Pasta with lemon is very common along the Amalfi coast and it can be prepared in various ways, often simply with olive oil, lemon, and parsley. This is my favorite way, with chiles and garlic. The addition of a little butter at the end makes the sauce lovely and creamy—perfect for the tagliatelle to absorb.–Gennaro Contaldo


We’re glad you asked. LC Hump Day Pasta (#LCHumpDayPasta) is a little something we cooked up to help you on the night of the week that you feel least like cooking. Wednesday was traditionally Prince Spaghetti Day (for those of you old enough to remember). We’ve revamped and updated that to Hump Day and included every type of pasta there is.

Tagliatelle with lemon on a large serving pate beside a smaller plate with noodles being twirled on a fork. Next to it, there are more forks and some lemons.

Tagliatelle with Lemon

5 / 2 votes
Simple to prepare, this light vegetarian pasta with refreshing lemon and a bit of spice from the chiles, makes a perfect meal at any time. Delicious served with a mixed salad on the side.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories465 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time35 minutes


  • 11 ounces tagliatelle, or fettuccine or other flat noodle
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 red chile pepper, such as cayenne, Fresno, serrano, or red jalepeño, finely chopped, or substitute 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more if desired
  • 2 tablespoons (1 oz) unsalted butter
  • Juice of 1 large lemon*, about 4 tablespoons (60 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
  • Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon, preferably organic (about 2 teaspoons)


  • In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until almost al dente.
  • Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and chile, and sweat until softened and garlic begins to lightly brown, about 1 minute. Using a ladle, add about 3/4 cup (180 ml) of the pasta water and the butter, and allow to melt. Add the lemon juice and stir to combine.
  • Drain the pasta in a . Using tongs, add the pasta to the skillet and mix well to combine with the sauce. Stir in the Parmesan and parsley, and stir continuously until creamy.
  • Sprinkle with lemon zest and extra Parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately.


*What kind of lemon should I use in pasta?

We know, you just grab the closest yellow oval and start squeezing. Us too. This recipe, however, would benefit from Amalfi lemons. That is, if you can get your hands on them. They have thick and wrinkled skin with an intense perfume, and sweet, juicy flesh. The Amalfi lemon is an essential ingredient in the gastronomy of the coast of Italy: the juice, the flesh, the peel, and even the leaves are used in the cuisine.
Meyer lemons are an excellent substitute because of their sweetness. There’s a pretty serious size difference between Amalfi and Meyer lemons though, so be prepared to do a lot of squeezing if you go with Meyers.
The one thing we do suggest, no matter which type you pick, is that you use something unwaxed and organic in any recipe calling for lemon zest.
Gennaro's Limoni

Adapted From

Gennaro’s Limoni

Buy On Amazon


Serving: 1 servingCalories: 465 kcalCarbohydrates: 56 gProtein: 13 gFat: 21 gSaturated Fat: 7 gMonounsaturated Fat: 11 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 85 mgSodium: 657 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 2 g

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

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2021 Gennaro Contaldo. Photo © 2021 David Loftus. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Even if my refrigerator is otherwise empty, I always have lemons and garlic hanging around so this recipe for tagliatelle with lemon was the perfect thing to make after returning from vacation; it was a huge hit!

My husband and I loved the flavor and simplicity of the pasta and I appreciated the ease and speed of preparation. The pasta was light and fresh yet the chile pepper gave it a little pizzazz and kept it from being boring—I could almost picture myself on the Amalfi coast.

Next time I make it, I may add a little more garlic. I used an entire red Fresno pepper since they’re not very spicy. I had some Parmesan bread crumbs leftover from a different pasta dish that I sprinkled atop my bowl of pasta for a bit of crunch.

A cinch to throw together with just a few ingredients, tagliatelle with lemon is the ideal recipe to keep in your back pocket. It’s easy enough for a weeknight meal and elegant enough to serve to a guest.

I used fettuccine rather than tagliatelle and increased the pepper to about 3/4 of a pepper. Trust the recipe and you’ll be rewarded with a bowl of silky, bright noodles decked with flecks of red and green. I was a bit hesitant after adding the cooked pasta into the lemon juice and pasta water as it looked like a pile of noodles swimming in too much liquid. Have no fear! After a few twists of the wrist, while adding the parmesan, the dish magically transformed into pasta with a creamy sauce that evenly clings to each noodle. 

I added all of the lemon zest to the pasta at the end along with the parsley. I think next time, I’ll kick it up a notch and add the whole pepper, and an extra clove of garlic. I enjoyed this with a simple green salad and crusty bread.

Tagliatelle with lemon is a classic. Lemon pasta is soothing and a fine meal on its own, but is also good paired with a variety of things–grilled shrimp, chicken, steak. If you serve this on its own, it’s a light meal. The recipe is easily adaptable, and you can add as much lemon as you like to adjust the flavor.

I use small organic lemons, so I add an extra half lemon because I like to taste a little tang with the pasta. The slight heat from the hot pepper makes a pleasing flavor match, and again, should be adjusted to your liking. The Parmesan is a perfect complement to lemon.

A key part of this recipe is to add the starchy pasta water to the fat and keep the mixture moving. I agitate the pan with one hand while swirling the pasta water and olive oil mixture with tongs, a wooden spoon, or a long wooden fork with the other hand. In any case, keep the mixture moving and it will create a beautiful creamy sauce that adheres to the pasta. It’s like magic, and it is super satisfying to see the mixture transform into a creamy sauce.

I like to make this in a “pasta pan”–that is, a large pan that has some depth to allow enough room to add the pasta directly to the pan with your sauce. You may be surprised at how much pasta water the pasta will absorb, so make sure the pasta is not fully cooked when you transfer it to the saucepan.

This tagliatelle with lemon was exactly what I hoped it would be. It was so quick and easy to put together and had wonderful flavor. The garlic and chile pepper gives it a nice flavor and just a little “bite” and the lemon really brightens it up. The butter makes the sauce silky and rich. Definitely add additional Parmesan at serving. 

I served this as a main dish, but it would be a wonderful side with grilled roasted chicken or fish. As a main dish, I think I might add some crisped prosciutto the next time. My husband seems to think he hasn’t had a meal unless he has some kind of meat. Served with an arugula salad and sourdough focaccia bread, this meal can be on the table in no time. 

Let me start out by saying that I love all things lemon. If there’s a recipe featuring lemons, I’ll probably choose to make it. After reading the paragraph prefacing the recipe, mentioning the Amalfi Coast, it was a done deal. Memories came flooding back of the days we spent on the Amalfi Coast before the pandemic hit.

However, knowing that we would never find Amalfi lemons here, I had to use the lemons that grow in our back yard. We are lucky enough to have a Meyer lemon tree. Now, I love Meyer lemons, so I was happy to be able to make this recipe using lemons whose flavor I adore. But here was the problem. The amount of juice and zest you get from a Meyer lemon doesn’t begin to compare to what you get from an Amalfi lemon.

The first time I made this recipe, I figured that I had to follow the recipe as written, using the zest and juice from 1 lemon. There was nowhere near enough of either to give this the taste I had hoped for. I decided that I wanted to play around with this recipe. Our Meyer lemons aren’t terribly large. Looking at them, and comparing them to the photo I had of the Amalfi coast lemons, I decided to use 3 of our lemons, to approximate 1 of the lemons we had in Amalfi. The difference was amazing.

The finished product was bright, lemony, and surprisingly fresh and light. Not only was dinner delicious, but we also had some pasta leftover, and it had really absorbed the lemon flavor. It seemed to be more lemony than it was the first night. Delicious! This is so easy to throw together, and such a lovely dish, that it will be made often.

This dish made, with flying colors, my list of go-to recipes for quick (AND scrumptious) dinners. Ribbons of supple egg pasta tossed in butter and garlic are satisfying, while the lemon keeps them light—perfect when you want to be saying “That hit the spot!” in less than 30 minutes.

In fact, this effortless recipe saved me exactly on such evening of “after-five work creep,” and I was left with less time and energy for meal prep. It made sitting down to dinner happen fast, leaving me with more time for winding down and savoring the day’s end meal and a little wine.

This tagliatelle with lemon is perfect as a light, weeknight dinner.  It was quick and easy to throw together, just right after a busy workday. Sautéed shrimp or chicken would make a great accompaniment. Next time, I’ll add some extra chile for a little more heat, and a bit more of the pasta water.

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.

Hungry For More?

Flourless Chocolate Cloud Cake

This lofty cake is so crammed full of chocolate and butter and air, there’s no room for flour–although we made sure to leave space for ample swoops of softly whipped cream.

1 hr 15 mins

Homemade Yellow Mustard

Why make your own mustard? Because you can, dammit! And if that’s not reason enough, there’s no comparison between this and the store-bought stuff. Enough said.

1 hr 45 mins

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    I’ve made it once and this dish was delicious so I am making it again for guests which is why I’m back here looking at the recipe. We only have to be concerned about which lemons we buy because many lemons in our supermarkets today have been coated to keep them from aging, but that coating ruins the zest. I make the recipe as written and love it.

  2. Can shredded cheddar be used instead of parmesan or would the texture of the sauce not come out right?

    1. I wouldn’t recommend substituting Cheddar here, monica. The flavor and texture is completely different and I don’t think the cheese would pair well with the lemon or create a proper sauce. You could substitute something closer to a Parmesan if needed, like pecorino or Grana Padano.

    1. I think that would work nicely, Barbara. Just use some of it in place of the olive oil. Do let us know how it turns out.