Our testers loved the brightness of this recipe, along with its creamy sauce and simple flavors. Did we mention that it’s also incredibly simple to pull together for a delish weeknight meal? And while it’s satiating as is, it also makes a beautiful foil for added proteins like chicken, shrimp, or scallops, so it’ll please everyone at the table.–Jenny Latreille

Two white plates topped with lemon basil pasta with lemon slices on the side and a gold fork resting on the side of each plate.

Jessie James Decker’s Lemon Basil Pasta

5 / 5 votes
This lemon basil pasta is an easy vegetarian meal that comes together in under 30 minutes. It’s made with spaghetti, fresh basil, and a lemon cream sauce that’s certain to counteract a dreary winter day.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories373 kcal
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time25 minutes


  • Salt
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Grated zest of 1 to 2 lemons (1/2 to 1 tablespoon), preferably organic
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Lemon slices, for garnish


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti according to the package directions until al dente.
  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Stir in the cream, lemon zest, and lemon juice, and simmer until the sauce is velvety and begins to thicken slightly, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
  • Reduce the heat under the sauce to medium-low and gently stir in the drained pasta, Parmesan, and basil. Keep stirring until the cheese melts and the basil wilts, 1 to 2 minutes. If a thinner sauce is desired, add some of the reserved cooking water to loosen the sauce, a spoonful at a time.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and season the spaghetti with salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes, to taste. Serve with more grated Parmesan and lemon slices.
Just Feed Me Cookbook

Adapted From

Just Feed Me

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 373 kcalCarbohydrates: 46 gProtein: 10 gFat: 16 gSaturated Fat: 10 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 0.1 gCholesterol: 47 mgSodium: 122 mgFiber: 2 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe © 2020 Jessie James Decker. Photo © 2020 Jessie James Decker. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Pasta with lemon is a great, quick weeknight meal. Start to finish it took about 18 minutes using ingredients you have in your pantry and refrigerator. The sauce is prepared while your pasta is cooking. The basil complements the lemon perfectly and the Parmesan adds a nice savory note. Use 4 nice size cloves of garlic!

This makes 4 average-size servings and is substantial with a salad and/or garlic bread. I would recommend saving about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the pasta water to add to the sauce and pasta to loosen it up. Definitely add more Parmesan and basil when you serve it.

If you’re looking for a weeknight pasta recipe that’s quick to pull together, and big on flavor, this is the one for you. I’m not kidding when I say that this is the kind of pasta that tempts you when you walk by your fridge and know that there are leftovers in there (you’ve been warned).

This pasta recipe was so simple to make and it would be absolutely perfect paired with seared scallops, shrimp, or even a simple grilled chicken. This refreshingly light pasta is so much better, and lighter, than any other cream-based recipes that you’ve tried before.

I tend to shy away from creamy pasta sauces, especially Alfredo sauce, because afterward you feel like you either need a nap or a strong cup of peppermint tea to digest it. This recipe called for the perfect amount of cream and the end result was a pasta that wasn’t rich, like you would see with an Alfredo sauce. The lemon basil sauce lightly dressed the spaghetti in the most fabulous and delicious way possible.

So beautifully and elegantly simple, this recipe comes together in half an hour including prep, yet feels deeply satisfying. Not only does it meet the craving for an uncomplicated pasta meal, it works as a main course or, if you think the way I do, for a weekend brunch—maybe with an egg!

Take the time to measure all your ingredients while the water is coming to a boil. Use your best quality pasta—that fancy bronze die-cut Italian spaghetti #3 is made for this, grabbing the sauce perfectly. The basil that threatens to bolt is given a proper job here and the microplane gets some duty.

I made a half recipe for 2 people, and it was just the right amount though I am certain if I had made the full recipe, it would have disappeared, but I tried to be good since I consider pasta a celebratory meal. I found the timing was perfect (my pasta package suggested 9 minutes) and I packed fluffy Parmesan til I filled a quarter cup generously yet was within the weight. Fresh lemon and garlic and smiles all around.

Let me tell you, the day I decided to test this recipe, it was gloomy and cold and drizzly. This recipe was like a bright pop of summer, and it was so refreshing. I will definitely pull back on some of the lemon juice when I make it again, it turned out to be just one-note of lemon. I really enjoyed my bowl, but my husband had to add a lot more cheese to try to cut the citrus. All in all, I think it was a very successful dish.

This sounded quite straightforward and like a simple dish to make, which attracted me to this recipe so I could whip something up quickly for lunch for my 4 little daughters and myself. This dish, though simple, packs a real flavor punch.

I used Meyer lemons right off our tree in the backyard. The texture of my sauce was indeed very velvety and delicious. The pasta did absorb all the sauce quite quickly, so I would suggest either adding a 1/2 cup of pasta water or initially doubling the amount of cream if a creamier wet sauce is desired. The pasta also needs to be served and eaten straight away as the delicious sauce is absorbed quite quickly and needs to be devoured immediately for best results.

I opted to add the salt, chile, and pepper flakes, to the sauce before I added the pasta to make sure it was well balanced and in harmony. I felt the addition of the salt tempered the lemon flavor, which would have been much more pronounced without it, by seasoning it in the end as suggested.

I found the lemon slices for garnish didn’t add any real value except for making the dish look pretty as the dish itself had enough of a lemony kick and I didn’t use the slices I plated at all. I will definitely make this delicious dish again and again.

A perfect summer quick meal, light and refreshing, but also a good side dish. You can also add chicken or shrimp and get an enriched plate. And it’s done in about 15 minutes!

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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