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This rich and Creamy Lemon Pasta, also known as pasta al limone, uses just the right amount of lemon to give the pasta a light and fresh citrus taste. Flavored with leeks and garlic, the decadent parmesan cream sauce holds it all together. The entire minute is done in less than 30 minutes so it’s perfect for busy weeknights.

plate with homemade creamy lemon pasta.

If you love fettuccine alfredo, this lemon pasta recipe has many similarities. Using both the lemon zest and fresh lemon juice combined with the alfredo sauce creates the most creamy lemon pasta recipe you’ll ever enjoy!

Why I love this recipe

  • simple ingredients
  • creamy lemon sauce
  • the entire family loves it
  • can easily be transformed into a creamy lemon chicken pasta (see how below!)

Ingredients needed

Exact quantities are listed in the recipe card below.

  • pasta – I recommend pappardelle, egg noodles, or you could make homemade fresh pasta
  • butter and olive oil
  • leek 
  • garlic 
  • heavy cream
  • fresh lemons – Meyer lemons are highly recommended
  • fresh basil 
  • finely grated parmesan cheese 
ingredients needed to make creamy lemon pasta

How to make creamy lemon pasta

  1. Prep ingredients: Have everything sliced, zested, juiced, and measured out prior to cooking. You will cook the sauce at the same time as the pasta.
  2. Heat pasta water: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  3. Sauté vegetables: Meanwhile, in a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the leeks to the pan. Sauté, stirring often until the leeks are softened and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two.

Cook pasta: When the salted water comes to a roaring boil, add pasta and keep the heat as high as you can without it bubbling over.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions (my pappardelle took about 12 minutes).

When the pasta is done, dip a measuring cup into the salted pasta water and scoop out 1-2 cups before draining the pasta. This will be used to thin the sauce. Drain the pasta and keep it warm.

scooping out salted pasta water.
cook pasta and reserve water
  1. Make cream sauce: Add the heavy cream to the pan with the leeks. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the cream is heated through and starts to bubble around the edges. Add all of the lemon zest and about half of the lemon juice. Stir in the basil, parmesan, and salt.
  2. Combine pasta with sauce: Add warm cooked pasta to the cream sauce. Stir to coat the pasta. As the sauce continues to heat, it will thicken. Add reserved pasta water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, to thin if needed. Taste and add additional lemon juice and additional salt, if desired.
  3. Serve: Add pasta to serving bowls and top with freshly ground pepper and additional basil and parmesan.

Recipe variations

  • Lemon chicken pasta recipe – You can easily add a juicy chicken breast to this recipe. My favorite way to cook tender chicken is to pound it flat, dredge it in flour, and then fry it to a golden brown in a little bit of olive oil.
  • Lemony cream sauce variations – You can mix in some cream cheese to make the sauce extra decadent. You can also stir in additional fresh herbs and seasonings like garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and of course, freshly ground black pepper.
creamy lemon pasta with basil and parmesan.

FAQs

Should the pasta be al dente?

Al dente pasta is best because it will continue to cook and soften once combined with the sauce.

How do you thin the cream sauce?

Be sure to take out a cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta. You will need it to thin the sauce without diminishing the flavor. The lemon cream sauce will continue to thicken as it cooks and cools, so it can always be thinned with a bit of white wine or chicken broth as well.

Will lemon juice curdle the cream sauce?

No, but the acid in the lemons will help thicken the sauce. Meyer lemons contain less acid than regular lemons. Follow the tips above on thinning the sauce it seems too thick.

Storage and reheating

Any leftover pasta should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoyed within 3-5 days. Any kind of creamy pasta dish must be reheated slowly. To reheat in the microwave, heat at 50% power in 1 minute increments, stirring after each minute. Alternatively, heat on the stove over very low heat while stirring constantly.

plate with creamy lemon pasta.

More of my favorite delicious pasta recipes

creamy lemon pasta on fork.

If you’ve made this or any other recipe on my site, let me know in the comment section how it turned out. I love hearing from my readers!

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Creamy Lemon Pasta

Prep10 minutes
Cook20 minutes
Total30 minutes
Servings 6 servings
This rich and Creamy Meyer Lemon Pasta uses just the right amount of lemon to give the pasta a light and fresh citrus taste.

Ingredients 

  • 1 pound pasta pappardelle recommended
  • 1 Tablespoon kosher salt for pasta water
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 leek white part sliced thin (about 8 ounces), roots and green parts discarded
  • 1 teaspoon garlic about 2 cloves, minced
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 Meyer lemons zested and juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh basil sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese finely grated (recommend using a Microplane)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt more if needed to season cream sauce

Instructions 

  • Prep ingredients: Have everything sliced, zested, juiced, and measured out prior to cooking. You will cook the sauce at the same time as the pasta.
    sliced leaks with lemon juice, zest, parmesan, and garlic.
  • Heat pasta water: Add a tablespoon of salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.
  • Sauté vegetables: Meanwhile, in a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the leeks to the pan. Sauté, stirring often until the leeks are softened and just starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute or two.
    sauted leeks in white pan.
  • Cook pasta: When the salted water comes to a roaring boil, add pasta and keep the heat as high as you can without it bubbling over. Cook the pasta according to the package directions (my pappardelle took about 12 minutes). When the pasta is done, dip a measuring cup into the salted pasta water and scoop out 1-2 cups before draining the pasta. This will be used to thin the sauce. Drain the pasta and keep it warm.
    scooping out salted pasta water.
  • Make cream sauce: Add the heavy cream to the pan with the leeks. Reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the cream is heated through and starts to bubble around the edges. Add all of the lemon zest and about half of the lemon juice. Stir in the basil, parmesan, and salt.
    adding basil and cheese to lemon cream sauce.
  • Combine pasta with sauce: Add warm cooked pasta to the cream sauce. Stir to coat the pasta. As the sauce continues to heat, it will thicken. Add reserved pasta water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, to thin if needed. Taste and add additional lemon juice and additional salt, if desired.
    adding pappardelle pasta to lemon cream sauce.
  • Serve: Add pasta to serving bowls and top with freshly ground pepper and additional basil and parmesan.
    creamy lemon pasta with basil and fresh lemon.

Nutrition

Calories: 650kcal, Carbohydrates: 61g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 39g, Saturated Fat: 23g, Cholesterol: 127mg, Sodium: 171mg, Potassium: 262mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 1565IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 165mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Did you make this? Leave me a comment below

This recipe was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated with helpful information, ingredient and process photos, as well as recipe tips. Don’t worry – the recipe hasn’t changed!

Hi! I’m Krissy.

I love to create the BEST versions of your favorite recipes. If you love to cook, love to eat, or just have a deep appreciation for good food, you’re in the right place! Stick around… I have hundreds of recipes for you to make.

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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Meyer lemons are the best and I can only imagine how the lemon makes this taste so fantastic. Can’t wait to make this.

  2. 5 stars
    Yum! So making this tonight for the kids! I agree about the heavy cream…. kinda all or nothing isn’t it!