Simple and Easy Lemon Spaghetti

I couldn't wait to share this recipe with you!! There's something about the long, dark winter that makes me crave creamy lemon pasta with an embarrassing amount of Parmesan cheese grated on top. This lemon spaghetti is similar to an alfredo, but lightened up with less cream, and a whole lemon squeezed in for an extra slap of flavor. I'm also a big fan of how easy this is to whip up which makes it fabulous for nights you don't feel like cooking.

My personal favorite pasta for this is spaghetti, but you could absolutely use fusilli, penne, rigatoni.....any pasta! One of the tricks I like to use to make sure the pasta is always al dente (which, in Italian means "to the tooth" want it firm to the bite, but not crunchy), is cook the pasta 3 minutes less than the package suggests. And if your pasta finishes cooking before your sauce is ready, toss a couple of tablespoons into the drained pasta (I drain it and put it back in the same pot).

overhead of spaghetti in a creamy sauce in a pan

To elevate this dish even more:

After you dish it up, garnish each bowl with more fresh lemon zest and a sprinkle of Maldon salt.

Sprinkle with fresh chives before serving.

Add cooked shrimp or cooked chicken to the pan right before serving.

Add cooked asparagus, broccolini or crispy prosciutto, right before serving.

What to do with leftovers:

If you're lucky enough to have leftovers, this stores really well in the fridge. Store it in a covered container and reheat it over low heat. You may need to add a touch more cream to bring the sauce back to life and loosen it up.

If you're cooking for 1 or 2 people:

This recipe is easily cut in 1/2, so use 1/2 of each of the ingredients and you'll have a fabulous dinner for 1.....or 2!

What show goes well with this?

You may, or may not, know my husband and I are fairly recent empty nesters. Which means most nights we eat dinner in front of our current favorite TV show. I thought it would be fun to pair some recipes with TV shows or movies, so if, like us, you love watching a show and eating dinner. And who wants to waste time scrolling through all the streaming services trying to find something to watch!

Right now we're watching The Tourist on Netflix and it's off to an excellent start! It's about a man (played by Jamie Dornan) who gets in a car accident in the Australian outback (not a spoiler.....this literally happens in the first 5 minutes) and wakes up with no clue who he is, and it needs to figure it out really quick before his mysterious past catches up with him.

Time for the FAQs!


I'm not dairy free, and have only used full fat whipping cream for this, so if you use a dairy free option I'd love you to leave a comment and let us know how it turns out!


Ohhhhh what a great question! And the answer is YES!!! Bacon would be amazing and so would prosciutto. I'd precook the bacon in the same pan before you add the olive oil and garlic. Remove the bacon and set it aside, but leave any bacon bits in the pan. Then you'll have the fabulous bacon in the pan which will add a ton of tastiness to the dish.


I totally understand that sometimes quick and easy dinners can be a little overwhelming when it comes to timing and getting everything to the table hot. While you're waiting for the water to boil, assemble and prep all your ingredients. If you're adding bacon or proscuitto, cook it now. Mince the garlic. Chop the parsley. Grate the cheese. When you add the pasta to the pot, start the sauce. Don't forget to put the strainer in the sink! Have I told you the time I completely forgot to put the pasta strainer in the sink? I was hurrying to get dinner ready because both kids needed to get out the door for soccer practice in like 10 minutes. Pasta was all done, so I went to strain it in the sink. Except there was no strainer. Yep, I dumped an ENTIRE box of cooked pasta into my sink. And, yes, I cried. So, consider this a PSA to always remember to put your pasta strainer in your sink.


Can you send a husband or teenager to the store to buy some? If you don't have Parmesan cheese, do you have Gruyere? Asiago? Pecorino Romano? Any of those would work!


You don't want the lemon juice to curdle the sauce. By taking the skillet off the stove and removing it from the heat source, your pan will cool slightly and allow the lemon juice to easily mix in with the cream without curdling.


YES! The starch in the pasta water not only adds extra flavor to your sauce, but it will give the sauce some extra body and glossiness. But, if you're reading this now and have already dumped your pasta water, no worries.....your sauce will taste delicious without it! Remember to reserve it for the next time.

Serve this with:

Fennel and Orange Salad

Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Apple Salad

Broccolini with Garlic

Herb Garlic Bread

overhead of spaghetti in a creamy sauce in a pan

Lemon Spaghetti

When you're craving something rich and lemony on a cold winter's night, this will hit the spot! Garlic sautéed in butter, cream cooked until it's a thick glossy sauce, a generous amount of lemon creates a luscious velvety sauce. And it all comes together in 30 minutes!
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Course: Dinner, easy dinner, weeknight dinner
Keyword: lemon pasta, lemon recipe, lemon spaghetti, pasta recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 1 box your favorite pasta -- spaghetti, penne, rigatoni, fusilli
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 package spaghetti
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Maldon salt
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • chopped fresh Italian leaf parsley


  • Bring a large pot of water to boil. When it's a roaring boil, add salt and pasta and cook the pasta according to package instructions minus 3 minutes for perfect al dente pasta. Before you drain the pasta, scoop out 1 cup of the pasta water and set it aside. Then drain the pasta and set aside while you're making the sauce.
  • In a large saucepan, add olive oil and garlic BEFORE you turn on the heat. Then turn heat to medium low, and as soon as the garlic starts to dance in the oil, add the butter and whipping cream.
  • Bring the cream, butter, garlic mixture to a low boil until it thickens, stirring occasionally.
  • When the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove from heat and stir in zest, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. Stir to combine and taste to see if you need to adjust seasonings. I tend to always add an extra squeeze of lemon juice because I'm citrus obsessed. Plus, the lemon cuts through the richness of the cream.....but you do you!
  • Add cooked pasta to the skillet, put back on low heat and toss the pasta with the sauce until it's well coated and all mixed together. Add a splash (about 3 tablespoons) of the reserved pasta water to loosen up the sauce and make it saucier.
  • Serve the pasta with an extra grating of Parmesan cheese, drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle of Maldon salt and parsley
Have you made this recipe?I'd love to know! Leave a comment or recipe rating and tag me @amenuforyou on social media!

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