Lemon Pasta Is The Creamy Dish That's Well Worth The Time

Lemony and creamy are two descriptors that normally evoke dessert more than dinner, but a simple lemon pasta is actually an incredibly satisfying meal that only takes a modest amount of effort. Also referred to as pasta al limone, lemon pasta is a dish that can vary in ingredients, but always shares a finished result of pasta in a rich, creamy lemon sauce. It's a simple dish that works through the marriage of bright, slightly tart lemon flavors with a silky texture that brings a nice contrast to every hearty bite of pasta. You may see it served with chicken or seafood over the pasta, but it's delicious and plenty filling all by itself, too.

Fittingly for a rustic Italian dish there are normally only a few ingredients, and the focus is on highlighting the core flavor of the lemon. Beyond the citrus juice, and ideally some lemon zest, the other main flavor comes from Parmigiano Reggiano, which is a key ingredient that shows up in pretty much every version of the dish. Those core ingredients are then cooked and thickened into a smooth sauce, and it's here where your options start to expand. The unctuousness of the dish often comes from dairy (either heavy cream or butter or a combination of the two), but it's not the only way to get there. Olive oil can take their place as an emulsifying fat, or you can even rely on the starchy pasta water as the primary thickener of your sauce.

Lemon pasta is a rich and bright meal with just a few ingredients

How you make your lemon pasta will change a bit depending on which ingredient you choose to thicken the sauce. If you want the lemon flavor to stay the brightest you can use pasta water with just a little bit of butter. Once your cooked pasta is tossed in the pan with melted butter, lemon zest, and a half cup of water to start, add the parmesan bit by bit to finish thickening the sauce, then mix in fresh lemon juice. If you want the most rich version of the dish, mix the lemon zest with cream instead, melt in a few tablespoons of butter, then finish using the pasta, parmesan, and lemon juice in the same way, adding some pasta water if you need to thin it out. For more olive oil flavor, beat the lemon juice, oil, and parmesan together first to emulsify, then cook it in the pan, adding scoops of pasta water as you go to help it thicken.

As for any modifications, you can toss in some seared chicken breast, shrimp, or clams, but the only additions to the sauce itself should be some fresh garlic or herbs if you want. Basil is a particularly nice finishing touch that pairs well with the bright flavors. With lemon pasta you have some options on how to make it, but you want to keep the focus on the beautiful, luscious lemon sauce.