This creamy lemon basil pasta is a fresh and tangy explosion of flavor. Perfect for a summer lunch or to bring summer into the dark winter months.
This easy pasta dish has a creamy and luscious sauce, that tastes comforting yet still tasting fresh and summery. AND it takes under 10 minutes to make, with just 4 basic ingredients (plus salt and pepper).
Serve it on its own or add shrimp or grilled chicken. Serve it as a side to your BBQ steak or add some white beans or some fresh summer tomato!
How to make an almost instant lemon cream sauce
The key to the lemon sauce is the reaction between heavy cream and lemon juice. When lemon juice is added to heavy cream it instantly thickens it, without curdling it. This can give you a wonderful sauce with hardly any effort.
Whilst the pasta is cooking all you need to do is zest and juice the lemon and heat up the cream with the lemon zest and some seasoning.
Then once the pasta is cooked, reserve a little of the cooking water and drain the pasta. The hot pasta is tossed into the cream, the lemon juice is added and everything cooks for a further minute. You then add the fresh basil so it can wilt slightly in the heat of the pasta. An extra garnish with more basil and maybe some parmesan cheese and dinner is done!
Creamy lemon basil pasta in under 10 minutes!
Why do we reserve pasta cooking water?
It sounds a bit yuck, doesn't it? To reserve the cooking water and then add some to the sauce, but it is a true Italian technique that will make such a difference to your pasta dinners.
The water the pasta has been cooking in is well seasoned and also contains some starch from the pasta. This salty starchy water will enhance your sauce, make it coat your pasta well whilst keeping it thick and creamy without the need to add extra cream.
Pasta cooking water is the ultimate free ingredient! And will make your creamy lemon basil pasta super creamy with only 1 cup of cream for 4 people!
What can you add to Lemon Basil Pasta?
Whilst this dish is delicious on its own as a summer lunch or easy weeknight dinner. You can also very quickly adapt it to make it a quick pasta side dish or for an elegant date night meal.
- Sliced grilled chicken breast
- Seared shrimp
- Garlic butter steak
- Pan-fried fish (cod or halibut would be great)
- Some chopped garlic green beans
- A drained tin of tuna
- A drained tin of white beans
What to serve with Creamy Lemon Basil Pasta
Side: To complement this creamy basil lemon pasta serve a simple green salad dressed with extra virgin olive oil and a little lemon juice oh and maybe some warm focaccia.
Wine: Lemon can be hard to pair with wine, often the lemon in the sauce can soften a wine and leave your sauvignon tasting of nothing! To counteract this we often serve a red wine instead, something light like a Valpolicella. Don’t be afraid to chill the wine if you are serving this mid-summer. A chilled light red is perfect for those hot summer days. Alternatively, a glass/bottle of sparkling wine will work well too.
You could ring the changes and try this with some fresh parsley or tarragon.
Or I am thinking that the slight aniseed flavor of Thai basil would be super interesting here too!
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Creamy Lemon Basil Pasta Recipe
- 12 oz pasta
- 2 lemons
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves a large handfull
- Salt and pepper
- Basil - for garnish
- Parmesan - for garnish
To cook the pasta
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil and then add a generous amount of salt.
- Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
- Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water and then drain the pasta.
Whilst the pasta is cooking
- Zest the lemons into a small bowl and then squeeze the juice into a measuring cup.
- When your pasta is about 3 minutes from being cooked pour the heavy cream into a pan. Add the lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat the cream over medium heat for about 2 minutes until it comes to a simmer.
- Pour the cream mixture over the drained pasta, stir well then add the lemon juice. Stir to ensure the pasta is evenly coated and then cook over medium-low heat for a minute until everything is glossy and coated in the sauce.
- Add a splash of the pasta cooking water to thin the sauce as needed.
- Stir the basil through the pasta and serve.
- Parmesan is optional but good!