Spaghetti al Limone
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Last Updated on April 11, 2023 by Lisa Johnson
Spaghetti al Limone, or Lemon Spaghetti, is a classic Italian pasta dish that is bursting with bright flavors. It is an easy-to-make recipe that can be whipped up in no time for a quick lunch or elegant dinner.
The creamy sauce, combined with the zesty lemon, cream, and parmesan cheese, gives this simple pasta dish a unique flavor.
Most people associate Italian food with rich, meaty sauces like Instant Pot Spaghetti, Pasta for a Crowd, or Instant Pot Lasagna. But many pasta dishes are actually quite simple and light like Lemon Asparagus Pasta, Fusilli al Pomodoro, and Linguine alla Carbonara.
This spaghetti with creamy lemon pasta sauce is light enough be served as a side dish, and filling enough to serve on it’s own. It is the best of both worlds!
What you will need
- Pasta – spaghetti or linguine are the perfect types of long pasta for the creamy sauce to adhere to.
- Fresh lemon juice and zest – used to give the creamy sauce it’s bright, zesty flavor.
- Olive oil and butter – combine to create the base of the sauce and helps to release the fragrant oils the lemon zest and fresh herbs.
- Fresh basil or thyme – both herbs work really well in this dish. Basil has more of a bold flavor, while thyme is more subtle. Chose whichever one fits your family’s tastes and is in season.
- Heavy Whipping Cream – adds richness and a velvety texture to the sauce. Regular milk will curdle when added to lemon juice, so it is not a good substitute. Canned full-fat coconut milk can also be used.
- Starchy pasta water adds a silky creaminess and becomes the glue that holds the sauce to the pasta without adding more weight.
- Grated parmesan cheese adds salty flavor and helps to thicken the sauce.
Be sure to check out the detailed printable recipe card below
I originally shared this recipe February 2014. Updated April 2023.
How to make Spaghetti al Limone
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, about 2 minutes less than recommended time. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water and drain the pasta.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil, butter, lemon zest, and thyme leaves over low heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the cream and mix until combined.
Add the drained pasta and a half-cup of reserved pasta water. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring and tossing the pasta to coat, until pasta has a satiny sheen.
Add the grated cheese and toss or stir rapidly until sauce thicken. Add additional pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce as needed. Start by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and toss to combine.
Add additional lemon juice until desired lemony flavor, tartness is achieved.
Season with fresh ground pepper. Toss with thinly chopped fresh basil if using.
Basil is far more delicate and tastes better when mixed in at the end.
Serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese, grated lemon zest, and additional chopped herbs.
- Classic Caesar Salad
- Oven-Roasted Broccoli
- Instant Pot Steamed Asparagus
- Grilled Steak and Shrimp
- Roasted Greek Chicken
- Sautéed red peppers, fresh peas, or zucchini.
Storing Leftovers: this pasta dish is best when first made but it does make delicious leftovers. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave before serving. You may need to drizzle with olive oil if pasta seems too dry.
Tools used to create this recipe
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Spaghetti al Limone
- 12 ounces dry spaghetti or linguine cooked al dente – reserve one cup of pasta water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or more to taste
- .25 cup heavy cream or canned, full-fat coconut milk
- 0.5 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese 30 grams
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil fresh thyme leaves or Italian parsley
- fresh ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente, about 2 minutes less than recommended time. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water and drain the pasta.
- In a large skillet, heat olive oil, butter, lemon zest, and thyme leaves over low heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the cream and mix until combined.
- Add the drained pasta and a half-cup of reserved pasta water. Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring and tossing the pasta to coat, until pasta has a satiny sheen.
- Add the grated cheese and toss or stir rapidly until sauce thicken. Add additional pasta cooking water to loosen the sauce as needed. Start by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and toss to combine. Add additional lemon juice until desired lemony flavor, tartness is achieved.
- Season with fresh ground pepper. Toss with thinly chopped fresh basil if using.
- Serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese, grated lemon zest, and additional chopped herbs.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave before serving. You may need to drizzle with olive oil if pasta seems too dry.
- For extra saucy pasta: double the sauce ingredients.
Dear Lisa, This looks delicious and sounds heavenly with the coconut milk. I know I would thoroughly enjoy a plate of this…right up my alley! Blessings, Catherine xo
I’m sure you would love it Catherine! Thank you so much for stopping by. 🙂
I love anything pasta & this looks delish.
I could probably eat this dish every day and be 100% happy!!!
Bummer on the cyber problems – I don’t understand why people feel the need to do that.
Thank you so much Kim! 🙂 I will never understand what these fools get out of tormenting us bloggers! One way or another, I will beat them. 🙂
I can’t wait to try this with coconut milk. I think it will really give it an interesting twist.
Luckily the coconut flavor is very subtle. I don’t have a choice, so I don’t even notice it anymore! 😉
Italian food is my favorite!! I would have a hard time not using garlic too, but this pasta looks delicious!
Thank you so much Elizabeth! I hope you find some new recipes to try. 🙂
Oh my goodness. Your photos are stunning. Your dish is calling out to me. I love this theme linky party that you create. Way to go.
Thank you so much Marlene, and thank you for joining us!! I’m really excited to check out all of the recipes. 🙂
This recipe sounds amazing and the pictures that did make it are absolutely stunning. I love the one with the fork standing in the pasta! Thanks for hosting this super cool link up up too!
Thank you so much Jen! To be honest, I stole the standing fork idea from a friend. 🙂 Thanks for joining us!!
This looks amazing, Lisa! I want this for breakfast now. lol Pinned! xo
Thank you Claire – come on over…anytime! 🙂
Hi Lisa, newest follower here. I love Lemon Spaghetti!!
Stay warm friend…
Thank you so much Kari, I am trying to stay warm!! Now it just needs to stop snowing! Thanks for stopping by. 🙂
Your photo’s are just awesome, and your Spaghetti Al Limone looks so inviting. I just love simple dishes like this. Thanks so much for sharing and hope you are having a great day!
Thank you so much Miz Helen!! I can’t wait to check out your Tiramisu Parfait. 🙂
Holy spaghetti, Batman! That Spaghetti al Limone looks fantastic, Lisa! 🙂 I’m so happy to be co-hosting with you! This has gone on the menu for next week; I can’t wait to make it. Pinned! Oh & good luck with the site stuff!
Thank you so much Anyonita. 🙂 I’m really excited about the party, I’m sure we will all have a lot of fun with it!!
i prefer to make Spaghetti when i am really lazy to cook .
This coconut milk version is good .
Must have been mild and rich with all the goodness of coconut milk .
Happy to co-host the party with you
It was quite simple to make, and delicious Shey. I am very excited to be co-hosting this party, I’m sure we will all have a lot of fun! 🙂
This looks wonderful, Lisa! I love lemon and pasta, so it’s a natural. Love it!
Thank you Jodee. I love everything lemon! 🙂
Your photos are amazing, Lisa! Really beautiful. The coconut milk is an interesting addition that surely makes it extra rich and creamy. What is going on with your site being down?! I hope everything is resolved now. Have a good weekend!
Thank you so much Andi!! I still have rogue bots getting in and crashing it, hopefully we get to the bottom soon…before I lose my mind! 🙂
These are fun.. love the theme this month! I could seriously live off pasta daily!
I know, I just realized how many pasta recipes I already have! Thanks so much Gloria. 🙂
Sounds delicious. Thanks for linking up at Sweet and Savoury Sunday, stop by and link up again this weekend!
It’s my 1st time posting in the Around the World event. I’l’ be back next month with something Irish.
Thanks for hosting!
Awesome, thank you so much for joining us Mireya! I am already excited to see what everyone links up next month. 🙂
This does look like such a light dish, Lisa! And our family is really into lemon right now. A must try for us!
What a beautiful plate of pasta! I love the simple delicious flavors in this!
I love easy meals – and my husband could eat pasta in one form or another every single day! Pinning and stumbling!
This actually reminds me of pasta I had in Italy. Pinning immediately!
Mouth-watering! I had this in Italy, and it is delicious!