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Spaghetti al Limone (Creamy Lemon Spaghetti)

Spaghetti al Limone (Creamy Lemon Spaghetti)

Spaghetti al Limone will please all fans of mac’n’cheese and Cacio e Pepe! This easy, 5-ingredient recipe is rich, zesty, and utterly satisfying to eat. Dig in as is, or fold in veggies and/or proteins for a heartier dish!

Spaghetti al Limone (Creamy Lemon Spaghetti) //

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When I’m pressed for time on weeknights (i.e., MOST NIGHTS), the first thing I grab onto to assemble a quick and easy dinner is dry pasta. In my pantry, there’s an entire shelf dedicated to dry pasta in all shapes and sizes, and this is because … yes, I constantly impulse-buy new pasta shapes when I visit my local Italian grocery store, and yes, pasta can be transformed into an infinite number of meals.

Typically, in a last-minute pasta dish, I’ll throw in “everything but the kitchen sink”: jarred pesto or tomato sauce, some protein I have on hand, and some chopped-up veggies. Top with Parmigiano-Reggiano (which makes everything taste better)—and you’re done!

Over the years, though, I’ve adopted a collection of actual, classic Italian pasta recipes, which I’ve discovered are just as quick and easy to make as an improvised one, provided I keep the necessary ingredients on hand. And I do, now, always have ingredients to make my family’s go-to pasta dishes, because I make them so often and love them so much! Bucatini all’Amatriciana is our favorite tomato-based pasta dish (I keep chopped up and portioned out guanciale in the freezer so I can always make the dish in a pinch), and Cacio e Pepe pasta has easily been crowned “best cheesy pasta” at my house.

But if I had to name my very favorite weeknight pasta dish, it would be this irresistible Spaghetti al Limone. Creamy lemon spaghetti is everything everyone loves about pasta: it’s rich, creamy, zesty, and utterly satisfying to eat. What I love most about this recipe is you can make and eat it as is, but it’s also a blank canvas for last-minute additions: I usually throw in a couple of handfuls of baby spinach and let them wilt for a minute right before serving. If I have roasted chicken on hand, I’ll dice and fold it in. When I have enough time for an extra step, I’ll fry some shrimps and add them to the dish, too. I’ve even topped this humble Spaghetti al Limone with luxurious lobster meat and served it at a dinner party!

Spaghetti al Limone (Creamy Lemon Spaghetti) //

The basic recipe for Spaghetti al Limone requires only five ingredients—and that includes the pasta! The creamy lemon sauce is easier to make than Cacio e Pepe, which requires a bit of practice to achieve. Creamy lemon spaghetti is literally a foolproof recipe. Plus, another incredibly handy thing to know is that it reheats wonderfully! The recipe makes four generous servings, but if you have leftovers, no worries: simply throw refrigerated leftovers back into a pan with a splash of water, reheat over low heat, and watch the wonderful sauce return to its glossy glory in just minutes.

In other words, Spaghetti al Limone deserves a spot in your go-to weeknight recipe list. But make sure to serve it on special nights, too, because it quite simply tastes glorious!

Spaghetti al Limone (Creamy Lemon Spaghetti) //

A quick note about the origins of this recipe: My Spaghetti al Limone recipe is adapted from Bon Appétit magazine, but over the years, I’ve made it my own by considerably reducing the amounts of heavy cream and butter used in the original recipe. I found that by using more pasta cooking water and adding a bit more Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to the sauce, you end up with a sauce that’s just as irresistibly silky and rich, but is much lighter on your system. Always happy to create better-for-you weeknight dinner options for you! 🙌🏼

Helpful Tips for Making Spaghetti al Limone

  • Use spaghetti—or go for any other pasta shape: This lemony creamy sauce will perfectly coat any type of pasta.
  • Multitask to shorten your road to deliciousness: Spaghetti al Limone comes together super quickly, and the fastest way to make it is by following these steps:
    • Fill a large pot with water and set it over high heat;
    • While you wait for the water to come to a boil, prepare the ingredients as indicated in the ingredient list (measure out the cream, cut the butter, grate the cheese), and set everything by the stove;
    • Place the pasta into the boiling water, and while it’s cooking, warm up the sauce as indicated in the method;
    • When the pasta is ready, use tongs to transfer it directly to the skillet with the sauce. You need some of the pasta cooking water, so by transferring the pasta straight from the pot to the skillet, you transfer some water with it and keep extra by your side to adjust the consistency of the sauce, if needed;
    • Return the sauce with the pasta in it to a simmer to finish. Serve hot and DIG IN!
  • Use Parmigiano-Reggiano for the best flavor: When a recipe’s ingredient list is so short, you need to use the best ingredients you can find and afford to get the most delicious version of the dish. When making Spaghetti al Limone, don’t skimp on Parmigiano-Reggiano: Parmigiano-Reggiano has a sharp, nutty, salty flavor that lends a ton of flavor and an unforgettable creaminess to this dish. Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano is controlled under a Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (protected designation of origin), which means it must be produced in a specific way in specific regions of Italy to be awarded the name. Authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano has a stamped rind, is aged at least 12 months, and is usually labeled with its original Italian name (as opposed to just “parmesan.”) Yes, Parmigiano-Reggiano is more expensive than cheese products labeled parmesan, but you don’t need a lot to make your dishes extra special. Save it for recipes that make the most of its unique flavor, such as this delightfully creamy lemon spaghetti!

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Spaghetti al Limone (Creamy Lemon Spaghetti) //

Spaghetti al Limone (Creamy Lemon Spaghetti)

Spaghetti al Limone will please all fans of mac’n’cheese and Cacio e Pepe! This easy, 5-ingredient recipe is rich, zesty, and utterly satisfying to eat. Dig in as is, or fold in veggies and/or proteins for a heartier dish!
Prep Time:5 minutes
Cook Time:20 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Marie Asselin,


Optional Garnishes (use any or all or none at all)

  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 cup cooked shrimp, or diced cooked chicken
  • Fresh basil leaves


  • Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and set a timer for 2 minutes less than the cooking time recommended by the manufacturer (the pasta will keep cooking in the sauce.)
  • While the pasta is cooking, set a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the heavy cream, then very finely grate the zest of the lemon into the cream (using a Microplane is best). Mix the zest into the cream and bring the cream to a gentle simmer. Start incorporating the butter, 1 or 2 cubes at a time, whisking to incorporate the butter to the cream as it melts. Add more cubes gradually, whisking constantly as you go. (Whisking constantly is the key to emulsify the sauce.)
  • Once all the butter is incorporated, start sprinkling the parmesan over the sauce. Add the cheese very gradually and keep whisking to melt and incorporate the cheese into the sauce. Repeat until all the parmesan is incorporated. (Adding the parmesan gradually will prevent it from clumping and create a super smooth sauce.) Turn off the heat.
  • When the pasta timer goes off, use tongs to transfer the pasta to the pan containing the creamy lemon sauce. It’s okay if some water comes along with it. DON’T discard the pasta water, you’ll need some of it to complete the dish.
  • Return the saucepan to medium heat. Add ½ cup (125 ml) pasta water to the pan and stir to combine. Bring the sauce back to a simmer and keep it running for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce thickens around the pasta just enough to coat it. A bit of the sauce should still pool at the bottom of the pan, but if there’s still a lot of loose sauce, keep simmering until the texture seems right.
  • Squeeze the juice from the zested lemon and stir it into the dish. Season with a very generous amount of black pepper. (Kids might prefer to go without the black pepper!)
  • If using, stir the baby spinach and protein into the pasta and cook for a few seconds more, just until the spinach loses its volume. Add a bit more pasta water to keep things saucy. Garnish with fresh basil, if desired. Serve immediately.

Did you make this?

Tell me how you liked it! Leave a comment or take a picture and tag it with @foodnouveau on Instagram.

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Author: Marie Asselin

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes


Rate + Review

5 from 8 votes

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Recipe Rating

  1. After adding lemon juice I looked at the pan and thought it looked like a disaster, certain I wasn’t getting lunch today after all. But, I let it simmer a little longer and then tried it. No disaster – quite the opposite.
    It turned out tasting just as I’d hoped and I’ll definitely be making it again, though I’ll try adding some spinach, chicken or nuts (the only other time I’ve had lemon pasta it had pine nuts and it was great) next time. Thank you for this recipe!

    • Hello Anna! Yes, you gotta trust the process! 😅😉 So happy you enjoyed this pasta dish, it’s one of my favorites! I most often add baby spinach and diced chicken to the dish, but I also love it with salmon and shrimp. I think sprinkling pine nuts on top would be wonderful, too! Thank you for taking a minute to leave a comment, I really appreciate it.

    • Sorry, I don’t provide nutritional information on my site. You could try copy+pasting the recipe in one of the free tools online (Google it) for a ballpark idea, though!

  2. Trying for the first time tonight for a dinner party. Serving Florintine Steak! Should be delicious!

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe was so easy to make! Such simple ingredients and such rich flavor! I wouldn’t change a thing in this recipe. Will definitely make it again!!

  4. 5 stars
    This creamy lemon spaghetti is absolutely delicious and so flavorful. I love simple dishes like this. It’s so easy to make and definitely does not disappoint.

  5. 5 stars
    This pasta was delicious. Love the bright, lemon flavor. We ate it with grilled chicken and it was scrumptious!

  6. 5 stars
    OMG, this spaghetti al Limone recipe is making me drool just by looking at the photos! I am really craving this recipe right now and I am definitely going to make it tomorrow. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

  7. Pasta is definitely our go to for a delicious easy meal, being Italian and all. Love the simplicity of this padta, it is truly the Italian way. Love how that lemon just spikes the flavors and adds joyfulness and brightness to the table!
    Great post, thanks for sharing brings us back home!😁👍👌😍❤

  8. 5 stars
    This creamy lemon spaghetti was so delicious! I loved the vibrant lemon flavor and it was soooo easy to make. Can’t wait to make this for dinner again!