Recipes » Easy Weeknight Dinners » Creamy Lemon Pasta (Pasta al Limone)

Creamy Lemon Pasta (Pasta al Limone)

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5 from 100 votes

Classic lemon pasta (otherwise known as “pasta al limone” in Italian) is one of my favorite dishes of Southern Italy. Lemon-scented cream sauce – that’s silky, peppery, and bursting with cheesy parmigiano goodness – coats each piece of pasta. It’s a true Italian masterpiece and an ode to my trip to the Amalfi Coast! Not to mention it’s such an easy dinner!

Lemon Pasta (AKA “Pasta al Limone” in Italian) is a classic, simple dish from the Campania region in Italy. It is most often enjoyed on the Amalfi Coast, in towns like Amalfi and Sorrento, where they’re famous for growing and making all-things lemon!

I so fondly remember sitting at a trattoria in Amalfi, Italy on my first night there, listening to corny Italian music – ready to try as many pasta dishes that could fit in my belly. I wanted to try all of the classics like bolognese, carbonara, puttanesca, etc. (the real, authentic way!). I asked our waiter, a burly Italian man, “so what’s a pasta I shouldn’t miss?” Without hesitation, he pointed to Spaghetti Al Limone on the menu.

In broken English, he explained that this mystery dish is a lightly creamy, simple lemon-infused pasta dish (of course featuring the lemons grown down the road). I was a bit thrown off by this strange concoction, but I was blown away when the first bite hit my mouth.

It was absolutely incredible: lemon scented, silky and peppery, with nutty and salty undertones from finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. The pasta was al-dente to balance the creaminess of the lemon sauce.

This is my best interpretation of the creamy Lemon Pasta (Pasta al Limone) I ate in Amalfi!

Lemon Pasta Recipe Ingredients

  • Fettuccine or spaghetti – both fettuccine and spaghetti are classic pastas used for lemon pasta. I particularly love fettuccine!
  • Heavy cream – heavy cream is the base for classic creamy lemon pasta. There’s really no good substitute for it!
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano – Parmigiano-Reggiano is the traditional cheese used, adding both flavor and texture.
  • Butter – butter enhances the flavor of the lemon.
  • Fresh lemon juice – lemon juice cuts the richness of the cream.
  • Lemon zest – lemon zest adds true lemon flavor.
  • Black pepper – black pepper adds a subtle peppery flavor!

How to Make Lemon Pasta

Making lemon pasta is so easy! The full instructions and step-by-step video are in the recipe card below!

  1. Make sauce.

    In a large skillet, add butter, lemon juice and zest over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, let the butter melt and simmer for 20 seconds. Pour in the cream, black pepper, and salt to taste.

  2. Reduce sauce.

    Over medium/low heat, bring the cream mixture to a very gentle simmer. Once simmering, start boiling your pasta. Let the cream mixture thicken and reduce by about one-quarter while your pasta is boiling. Stir often. Cream mixture will reduce by one-quarter in about 10 minutes.

  3. Assemble.

    Add parmesan cheese and toss over low heat. Drain pasta and use tongs to toss pasta into the cream mixture.

  4. Plate.

    Plate with more black pepper, cheese, and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

Lemon Pasta Recipe Variations

Although lemon pasta is so perfect as-is, here are a few of my favorite additions (including proteins) and variations:

  • Add chicken, like juicy baked chicken breast.
  • Add Italian sausage, crumbled out of the casing or sliced.
  • Add shrimp.
  • Add herbs, such as fresh parsley or basil.
  • Add garlic or roasted garlic, which is included in some versions of lemon pasta (2 minced cloves).
  • Hot pepper flakes instead of black pepper, for a more fiery kick.
  • Parmesan cheese instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is a cheaper and less-aged version of parmigiano.

Expert Tips

  • Zest lemons before juicing them.
  • Pasta should be al-dente, with a nice bite to it!
  • If the cream mixture reduces by one-quarter before the pasta is done cooking, keep cream mixture on very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done.
  • This pasta is best served right away, hot! 

What to Serve With Lemon Pasta

My favorite way to serve lemon pasta is as an appetizer (that’s how many Italians do it!). If you serve lemon pasta as a main dish, I recommend these fresh side dishes to accompany it:

Leftovers and Storage

  • There’s no doubt that lemon pasta is best served right away, although it can be stored and reheated. Store it, covered, in the fridge for 3-4 days.
  • Reheat in a large skillet over medium/low heat, adding a splash of cream and lemon juice to loosen the sauce. You can also microwave it in increments of 20 seconds, stirring and adding a splash of cream and lemon juice as it heats through.

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love!

Creamy Lemon Pasta (Pasta al Limone)

Classic lemon pasta (otherwise known as “pasta al limone” in Italian) is one of my favorite dishes of Southern Italy. Lemon-scented cream sauce – that’s silky, peppery, and bursting with cheesy parmigiano goodness – coats each piece of pasta.
5 from 100 votes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Course: Appetizer, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: spring, summer
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Tastefully Grace

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fettuccine or spaghetti
  • 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus more to garnish
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon lemon zest packed
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • In a large skillet, add butter, lemon juice and zest over medium heat. Stirring occasionally, let the butter melt and simmer for 20 seconds. Pour in the cream, black pepper, and salt to taste. Stir.
  • Over medium/low heat, bring the cream mixture to a very gentle simmer. Once simmering, start boiling your pasta. Let the cream mixture thicken and reduce by about one-quarter while your pasta is boiling. Stir often. Cream mixture will reduce by one-quarter in about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add parmesan cheese to sauce and stir over low heat. Drain pasta and use tongs to toss pasta into the cream mixture.
  • Serve right away. Plate with more black pepper, cheese, and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

Video

Notes

  • Zest lemons before juicing them.
  • Pasta should be al-dente, with a nice bite to it!
  • If the cream mixture reduces by one-quarter before the pasta is done cooking, keep cream mixture on very low heat, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done.
  • This pasta is best served right away, hot! 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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25 Comments

  1. Anonymous
    October 24, 2023 / 7:36 am

    Indeed my most favorite

  2. October 24, 2023 / 7:34 am

    Loved this recipe. Will make this my go to lemon pasta dish!

    • October 24, 2023 / 8:46 am

      Hi Grace,

      I’m glad you like it as much as me!!

      Grace

      • December 5, 2023 / 5:00 pm

        5 stars
        My favorite lemon pasta recipe for sure! Hubby Loves it too!

        • December 6, 2023 / 6:47 am

          Hi Fellow Grace!

          I’m so glad you two love it as much as I do! Thanks for letting me know 🙂

          Grace

  3. Sarah
    August 19, 2023 / 1:01 pm

    5 stars
    I used vegan cream, and vegan cheese with some added broccoli and this was perfect! So nice for a warm day.

    • August 19, 2023 / 1:47 pm

      Sarah,

      Awesome! So happy you enjoyed. Thanks for letting me know!

      Grace

  4. Debbie Jones
    July 8, 2023 / 10:47 am

    5 stars
    Delicious! A wonderful side to grilled salmon.

    • July 10, 2023 / 8:57 am

      Hi Debbie,

      Love the grilled salmon idea. Thanks for commenting!

      Grace

  5. Mary
    June 29, 2023 / 1:03 pm

    The comments are no joke when they say this pasta is delicious and ridiculous. We made this for dinner last night and the lemon is soooo nice, cuts through the heaviness of the cream. We added chopped fresh parsley when we were melting the butter. I saved this recipe as one to make monthly because it is easy, quick and GREAT!

    We had roasted chicken on the side but I can see sticking to vegetarian and adding spinach to the noodles the last few minutes of cooking. Just a suggestion to those looking for more than just pasta.

    • June 29, 2023 / 1:48 pm

      Hi Mary,

      Woohoo!! Thanks so much for letting me know how the pasta turned out. Love the additions!

      Grace

  6. Becky Danko
    April 20, 2023 / 7:13 am

    5 stars
    I cook from a lot of recipes online, but this one is the ONLY one I printed out to pass along to my friends, family & co-workers .
    I did add a Lil hot pepper flake as you suggested which made good GREAT! I also doubled the recipe ( I love sauce ) I am elated I did. Will be good on my Eggs Benedict this morning! 😊
    Do you have a good Mac & cheese recipe? NOTHING online was worthy of a remake

  7. Maddie
    April 2, 2023 / 7:46 pm

    5 stars
    This pasta was fantastic!!! Everything about it was perfect. The sauce was creamy, full of lemon and the black pepper gave it that Italian kick!!

  8. Jordan
    April 2, 2023 / 7:29 pm

    5 stars
    This is the BEST. Pasta. Ever.

  9. Chris Keller
    April 2, 2023 / 7:05 pm

    4 stars
    We are enjoying this pasta for dinner tonight. It’s a light, fresh sauce and I think you could easily add chicken or shrimp. My only suggestion would be to double the sauce.

    • April 2, 2023 / 7:28 pm

      Hi Chris,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the dish! I’m sorry to hear it was a little dry 🙁 I’m guessing the sauce reduced a bit too much, which can happen fast. Definitely double the sauce if you’re loving that cream sauce!

      Grace

  10. Aislira
    March 21, 2023 / 6:40 pm

    5 stars
    I made this pasta (thin spaghetti) and tossed in parsnips while the sauce reduced (before the cheese). They married so well with the bright sauce. Thank you for sharing such a tasty (and stress-free) recipe!

    • March 22, 2023 / 8:48 am

      Hi Aislira,

      Thanks so much for letting me know! So happy you liked it. The parsnips are a fun add!

      Grace

  11. Raquel
    March 12, 2023 / 11:53 am

    5 stars
    Yum. I’m usually not a cream fan but this pasta had such a fresh quality to it with the lemon. I am sold!

  12. Jess
    March 11, 2023 / 6:20 pm

    Omg this pasta was riiiiiidiculous. Super easy to make and I’m not the best in the kitchen lol. Crowd pleaser across the board. Thank you!!

    • March 12, 2023 / 11:49 am

      Thanks so much for the comment! So happy you loved it.

      Grace

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