This Lemon Pasta recipe is tangy, creamy, light, and fresh. A super deliciously simple dinner or side dish that comes together in just 20 minutes.
Pasta Dinner Winner
Why We Love It:
- Quick and Easy: Prep the ingredients while the water boils and it’s done in just 20 minutes.
- Common Ingredients: Just a handful of pantry ingredients.
- Affordable: You can make this pasta dish for less than $15 and it feeds 6. Woot!
- Vegetarian: Meatless, so it accommodates more people.
- Simply delicious: Zesty lemon brightens a decadent cream sauce, mixed with sweet tomatoes and tender spinach. It’s so good!
Lemon Pasta Recipe
Ingredients you’ll need:
- Dried short pasta: We used fusili, but any short pasta works. Actually, any pasta works! We just prefer a short ridged pasta, so the sauce can cling to all the nooks and crannies.
- Lemons: Fresh lemons are needed, since you’ll be using the juice and zest. Plus, best flavor.
- Baby spinach: Fresh baby spinach, which is more tender and has a sweeter flavor than mature spinach.
- Tomatoes: Either grape or cherry tomatoes.
- Parmesan: Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for best flavor and its ability to melt into the sauce properly.
- Heavy cream: Heavy cream is what makes the sauce rich, decadent, and thick. We don’t recommend substituting for something lighter or the citrus could curdle the sauce.
- Garlic: For flavor and wonderful aromatics.
- Seasonings: Kosher salt and black pepper.
- Extra-virgin olive oil: This is the base of the sauce and used to sauté the garlic.
How to Make Lemon Pasta
This is a super simply pasta dish that starts with sautéing garlic in olive oil, then adding cream, lemon juice and zest, and seasonings to make a thick and luscious sauce. After it simmers, Parmesan cheese, halved cherry tomatoes, and spinach leaves get tossed in. Simultaneously, pasta cooks and finishes at the same time, which is coated in the sauce. Delish! (Don’t miss the complete printable recipe card below.)
- Salt the pasta water: Salting the boiling water, adds flavor to the pasta. Use one tablespoon of salt for every six cups of water.
- Cook pasta until al dente: The pasta will continue to cook a little after mixing with the hot cream sauce. To prevent soggy pasta, we cook it al dente.
- Save some cooked pasta water: We always save about 1/2 cup of the cooked pasta water to help loosen up the sauce (only if necessary) once tossed with the pasta. It also adds a bit of flavor.
- Add in some protein: If you don’t need this to be vegetarian, toss in some cooked chicken or shrimp.
- Replace the spinach: The spinach can be replaced with Swiss chard, beet greens, or kale but they will need longer to cook. Or simply omit it.
- Swap out the tomatoes: We love the sweetness and color that bright, ripe cherry tomatoes bring to this dish, but you could use cooked zucchini or asparagus instead, or just leave them out.
What to Serve with Creamy Lemon Pasta
Other Meatless Pasta Recipes We Love
Creamy Lemon Pasta
- 1 pound dried short pasta (your choice!)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3 lemons , zested and juice reserved
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 ounces baby spinach
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes , halved
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta al dente, according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.
- Add the cream, the lemon zest and juice, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until it starts to thicken.
- Drain the pasta (reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water) and place it back into the pot. Immediately add the cream mixture and combine to warm through over medium-low heat.
- Take the pot off the heat and add the spinach, Parmesan, and tomatoes. Toss well until the spinach has wilted.
- Stir in the reserved hot water, only if necessary, to loosen the sauce.
- Season to taste, serve hot, and enjoy!