This easy creamy lemon pasta sauce comes together in no time and is the perfect dinner for busy weeknights when you need something quick but delicious. This pasta al limone style sauce has a creamy base with garlic, fresh lemon juice and lots of parmesan cheese. It's the perfect comfort food and insanely delicious.
Hi! I actually wrote this easy recipe so long ago but it needed a refresh and all new photos. It was not a chore to have to re-do it. I think people generally either love a creamy pasta or a tomato based sauce more, I have always been team creamy sauce.
This is basically a more simplified version of my very popular creamy roast garlic and lemon pasta sauce, one of my fave pasta dishes. That recipe is a bit more time consuming as it involves roasting whole garlic bulbs, this one is a much quicker version. Perfect for an easy weeknight dinner and one for the whole family.
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The great thing about a creamy lemon sauce is it has only a few simple ingredients.
- Olive oil - you could also use butter if you prefer.
- Garlic - garlic amounts are always just a guide, use as much as you like! Fresh cloves are a must in my book.
- Cream - For best results I use single cream, it is called light cream in the USA. I find heavy cream too thick but you can always thin down with some starchy pasta water.
- Fresh Lemons - I have used 3 tablespoons of juice which I got from one very juicy lemon. You might need two lemons to get that amount. Use more if you wish! I love using the zest in this recipe too.
- Parmesan Cheese - it needs to be really finely grated to melt into the cream well. Use a microplane or the star side of a box grater. I often use a smoothie maker to grind it up into more of a powder.
- Salt and black pepper - I have put guide amounts but season to your own preference.
What pasta can I use for this recipe?
I hate rules, use whatever you love! I have used a dried linguine because this sauce just has a twirlable long pasta vibe to it in my opinion. Any shape, fresh or dried will be delicious! If you love al dente pasta then undercook it by a minute so it can finish cooking in the sauce.
I am super passionate about hand rolled shapes. If you are really new to pasta use my semolina pasta dough to make some hand rolled gnocchi sardi, the easiest shape EVER.
How to make this easy creamy lemon pasta sauce
- Cook your pasta in a large pot of salted water. Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining, you might not need it but it's just good practice!
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet, big enough to hold all the pasta at the end.
- Add the garlic and let it sizzle gently for a minute, don't allow the garlic to brown.
- Turn the heat down slightly and add the cream, bring to a very gentle simmer for a minute or so.
- Add the parmesan in a few lots, whisking in between so it melts evenly into the cream before adding the next lot. The pan should be on a low heat here.
- Add the salt and pepper and let it gently bubble for a minute or two until it thickens slightly.
- Add the lemon juice, mix then add the cooked pasta straight in.
- Let the pasta bubble away gently in the lemon cream sauce for 1-2 minutes and add a splash of pasta cooking liquid if you need to loosen. Check to see if it needs any extra seasoning.
- Serve and top with grated parmesan and extra lemon zest. Optional toppings to make it even more delicious would be some fresh parsley (or other fresh herbs) and red pepper flakes.
Tips for success
- Don't have your heat too high. You don't want the cream to be boiling, just a very gentle simmer at all times.
- Add the lemon juice last. Lemon juice can curdle cream, I have never had that happen to me as I add it right at the end with the pasta. Also it shouldn't happen if your cream is neither too hot or too cold. That is why a gentle simmer on a low heat is key!
- Cook your pasta at the same time. I like to cook my pasta and sauce at the same time so I can transfer my pasta straight from the water into the sauce. This timing takes practice. I generally start the sauce half way through the pasta cooking time.
- Heat your plates! This is such a simple tip that makes all the difference. Pasta gets cold QUICK. Have your plates heating in a warm oven while you cook.
- Get saucy. When the pasta is in the sauce on the heat you want it to be saucier than you think so that when you bring it off the heat and serve, it's perfect. Pasta dries up quickly!
How long to cook linguine?
Always cook pasta according to the package directions as every brand is different. I tend to undercook pasta by a minute as I like to finish it off directly in the sauce. This ensures you can have it gently bubbling in the sauce for a minute or two without over cooking. Finishing pasta in the sauce is best practice, it lets the pasta take on flavour and helps to thicken sauces too.
Why pasta water is your best friend!
You'll hear me harp on about the magic that is pasta water in 99% of my recipes. It really is a key ingredient in every sauce I make. The starch left behind in the water acts as a thickening agent and helps sauces cling to the pasta. I couldn't make a sauce without it.
I never EVER drain my pasta in a colander, I always transfer it directly to the sauce using a spider strainer. That way the pasta pot full of water is left there for you to ladle in as you need. if you have seen my reels on instagram you'll notice my sauces are SAUCY.
Pasta soaks up liquid so quickly so I add enough pasta water to make it quite liquidy. By the time I serve into bowls and take to the table it hasn't dried up. You'll get to know what the right consistency is with some practice, you can't go wrong though I promise!
You sure can! If you follow this recipe it won't happen. Firstly cream or milk will only curdle with lemon when it is either too hold or really cold. This is why I am so adamant about a gentle simmer. I also add the lemon juice right at the end so it doesn't really have the chance to curdle.
If your sauce is too thin then let it gently bubble away for a few mins to thicken up. Letting the cooked pasta bubble away in the sauce will help to thicken. Remember it will thicken a lot off the heat in the serving process too.
It is a little about personal preference. Creams are called all different things around the world. I use what is called single cream here in New Zealand. That is light cream in the USA. I find heavy, double or whipping creams too thick personally.
For something rich like this I love to serve a simple lettuce wedge salad. Even something as easy as an iceberg lettuce cut into 6 wedges and drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice.
Want some more recipes to try?
If you loved this creamy lemon pasta recipe I have lots of delicious sauces as well as guides and techniques for making pasta from scratch. Check out my recipe section for lots of ideas! If I can suggest a few here? If you loved this creamy lemon pasta sauce then check out the creamy roast garlic and lemon pasta sauce, its sister recipe! For something different my balsamic cherry tomato pasta is divine as is my red pepper pesto pasta.
Made this recipe and loved it?
I would love love LOVE if you could leave me a review down below and let me know what you thought! I love to hear any changes or adaptions you have made too. Also if you put a photo on instagram, please tag me so I can see, it makes my day!Print