Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce

This pasta with lemon cream sauce is an easy vegetarian pasta supper that comes together in just 20 minutes. The angel hair pasta cooks more quickly than thick spaghetti and the sauce is rich, creamy, and done before the pasta cooks. Here’s how to make it.

Talk about efficiency. You can toss this pantry-minded pasta with lemon cream sauce together in less than half an hour from just seven ingredients you probably already keep on hand. In other words, it’s a cinch for weeknights. Kindly take note, though, that the fewer the ingredient, the greater emphasis you want on the quality of each. This pertains particularly to the lemons, needed not just for their sprightly juice but their aromatic zest. In keeping with the recipe’s laudable theme of nothing extraneous, rely on organic lemons to prevent pesticides from polluting your pasta.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce

Two bowls of angel hair pasta with lemon cream sauce.
This pasta with lemon cream sauce is an easy vegetarian pasta supper that comes together in just 20 minutes. The angel hair pasta cooks more quickly than thick spaghetti and the sauce is rich, creamy, and done before the pasta cooks. Here’s how to make it.
Jennifer McLagan

Prep 15 mins
Cook 5 mins
Total 20 mins
4 servings
628 kcal
5 from 1 vote
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  • Kosher salt
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup gin or grappa
  • 12 ounces spaghetti, bucatini, or angel hair pasta
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (optional)


  • Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
  • Meanwhile, finely grate the zest from 1 lemon. Cut a thick slice off both ends of the zested lemon to expose the citrus beneath. Stand the lemon upright and, using a sharp knife, cut from the top down and remove the peel and underlying white pith. Holding the lemon over a bowl to catch the juice, use a paring knife to cut along either side of each segment to free it from the membranes, letting each segment fall into the bowl. When you've removed all the segments, squeeze any juice from the membranes into the bowl and then discard. Remove the seeds and set the segments in another small dish.
  • Measure the lemon juice in the bowl. Cut the remaining lemon in half and squeeze another 2 tablespoons of juice into the bowl.
  • In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, bring the cream, gin or grappa, and lemon segments to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to a bare simmer until the lemon cream sauce thickens slightly, 5 to 8 minutes Remove the pan from the heat.
  • Drain the pasta. If need be, reheat the lemon cream sauce over low heat. Add the lemon juice to the sauce along with half the grated lemon zest. Add the drained angel hair pasta to the sauce and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve in warmed pasta bowls, sprinkled with the remaining lemon zest as well as the parsley and, if desired Parmesan.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 628kcal (31%)Carbohydrates: 73g (24%)Protein: 13g (26%)Fat: 23g (35%)Saturated Fat: 14g (88%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 82mg (27%)Sodium: 31mg (1%)Potassium: 330mg (9%)Fiber: 4g (17%)Sugar: 6g (7%)Vitamin A: 1202IU (24%)Vitamin C: 34mg (41%)Calcium: 76mg (8%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

David Says

David Leite caricature

We made this for dinner last night. It was surprising and unusual. With the first bite, I kind of turned my head like the dog in the old RCA commercials. I couldn’t quite figure out if I liked it or not. But after a few more bites, I really took to it. The sauce was creamy with a punch of lemon. We used pasta shells instead of angel hair pasta (it was what we had in the pantry), and, actually, I think I’d prefer it to angel hair. I added a lot of freshly ground black pepper and some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Weird, I know, but the sweetness of the cheese worked nicely off the lemon. We enjoyed it so much we ate the entire pot ourselves.

A few things to keep in mind:
1. Make sure to find small lemons. Use lemons the size of grenades and you’ll be puckering all night.

2. Hold back 1/4 or so of the lemon sections. Mix together the sauce and pasta. If it’s not lemony enough for you, add the reserved lemon pieces a bit at a time.

3. Cook the tossed pasta over very low heat, stirring often—it helps the pasta absorb and thicken the sauce.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Fresh pasta, lemons, and cream…oh my! The first time I made this recipe it was very tart. I used the seedless lemons I always buy and the dish just puckered your mouth. So, I tried it again using small lemons and it’s now a Testers Choice recipe for me. It’s the perfect pasta dish for our family since the ingredients are always on hand.

The dish is simple to prepare and you should have everything measured and ready to go before you start the dish. It’s just that quick to put together. The first taste is nirvana in your mouth. You have the richness of the heavy cream, the smooth texture of the fresh pasta, and then bits of lemon pulp that burst in your mouth and give you that extra little something ever so often. I served it with some sautéed chicken cutlets and it was fantastic meal.

The ingredients in this recipe intrigued me. I also happened to have slices of hot-smoked sockeye salmon with cracked peppercorns, mustard seeds, and lemon along with some Meyer lemons that were calling out to be used. It sounded like they’d fit together beautifully and indeed they did. I’ve made cream sauces with vodka, but never with gin. I tasted the sauce as it was simmering, and it had a very sharp taste. At the 8-minute mark, I added a little bit more cream along with the chunks of smoked salmon that I’d cut and continued to cook the sauce down, about 8 to 10 minutes more. That seemed to do the trick.

I used narrow, flat spaghetti instead of the angel hair, thinking that the angel hair wouldn’t hold up to the pieces of salmon. The end result was really delicious. The next time I try this recipe, I’ll try making it with vodka, just to see if that would cut down on the harshness I initially tasted in the sauce. Don’t forget the parsley at the end—something so simple, but it adds a lot to the dish.

Originally published August 10, 2020


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  1. 5 stars
    I had this for dinner last night and—WOW—it was incredible! I was skeptical before trying it: Lemon with pasta? How can that possibly work? But it did, and beautifully. The lemon flavor was powerful but not overwhelming, and the cream sauce brought a silkiness to the overall dish that I enjoyed with every bite. The pasta works well on its own but could be served as an appetizer or a side along with red meat. However the dish is served, I believe the eater will be in awe of its unsusal and wonderful flavors.

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