Zesty Pasta Al Limone Recipe

Think of countries famous for their foods and it won't be long before Italy comes up on your list. For a small nation, it certainly pinches above its weight when it comes to cuisine. Italian food often combines good quality, fresh ingredients with simple, tried and tested cooking methods to create delicious dishes that are not complex but are bursting with flavor. It really is no wonder that this cuisine is a world favorite.

Pizzas and pastas are the headline acts on the bill when it comes to Italian foods — in fact, a recent discovery in the ruins of Pompeii shows the forerunner of the pizza is at least 2,000 years old (via the BBC). While the origins of pasta are often disputed, it is still a firm favorite and undoubtedly one of Italy's most famous exports. It comes in countless different shapes, but according to a recent Tasting Table survey, spaghetti is the undisputed king among the varieties. 

Recipe developer Jennine Rye pays homage to Italian cuisine with this zesty lemon pasta recipe. Packed with lemony goodness and silky cream to give it an extra touch of decadence and richness, this dish will be one you come back to time after time. Simple to make and easily scalable, this pasta al limone is perfect for a casual night in or even if you are catering for larger numbers. 

Gather the ingredients for this zesty pasta al limone recipe

To make this zesty pasta al limone recipe, first you will need to gather the ingredients. Fortunately, this simple recipe means you can spend less time trawling the supermarket shelves and more time enjoying cooking and consuming this delicious meal.

You will only need a quick trip to the dairy aisle to grab butter, cream, and parmesan. From the fresh produce section, you'll need a lemon and some fresh basil to garnish the finished dish. Finally, you will need your pasta of choice. Although spaghetti is king, linguine or other long, thin pastas will work just as well. If you need to account for gluten allergies or intolerances, substitute in a gluten-free pasta and adjust the boiling time according to the package instructions.

Cook the spaghetti

If you have ever talked food with an Italian (or walked along the pasta aisle in a supermarket), you will know that there are countless different types of pasta. Some, like spaghetti and linguine, are long and thin; some, like fusilli and farfalle, are small and bite-sized; and some, like tortellini and ravioli, are stuffed with delicious fillings. Unsurprisingly, different shapes suit different recipes. 

For this dish, long and thin spaghetti is ideal, as the sauce is light and silky rather than chunky, allowing it to perfectly coat the strands of pasta. To begin this recipe, start by cooking the spaghetti in a large saucepan of salted, boiling water until al dente, then drain. This can be done while you prepare the lemon sauce, making the dish ready in no time at all.

Prepare the lemon sauce

With the spaghetti cooking away, it's time to turn your attention to the sauce. Melt a little butter in a large pan over low heat, and fry some crushed garlic in it to infuse the delicious, pungent flavor into the fat. Next, add the cream, lemon juice, and lemon zest to the pan and whisk it all together, allowing the mixture to heat through for a few minutes and thicken, becoming deliciously rich. Lastly, you will want to add the parmesan cheese to the pan and keep stirring it in until the sauce is silky and smooth. Season well with black pepper, but be cautious of adding too much salt, as the parmesan adds a lot of salty flavor on its own.

Finish the pasta al limone

Finally, drain the al dente spaghetti, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. This step is important — and traditional — when creating many Italian pasta sauces. The dissolved starch in the water both moistens and thickens the sauce, helping to create a beautifully luscious mixture that clings to the pasta.

Add the spaghetti to the lemon sauce in the pan, moving the spaghetti around to coat it thoroughly in the sauce. Add the pasta water in small increments until the sauce starts clinging to the spaghetti, coating it in a glossy layer. Once the dish has reached this stage, plate it up and enjoy it right away, topped with a sprinkling of fresh basil and extra parmesan and black pepper, if desired. 

This dish can be paired with a simple side salad or served with a protein like chicken or fish for a more robust meal. Buon appetito!

Zesty Pasta Al Limone Recipe
5 from 48 ratings
Equal parts bright and comforting, this lemon pasta is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Pasta al limone
Total time: 15 minutes
  • 12 ounces spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • ½ cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • ½ cup grated parmesan (or more, if desired, for serving)
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, for garnish
  1. Cook the spaghetti in salted boiling water according to package directions, or until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large frying pan over low-medium heat. Fry the garlic in the butter for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
  3. Add the cream to the pan along with the lemon zest and juice. Whisk for a minute or so to combine and heat through.
  4. Add the grated parmesan and mix everything together until the sauce is smooth. Season well with black pepper to taste.
  5. Drain the cooked spaghetti, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water.
  6. Add the spaghetti to the creamy lemon sauce in the pan and mix, adding pasta water as needed until the spaghetti is coated and glossy.
  7. Top with fresh basil, as well as extra black pepper and parmesan if desired, and serve immediately.
Calories per Serving 519
Total Fat 19.6 g
Saturated Fat 11.6 g
Trans Fat 0.4 g
Cholesterol 53.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 66.0 g
Dietary Fiber 3.0 g
Total Sugars 3.3 g
Sodium 233.3 mg
Protein 18.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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