A light, creamy, lemon flavor, pasta limone or lemon pasta is a perfect Italian side dish made with tagliolini, fettuccini, spaghetti, or just about any pasta you have in the pantry.
Much like Garlic Butter Bucatini, this classic pasta dish is a staple for fresh Italian cuisine and a perfect non-meat way to enjoy dinner or serve as a complementary fresh side dish to a meal.
Simple ingredients like lemon, grated cheese, and butter all help keep the pasta a bright and flavorful choice as a side or main.
Our pasta al Limone drowns in fresh cheesy parmesan lemon sauce, perfect for thick pasta and leftovers. Cut the recipe in half to enjoy a lighter, less saucy version while still using the same amount of pasta. Or make the full serving of sauce, remove a portion for leftovers, and then proceed with the steps.
Handful of Ingredients:
- tagliolini pasta or fettuccine pasta (cooked according to package directions)
- unsalted butter
- fresh lemon juice + grated lemon zest
- fresh thyme
- Ground black pepper
- heavy whipping cream
- freshly grated Parmesan cheese
How to make Pasta al Limone.
- Cook pasta per package instructions and reserve 1/2 cup of starchy pasta water.
- In a large skillet, melt butter. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, two sprigs of fresh thyme, and ground black pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring well.
- Over medium-low heat, add heavy cream and milk and continue to cook until hot.
- Whisk in cheese until melted.
- Add pasta cooking water and hot pasta, mixing well to coat the lemon butter sauce evenly.
- Serve immediately, topped with chopped fresh thyme and ground pepper. Optionally add a bit pinch of salt and a few pepper flakes.
Storing pasta for leftovers
- Refrigerate promptly: Place the container(s) in the refrigerator immediately. Refrigeration helps slow down the growth of bacteria and keeps the pasta fresh. It is recommended to store lemon pasta in the fridge within two hours of cooking.
- Use within a few days: Lemon pasta is best consumed within 2-3 days when stored properly in the refrigerator. After that, the quality and flavor may start to deteriorate.
- Reheat before serving: You can reheat the lemon pasta when you’re ready to enjoy the leftovers. Place the desired portion in a microwave-safe dish or heat it on the stovetop with additional lemon butter pasta sauce or virgin olive oil. Stir occasionally to ensure even heating.
What types of pasta go well with lemon sauce?
When we took a fresh pasta-making class in Italy, we learned how pasta is made with much care and work.
And while there is nothing more tasty and satisfying than a ground-up dish, most Americans prefer a quick and easy boxed version, which is fine too.
Each pasta shape will hold the limone sauce differently.
Some will tuck it into the nooks and crannies of the pasta shell or shape or smother it over the noodle. The choice is up to you regarding this pasta and can vary widely depending on what is available at your local store.
Popular kinds of pasta to make an al Limone include:
Fresh Tagliolini: It is similar to tagliatelle but is thinner and narrower. The name “tagliolini” translates to “little cuts” in Italian, referring to the long, ribbon-like shape of the pasta. This delicate pasta is a great choice but more challenging in American stores.
Linguine: Linguine is a pasta similar to spaghetti but slightly wider and flatter. Its flat shape works well in Pasta Limone, as it helps capture the creamy sauce and cling to it.
Fettuccine: Fettuccine is a broader and thicker pasta, often used in dishes with creamy sauces. In Pasta Limone, fettuccine provides a substantial base for the rich lemon sauce, resulting in a delightful combination of fresh flavors and textures.
Penne: Penne is a tube-shaped pasta with diagonally cut ends, giving it a distinctive shape. It works well in Pasta Limone as ridges and a hollow center catch the sauce, allowing for a harmonious blend of fresh lemon flavor in every bite.
Farfalle: Farfalle, also known as bow-tie pasta, is a type of pasta with a unique butterfly or bow-like shape. While it may not be the most traditional choice for Pasta Limone, its broad surface area provides ample space for the lemon sauce to adhere to, ensuring a burst of lemony flavors in each mouthful. It’s my favorite pasta.
Important note: While there are many pasta choices in this Italian recipe, thin pasta types like angel hair pasta make a poor choice since it’s so light and delicate. The silky lemon sauce will weigh it down.
TRUE ITALIAN TIP
Always add the pasta into the buttery sauce, not the sauce over the pasta.
Serve Pasta Limone With
- Grilled or Oven Roasted Chicken: The savory and tender chicken breast provides a protein-rich element that balances the acidity of the lemon sauce. Try Juicy Chicken 101 or Air Fryer Chicken Thighs.
- Shrimp or Seafood: The combination of the cream sauce and the delicate flavors of the seafood creates a delightful contrast that is both refreshing and satisfying for a weeknight dinner. We recommend Air Fryer Salmon.
- Fresh Vegetables: Vegetables like asparagus, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, or peas add vibrant colors, textures, and flavors, enhancing the simple dish with freshness. We recommend Oven Roasted Broccoli. Of course, pasta pairs with a green salad as well.
- Fresh Herbs and Spices: The herbs add freshness and complement the lemon mixture and essential ingredients, elevating the dish’s fragrant profile. In addition to the original recipe, you can add fresh basil leaves, white pepper, or minced garlic with minimal effort and maximum flavor.