Hot pasta is tossed with a creamy sauce, made with butter, heavy cream, lots of garlic, and fresh lemon juice and zest. A touch of starchy pasta water thickens the sauce. Lemon Butter Pasta tastes great and is so easy to make and only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.
Pasta – I like linguine noodles with this sauce, and spaghetti is a close second. But you could really use any kind of pasta you like or what you happen to have on hand.
Butter – This is one of 5 ingredients that create the sauce, so it’s necessary. Use unsalted if you want more control over the sodium, but I use regular salted butter.
Garlic – Minced fresh or from a jar.
Lemons – You need at least 2 large lemons. Zest them first, then juice them.
Heavy cream – You definitely want to use full fat cream for this recipe, half and half may be substituted but may not set up as well.
Reserved pasta water – When you’re cooking the pasta, just before draining it, grab about a cupful of the starchy pasta water. This helps to thicken your sauce.
Parmesan cheese –Freshly shredded cheese off the block is best. I don’t recommend pre-shredded, especially for parmesan. Use for the sauce and have a little extra for garnishing the pasta.
How To Make Lemon Butter Pasta
Boil water in a large pot and cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Be sure to reserve about a cup of the pasta water for use in the sauce.
In another large pan, melt butter and add garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper over medium heat. Add some of the pasta water, heavy cream and parmesan cheese, stirring until the cheese is completely melted into the sauce. Simmer until sauce is thick and bubbly.
Keep the rest of the pasta water on hand and add some to the sauce if it gets too thick. You want it thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Toss the pasta with the sauce. Serve with protein of your choice, garnished with fresh grated parmesan and parsley. Add a couple of lemon wedges for a pretty finishing touch.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I substitute for heavy cream?
For this recipe, heavy cream is highly recommended because it will help thicken nicely. However, you can use half and half as a replacement.
What kind of pasta should I use?
I prefer long noodles like spaghetti, linguine, fettuccine or bucatini. Linguine is my favorite because it’s thick, but not too thick.
Storage: Store leftover pasta in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Freezing: I don’t recommend freezing. The sauce will likely separate and have an unpleasant texture when thawed.
Reheating: Reheat gently in a saucepan over low heat, adding a splash of cream to help keep the sauce from separating. If you choose to reheat in the microwave, set to 50% power and stir every 30 seconds.
Use a block of Parmesan cheese and grate with the fine blade of a cheese grater or with a microplane.
Make sure to scrub the lemons clean and zest before juicing.
Add some sauteed veggies to the sauce, like artichokes, mushrooms, broccoli or asparagus.
½cupfreshly grated parmesan cheeseplus more for topping
Heat a pot of water to boil and add 2 teaspoons of salt. Boil pasta according to package directions. Before draining, ladle out a cup of the pasta water and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large saute pan or deep skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in minced garlic, lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper. Add about ¼ cup of the pasta water, heavy cream and parmesan cheese, stirring until the cheese is completely melted. Simmer over medium-low heat until sauce is bubbly and thickened. If it’s too thick, add a little more pasta water. It should be thick like an alfredo sauce.
Transfer the pasta from the water to the sauce in batches, tossing to coat the pasta as you go.
Serve with baked chicken breasts, and top with fresh minced parsley and fresh parmesan cheese. Add lemon wedges on the side.
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Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.