy Lemon Pasta is so delicious that you won't be able to resist having seconds.
This pasta dish is perfect when you want something quick, easy, tasty, and satisfying. All you need is some pasta, a few simple ingredients, and about 20 minutes of your time.
It's tangy, zesty, and oh-so-creamy. I love serving this dish with a simple green salad and some crusty bread for dipping in the extra sauce. But it is also great as a side dish next to chicken, fish, pork, or steak! This pasta will become a staple in your recipe collection in no time!
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These notes are here to help make this recipe a success; they cover some but not all ingredients. For a complete ingredient list, check out the recipe card below.
Spaghetti: The creamy lemon sauce is perfect with spaghetti, but you could use linguine or a chunky shape like rigatoni or cavatappi.
Garlic: The recipe calls for four cloves of garlic. Feel free to add more; I always say we measure garlic with our hearts!
Heavy cream: You want to use heavy cream, thickened cream, or double cream. If you use half and half or single cream, the sauce will likely split.
Grated parmesan: The measurements in the recipe are for freshly grated parmesan, as it is best to buy a block of parmesan and grate it yourself. It will melt much more smoothly into the sauce. If you use pre-grated parmesan, you'll need to use about half the amount as it is more compacted.
Lemon: Buy a whole lemon. The recipe uses zest and juice. Ensure you zest the lemon before you juice it, as it is challenging to zest a cut lemon.
Parsley: You can swap the parsley for chives, tarragon, thyme, or oregano.
We've tested this recipe at least 3 times to ensure it works well for you. Have a look at our tips for getting the best dish you can!
- Put the water for the pasta on to boil first. This is the most time-consuming step. (to speed up this step, use an electric kettle if you have one.)
- As with all pasta recipes, salt the cooking water generously. You need 1 tablespoon of salt for a quart of water, which is enough for a pound of pasta!
- Before you drain your pasta, use a large measuring cup to take out at least 2 cups of the cooking water. You'll use this to get the perfect consistency on your lemon sauce.
- Cook the garlic and butter over low heat to ensure neither burn.
- The grated parmesan helps thicken the sauce, so we suggest grating your own. Sprinkle it evenly over the dish and stir gently to give you a smooth sauce.
- The recipe reminds you to reserve 2 cups of pasta cooking water; this helps to emulsify the sauce with the pasta so it sticks and clings to each strand rather than pooling at the bottom of the bowl. Around 1-1½ cups of pasta cooking water is added to the sauce, but it is a good idea to reserve extra in case the sauce thickens too much.
Why You'll Love This Creamy Lemon Pasta
These are all just suggestions and things that have worked in our test kitchen, but it is your dinner, so adapt it to suit your family. That is the beauty of cooking; we can all create our own delicious meals.
- Add Cooked Proteins: If you have any leftover cooked chicken or pork, it would be a great addition to this pasta dish. You can also add cooked shrimp or smoked salmon for an extra burst of flavor. Heat the proteins in the sauce just before adding the pasta.
- Add Raw Proteins: For raw proteins like chicken, pork, salmon, or seafood, fry them in the skillet before cooking the garlic. Once cooked, tent them with foil and set them aside while you prepare the rest of the dish. When you add the pasta, add the cooked proteins to the sauce and let them reheat gently before serving.
- Add Vegetables: You can add some veggies like asparagus, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, or beans to this pasta dish. Blanch them in the pasta cooking water for about 2 minutes, then add them to the finished dish when you mix the sauce and pasta.
- Add Greens: Before serving, add handfuls of baby spinach or kale to the pasta. The heat will wilt the greens into the sauce.
Sides/Mains: Serve this pasta as a main meal with a green salad and some crusty bread. Or use it as a side dish for fish like this Shrimp Stuffed Salmon, or meat dishes like these Lemon Pepper Pork Chops or some pan-fried chicken breasts.
Wines: Pairing wine with lemon sauces can be tricky as lemon juice can soften and mellow wines, leaving your wine tasting bland, watery, or overly sweet. But adding the cream in this sauce starts to balance the citrus. So you can go for something crisp but not extremely dry, like a Sémillon or a dry Riesling.
If you fancy a glass of red, try Valpolicella or a light Zinfandel, which are low in tannins and work well with lemon.
I like to go for a glass of dry sparkling wine; I love the bubbles and feel they work so well with decadent creamy pasta.
If you make this Creamy Lemon Pasta, please come back and comment. You can also tag me on social media.
Any questions about the recipe? Use the comments section below.
Get the Recipe
Creamy Lemon Pasta
- 12 oz spaghetti
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1.5 cup heavy cream (see note 1)
- 1 cup grated parmesan (see note 2)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice (see note 3)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest (see note 3)
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- salt and pepper to taste
Cook the pasta
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Add the salt and cook the pasta for 1 minute less than the packet instructions.1 tablespoon salt12 oz spaghetti
- Once cooked, reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking liquid and drain the pasta.
While the pasta is cooking.
- Heat the butter in a heavy-based skillet over low heat.2 tablespoon butter
- Add the minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes.4 garlic cloves
- Add the cream and bring to a simmer.1.5 cup heavy cream
- Sprinkle over the parmesan. Stir until the parmesan has melted, then let the sauce simmer for 1 ½ minutes until it thickens slightly.1 cup grated parmesan
To finish the dish
- Add the drained pasta to the sauce and a cup of the reserved cooking water.
- Stir the pasta gently until it's coated in the sauce, and cook everything for 1-2 minutes, tossing gently until the pasta is cooked to your liking. Add more pasta cooking water if the sauce gets too thick.
- Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and parsley. Stir to combine.1 tablespoon lemon zest1 tablespoon lemon juice1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- Taste your sauce and add salt, pepper, and extra lemon juice to taste.salt and pepper to taste
- Serve immediately, garnished with extra parsley and parmesan if desired.
- You want to use heavy cream, thickened cream, or double cream. If you use half and half or single cream, the sauce will likely split.
- The measurements in the recipe are for freshly grated parmesan, as it is best to buy a block of parmesan and grate it yourself. It will melt much more smoothly into the sauce. If you use pre-grated parmesan, you'll need to use about half the amount as it is more compacted.
- Buy a whole lemon. The recipe uses zest and juice. Ensure you zest the lemon before you juice it, as it is very challenging to zest a cut lemon.
Nutrition is per serving