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This lusciously creamy lemon pasta recipe is the ideal balance of richness and acidity! It’s a comforting meal or stellar side dish.

Lemon pasta

Here’s a lusciously creamy pasta that will become the meal of your dreams. Try this Lemon Pasta! It’s rich and silky, with just the right balance of sharp citrus from loads of lemon zest. Don’t consider this a health food or even a healthy spin: it’s here for when you need a properly indulgent bit of pasta. This one is modeled off of a favorite of ours at a fantastic local restaurant and let’s just say: it’ll be tough to put down your fork.

Ingredients in this lemon pasta recipe

This lemon pasta recipe is a mess of citrusy, creamy long noodles smothered in cream, Parmesan and lemon zest. While most of the recipes on this website fit under the umbrella of healthy, this one is all about being just plain amazing. If you prefer a healthy spin, go to Vegan Fettucine Alfredo! For this lemon pasta you’ll need:

  • Pasta: spaghetti or bucatini
  • Milk
  • Heavy cream
  • Butter
  • Garlic
  • Lemon zest
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
Lemon Pasta Recipe

Use any long noodle (bucatini is best)

You can use any type of long noodle for this lemon pasta recipe. If you have fresh pasta, this would be a great sauce for using it! Of course, it’s much more accessible to use dried long noodles. Here are some options:

  • Bucatini: It’s spaghetti with a hole in it! It lends a deliciously chewy texture to the pasta.
  • Spaghetti: The classic!
  • Linguine: A slightly wider noodle.
  • Fettucine: A flatter and wider noodle.

Of course, this sauce works well with a short noodle as well, if you’re looking for a short pasta! Some ideas: Rigatoni, Penne, Orecchiette and Cavatappi would be great contenders.

How to make lemon pasta: a few tips

This lemon pasta takes just a few minutes to whip up. Here are a few tips to keep in mind during the cooking process:

  • Consider cutting it in half! The recipe below makes 6 to 8 servings, so cut in half if you don’t want leftovers (though they do save well!).
  • Zest the lemons first. You’ll need zest from two lemons, which can take a while. We like using a microplane grater to make quick work.
  • Loosen the sauce with pasta water. Like with many Italian pasta recipes, save a bit of the pasta water after you’ve boiled it: you may need a few splashes to get the sauce to a creamy consistency.
Lemon pasta

Serves a crowd, or works as leftovers

This lemon pasta makes quite a big pot of noodles! You’ll use 1 pound of pasta here, which in our book makes enough for 6 to 8 servings. This might be less than you’re used to when it comes to pasta, but this one is so rich we recommend having smaller servings.

You may want to halve this recipe, or it works great as leftovers! The flavor is still fantastic after 3 days refrigerated. We even ate it cold! You can also reheat it in a skillet with a splash of milk to get it creamy again.

What to serve with lemon pasta

Here’s an important thing about this lemon pasta recipe: how to make it into a meal! The serving size is smaller than you might be used to, because it’s such a rich and fatty pasta. You’ll want to accessorize it with a crisp green salad or some vegetable sides. Here are some ideas:

Lemon pasta

Or, serve it as a pasta side dish

Another great way to serve lemon pasta? As a pasta side dish! It works very well with fish or chicken for an elegant meal. Here are a few mains we’d serve it with:

This lemon pasta recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, use gluten-free or legume pasta.

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Lemon pasta

Lemon Pasta

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8 1x


This lusciously creamy lemon pasta recipe is the ideal balance of richness and acidity! It’s a comforting meal or stellar side dish.


  • 1 pound spaghetti or bucatini pasta*
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • Zest from 2 lemons
  • 5 tablespoons salted butter, sliced
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh ground black pepper


  1. Cook the pasta (and save the pasta water!): Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Set the timer for a few minutes less than the package instructions and then taste: the pasta should be just done, still with some firmness. The pasta should also taste salty from the salted water. Save out ½ cup pasta water using a glass measuring cup for the sauce, then quickly drain the pasta.
  2. Make the sauce: In saucepan, add the milk and cream and bring to a simmer over medium heat. As it comes to a simmer, grate in the garlic. Add ½ teaspoon kosher salt, zest of 1 lemon, and 4 tablespoons butter and stir for 1 minute. Slowly sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese, stirring constantly until fully incorporated and the sauce thickens.
  3. Serve: Add the drained pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Allow to sit 3 minutes. Add the remaining zest of 1 lemon, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon butter. Add a few drizzles of pasta water as necessary until nicely coated. Serve with fresh ground black pepper. Store leftovers refrigerated for up to 3 days (reheats nicely in a skillet with a splash of milk).


*This quantity serves 6 to 8: make sure to cut in half if you’re serving less eaters! Pair with a green salad or veggie side to round it out as a meal.

  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Pasta
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Lemon pasta

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Made this dish today for Mother’s Day & it was so delicious & easy to make. Everyone loved this dish. Unfortunately I didn’t have any leftovers 😩

  2. Greetings! Thank you for sharing your recipe for the lemon pasta. It is HANDS DOWN the best tasting dish I’ve made in a long time! Super easy to make, everything is already in my kitchen so no unusual ingredients to go out and buy. My family Loved it! DELECIOUS!