Creamy Lemon Pasta: the Quick, 20-Minutes Recipe for a Delicious, Zesty and Tangy Lunch!

Total time: 25 mins.
Difficulty: Low
Serves: 4 people
By Cookist

Are you in search of a quick, tasty, creamy and zesty main dish for either a quick lunch or a special dinner with friends and family? What makes you think about summer – or an Italian, Dolce Vita summer – more than lemons themselves? Well, then, we are here to present you with a main dish that combined these two elements. Enter Creamy Lemon Pasta! A simple, fresh and fragrant main dish, ideal for the coming summer season: they are prepared with just a few ingredients and are truly irresistible. Preparing them is extremely easy and straightforward: you just need to cook the spaghetti in boiling water flavored with lemon zest, before tossing them in a pan where you've prepared the sauce made with lemon juice and zest, butter and olive oil.

What is Creamy Lemon Pasta?

Lemon pasta, particularly our version, is a delightful main dish that brings together the zesty freshness of lemons with the comforting texture of pasta. Originating from the Amalfi Coast in Italy, a region renowned for its high-quality lemons, this dish leverages the natural citrus flavor to create a refreshing and aromatic meal. Traditional lemon pasta, such as lemon spaghetti, features simple ingredients like spaghetti, extra virgin olive oil, butter, fresh basil, and Parmesan cheese, combined with the zest and juice of Sorrento lemons. The dish is light yet flavorful, making it a perfect summer meal.

Tips to Make the Best Creamy Lemon Pasta

  • Opt for high-quality, organic lemons, preferably Sorrento lemons if available, as they have a sweeter and more aromatic zest. Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • When grating the lemon peel, be careful to avoid the white pith beneath the zest as it can add a bitter taste to your dish.
  • Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining. The starchy water is essential for creating a smooth, cohesive sauce.
  • Taste the sauce as you cook. If it’s too tangy, you can balance it with a bit more butter or Parmesan. If it’s too mild, add a bit more lemon juice or zest.
  • Cook the lemon zest and juice over low heat to avoid burning and to meld the flavors gently. High heat can cause the lemon to become bitter.
  • Lemon pasta is best enjoyed fresh and hot. Serve it immediately after cooking for the best texture and flavor.

What Types of Lemons Should I Use for This Recipe?

The best types of lemons for this recipe are Sorrento lemons, known for their sweet, aromatic zest and less acidic juice. If Sorrento lemons are unavailable, you can substitute with other organic, unwaxed lemons, ensuring they have an edible skin. Look for lemons with bright, fragrant zest, such as Meyer lemons, which are slightly sweeter and less acidic, or Lisbon or Eureka lemons, which are more commonly available and have a robust citrus flavor.

What Are The Best Types of Pasta to Use for This Recipe?

The best types of pasta are long, thin varieties that can effectively soak up the light, flavorful sauce. Spaghetti is the traditional choice, but other suitable options include linguine, fettuccine, or bucatini.

Can I Add Fresh Cream to The Sauce?

Yes, you can add fresh cream to the sauce to make it richer and creamier. Incorporate about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh cream after adding the lemon juice and zest, then let it simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens slightly. This will create a velvety, creamy lemon pasta dish.

Can I Make This in Advance?

This recipe is best enjoyed fresh, as the flavors and texture are optimal immediately after cooking. However, you can prepare the sauce in advance and store it in the refrigerator for up to a day. Reheat the sauce gently and cook the pasta just before serving to ensure the best texture and flavor.

Why is My Sauce Dry?

The sauce might be dry if not enough pasta water is added, as the starchy water helps create a smooth, cohesive sauce. Additionally, overcooking the sauce or pasta can cause it to dry out. To fix this, add more pasta water and stir to achieve the desired consistency.

What Can I Serve This Creamy Lemon Pasta With?

This lemon pasta pairs well with a simple green salad, garlic bread, or roasted vegetables. If you want to make some slight variations and enrich your pasta, you can incorporate grilled chicken, sautéed shrimp, or pan-seared scallops into the sauce.

More Lemon-y Recipes For Your Summer

Lemon Salad of Procida

Lemon Garlic Shrimp

Lemon Calamari

Chinese Lemon Chicken

How to Store Creamy Lemon Pasta

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reheat gently on the stove with a splash of water or olive oil to maintain the sauce's consistency and prevent drying out.


400 grams
Extra virgin olive oil
to taste
80 grams
Fresh basil leaves
to taste
Salt -
to taste
40 grams

How to Make Creamy Lemon Pasta

Peel a lemon and flavor the boiling water for the pasta with it, before boiling your pasta of choice.

Cook the pasta, then drain it, saving a cup or two of the cooking water for later use.

Heat olive oil in a pan, and grate the peel of a lemon, avoiding the white parts as it'll make the sauce bitter. Let it sautèe for a bit with the olive oil.

Squeeze the juice of one lemon and then add the butter to the sauce. Add a splash of pasta water and a pinch of salt.

Let it cook for 3-4 minutes, melting the butter, over a low flame to make sure that the lemon peel doesn't burn. Then, add the cooked pasta.

Tear a couple of fresh basil leaves over the pasta and finish the pasta cooking time in the pan, together with the sauce, adding another small cup of pasta cooking water.

Sautee the pasta and add more fresh basil leaves and a little bit more lemon peel, if you want.

To give the sauce some cheesiness, you can also add some freshly grated parmesan cheese and mix it together with a dash of pasta cooking water.

Mix the spaghetti with the sauce, garnish with more basil leaves and your lunch will be ready. Enjoy!

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