This lemon pasta recipe is made with whole wheat noodles that are bathed in a light lemon cream sauce, then topped with freshly chopped parsley. This is a quick, 15-minute — yep, you read that right — meal for those busy weeknights!

Other favorite pasta recipes to throw together include this easy fettuccine alfredo recipe, homemade hamburger helper, and these peanut noodles.

A white plate with a helping of lemon pasta on it, garnished with fresh parsley.

Why This Recipe Works

  • This recipe takes only 15 minutes to make — making it a go-to recipe for busy nights.
  • We use wheat spaghetti noodles — incorporating a healthier ingredient item to your meal.
  • Most pasta dishes are really heavy, but this lemon pasta is very light and refreshing — a nice break when we’ve had some heavier dishes.
  • We add the parmesan into the sauce before the noodles are added. Most recipes do it at the end. Adding the cheese beforehand ensures that it melts and incorporates into the sauce better.

Ingredients

Ingredients used to make lemon pasta on a baking sheet.
  • Whole Wheat Spaghetti Noodles: Cooked until al dente. When boiling the spaghetti noodles, remember to save at least 1 cup of drained pasta water, you’ll use this water in the lemon pasta sauce.
  • Heavy Cream: For a healthier option, opt for half & half, but know that the sauce won’t be as thick and creamy.
  • Lemons: Zested and juiced. This provides the light and refreshing nature of the dish — as well as the underlying flavor.
  • Butter: Provides a delicious flavor with the lemon. Butter and lemon go super well together!
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese: The cheese is added to the sauce. You can have some extra in a bowl for garnishing as well.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta. Boil water then add the pasta to boiling water. Cook until al dente. Don’t overcook! You don’t want the noodles mushy. Save the pasta water.
  2. Make the lemon pasta sauce. Add the heavy cream and lemon zest to a skillet on medium heat. Whisk until the liquid begins to simmer. Once simmering, reduce the heat to low and add in the butter. Stir the butter in until it has fully melted. Once melted, whisk in the lemon juice.
  3. Add the parmesan cheese to the sauce and stir until combined.
A skillet with heavy cream and butter slices in it.
  1. Add cooked noodles. Place the cooked noodles in the sauce. Using kitchen tongs, mix the pasta until it has been coated with the lemon pasta sauce.
A skillet with a lemon cream sauce and freshly boiled whole wheat spaghetti noodles over the sauce.
  1. Make saucier. Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the noodles/sauce until you get a nice saucy consistency. I ended up using close to 3/4 cup of the pasta water.
Kitchen tongs turning whole wheat pasta into lemon cream sauce.
  1. Season and serve. Season the lemon pasta with salt and pepper. Divide the pasta among bowls and garnish with additional parmesan and chopped parsley.
A black skillet full of lemon pasta noodles garnished with two lemon slices and fresh parsley.

Recipe Tips

Variations

  • Replace the parmesan cheese with Romano cheese; Romano cheese has a sharp, piquant flavor. I love parmesan so that’s almost always my cheese of choice, and the parmesan gives it a softer and more subtle flavor.
  • Add asparagus to the dish! I love asparagus in pasta, for example my goat cheese and asparagus spinach pasta is another amazing pasta dish! 
  • Other vegetables that would go well inside this pasta would be sautéed kale or spinach and/or roasted broccoli
  • For a burst of heat, add a pinch or a 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the lemon pasta sauce. If you choose to go this route, I would add the red pepper flakes at the same time you add the butter. Then proceed with the recipe as written.
  • You can swap out the spaghetti noodles for orzo pasta, too. This is a fun switch! The orzo has a great texture.
  • Make my homemade ravioli and pair it with this lemon sauce.
  • Make it a lemon chicken pasta by adding some grilled or shredded chicken to the dish for added protein.

Suggested Sides

This pasta dish can be served with delicious sides such as buttered vegetables, peas (follow my how to cook frozen peas recipe), parsley potatoes, or a citrus salad

FAQs

Can you add lemon juice to cream without curdling?

By warming the cream with the butter and lemon zest prior to adding the lemon juice, we’re tempering the cream to reduce chance of curdling. When you add the lemon juice, whisk the mixture to further prevent curdling.

Is heavy cream the same as whipping cream?

The difference between the two is fat content. Heavy cream has more fat content than whipping cream. The higher the fat content, the more it will hold its shape when whipped. Since we aren’t whipping the cream in this dish, it doesn’t make a difference.

Can you freeze lemon pasta? Can you freeze creamy pasta?

Technically yes. However, pasta can soften and get mushy when it’s been cooked, frozen then thawed. So keep that in mind. Any diary-based ingredient can also separate once frozen and thawed. I wouldn’t recommend freezing this dish.

Lemon pasta twirled on a fork.

Other Easy Pasta Recipes

*Each of these recipes were approved by my kids, too!

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to hear about it! Click here to leave a rating and review, or scroll below the recipe card and do so there. 

A white plate with a helping of lemon pasta on it, garnished with fresh parsley.
Print Review
5 from 1 vote

Lemon Pasta Recipe

Whole wheat spaghetti noodles tossed in a delicious creamy lemon pasta sauce, then topped with fresh parsley. This is an easy dinner recipe that will become a family fave.
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Servings: 5 servings

Ingredients
 

  • 12 oz whole wheat spaghetti
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 lemon - zested and juiced
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons parsley - chopped
  • reserved pasta water
  • salt & pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Cook pasta until al dente in a large pot of heavily salted boiling water. Don’t overcook the pasta! Drain the pasta and reserve 1 cup of pasta water. 
  • In a skillet over medium low heat add the heavy cream and zest of 1 lemon. Whisk until the liquid begins to simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat to low and add in the butter. Stir the butter until it has fully melted.
  • Stir in the lemon juice.
  • Add the parmesan to the cream sauce, stir until combined. 
  • Place the noodles in the sauce. Using kitchen tongs, mix the pasta until it has been covered by the sauce.
  • Add ¼ cup of the pasta water until you get a nice saucy consistency. Season with salt and pepper. *
  • Divide pasta among bowls and garnish with additional parmesan and chopped parsley. 

Notes

*I added about 3/4 cup of reserved pasta water to get the consistency I like. Add a little as you go; you can always add more but you can’t take away. 
Variations:
  • Replace the parmesan cheese with Romano cheese; romano cheese has a sharp, piquant flavor. I love parmesan so that’s almost always my cheese of choice, and the parmesan gives it a softer and more subtle flavor.
  • Add asparagus to the dish! I love asparagus in pasta, for example my goat cheese and asparagus spinach pasta is another amazing pasta dish! 
  • Other vegetables that would go well inside this pasta would be sauteed kale or spinach and/or roasted broccoli
  • For a burst of heat, add a pinch or a 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes to the lemon pasta sauce. If you choose to go this route, I would add the red pepper flakes at the same time you add the butter. Then proceed with the recipe as written.
  • You can swap out the spaghetti noodles for orzo pasta, too. This is a fun switch! The orzo has a great texture.
  • Make it a lemon chicken pasta by adding some grilled or shredded chicken to the dish for added protein.
Suggested Sides:
This pasta dish can be served with delicious sides such as peas (follow my how to cook frozen peas recipe), parsley potatoes, or a citrus salad
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

Nutrition

Calories: 546kcal (27%)Carbohydrates: 55g (18%)Protein: 18g (36%)Fat: 31g (48%)Saturated Fat: 19g (95%)Cholesterol: 93mg (31%)Sodium: 343mg (14%)Potassium: 235mg (7%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 1g (1%)Vitamin A: 1235IU (25%)Vitamin C: 14.9mg (18%)Calcium: 300mg (30%)Iron: 2.9mg (16%)
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Did you make this recipe?snap a photo and tag @saltandbaker in your posts and stories so I can see what you’re making!

This recipe was first published August 19, 2019 and was updated February 14, 2021 with more detailed information.