Creamy Lemon Garlic Pasta is so quick and easy to make! Start by infusing butter and olive oil with garlic and lots of lemon zest. Toss cooked spaghetti with cream and lemon juice until you’ve got the most luscious Pasta Al Limone! Top with lemon zest and grated parmesan cheese!

pasta al limone in bowl with parsley

Can you tell how delicious this creamy lemon garlic pasta is through the screen? 

This pasta al limone takes me right back to the Amalfi coast, and oh, how I wish I could stay there forever! Where they make everything with fresh ingredients, even the pasta!

Twirly forkfuls of creamy lemon garlic pasta – lemon garlic like you’ve never had it before. If you’re thinking this is one of those recipes that has a tangy lemon flavor exploding from every corner, think again. This is all the bright, citrusy notes of fresh lemon zest rolled into a creamy slightly garlicky sauce without the punch of lemon juice. Just like they serve it in Positano! The secret is to use way more lemon zest than juice so though it’s definitely lemony, it won’t make you pucker. 

When the weather is warm, serve it up with a boatload of fresh basil. I promise it’s the perfect, simple pasta dish to make your beau for date night dinner in or Valentine’s Day!

creamy lemon garlic pasta on fork in bowl

Ingredients for Creamy Lemon Garlic Pasta:

  • Pasta: You can use any shape of noodles you like for this recipe. I prefer to use something long, like spaghetti, linguine, or spaghettini, though truth be told, almost any shape will work. More ideas are below. Pasta instructions are to cook to al dente and reserve some of that starchy pasta water to make the sauce later! Gluten-free pasta may also work for this recipe, however, I haven’t tested it, so I can’t say with 100% certainty.
  • Butter + Olive Oil: You’ll need both of these ingredients as the starter for the lemon garlic butter sauce. We’ll add a cold knob of butter with minced garlic and lemon zest to a pan and slowly let the flavors infuse into the butter on the lowest heat setting as the butter melts.
  • Minced garlic: I highly recommend using fresh garlic for this recipe. You can mince the garlic with a knife or press it through a garlic press. I would avoid using the stuff in a jar as it contains other ingredients. When you infuse the butter and extra virgin olive oil, you want to use fresh garlic for the best flavor. Also, feel free to make this as garlicky as you’d like. I typically recommend 5 garlic cloves, so that the garlic flavor doesn’t overpower the lemon in every bite. However, you could push this to 8 cloves if you prefer to go heavier on the garlic!
  • Red Pepper Flakes: Adds flavor and the babiest of kicks to the lemon butter sauce.
  • Lemons: You’ll need lemons for both the zest and the fresh lemon juice. We’ll peel the lemons in two different ways. First, you’ll want to use a vegetable peeler to make large peels to infuse the butter with. Then, we’ll use our zester for the rest of the lemon zest that will flavor this easy recipe. I’m talking at least a heaping tablespoon at the end, maybe even more!
  • Heavy Cream: will go in towards the end to make the sauce creamy. Be sure to use heavy cream (also called heavy whipping cream) or any other kind of cream product with a minimum of 36% dairy fat.
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese: Helps thicken the cream sauce towards the end.
  • Fresh herbs for topping: Fresh parsley or basil make an additional topping if you’re looking to add a fresh ingredient to the dish right at the end.
butter infused with garlic and lemon peels

How to make this lemon pasta recipe

  1. Start with the pasta. In a large pot of salted water boil the pasta for 2 minutes less than the package directions. We’ll finish cooking the sauce in a large skillet with the sauce, so you don’t want to take the pasta to al dente just yet. When the pasta is done, save a cup of pasta water then, drain the pasta.
  2. Start the sauce. When there are 5 minutes left on the pasta, add the knob of butter, olive oil, garlic, and garlic lemon peels to a skillet over medium-low heat on the stovetop. Let the butter melt slowly as the flavors infuse. Take your time here. It should be 5-10 minutes; and if it starts simmering too quickly, lower the heat to low.
  3. Make the lemon sauce. When the butter has melted, and the garlic starts to simmer lightly, kick it up to medium heat and add the heavy cream. When the cream starts to bubble, remove the large lemon peels.
  4. Making pasta al limone. Add the pasta noodles to the pan and stir to combine. Pour the lemon juice and let it come to a simmer so that the pasta can finish cooking. Add 1/4 cup of pasta water at a time as you stir to give it enough liquid to cook through. Sprinkle with grated parmesan, this will help thicken the sauce a bit. Add the fine lemon zest and a pinch of black pepper. When the sauce thickens slightly, taste and adjust the salt if needed. Serve warm with seared chicken, fish, or your protein of choice. If the sauce thickens too much at any point, just add a splash of pasta water and stir it together. Leftovers hand out in an airtight container in the refrigerator just fine! I usually reheat it in the microwave with a little water.
cooked lemon garlic pasta in pan

FAQs about this recipe

Can I use milk or half and half instead of cream?

Unfortunately, no. Lemon juice lowers the pH of milk or half and half, and will cause the milk to curdle. Using heavy cream is important in this recipe.

What other pasta shapes can I use?

You can use anything you’d like for this recipe. Gemelli pasta, farfalle, linguine, angel hair pasta, or other pasta shapes will all work.

What veggies would go well with this as a side?

You could do sauteed spinach or a simple kale caesar, I really like garlic broccoli, corn and zucchini saute, steamed asparagus, peas, or any other veggies that you like.

If you like this recipe, you might also like:

cooked lemon pasta
Yield: Serves 3-4

Creamy Lemon Garlic Pasta (Pasta al Limone)

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Creamy Lemon Garlic Pasta is so quick and easy to make! Start by infusing butter and olive oil with garlic and lots of lemon zest. Toss cooked spaghetti with cream and lemon juice until you've got the most luscious Pasta Al Limone! Top with lemon zest and grated parmesan cheese!

Creamy Lemon Garlic Pasta (Pasta al Limone)


  • 8 ounces of dry spaghetti (or other shapes)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼-½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (use more if you prefer it spicier)
  • 2 lemons zested (1 peeled with a peeler, the other finely zested)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan, plus more for serving
  • Kosher salt + black pepper


    1. PASTA: Heat a large pot of water to boiling. Salt the water generously, and cook the pasta 2 minutes shy of the package directions. When the pasta is done, set aside 1 cup of pasta water, and drain the pasta.
    2. LEMON SAUCE: When the pasta has about 5 minutes remaining, heat the butter and olive oil with minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and the large peels of lemon over medium-low heat. Let the butter melt slowly, this will take up to 5-10 minutes. When the butter has melted, and the garlic starts to simmer, add in the heavy cream and kick the heat up to medium, when the cream starts bubbling, remove the large lemon peels.
    3. PASTA AL LIMONE: Add the drained pasta and stir to combine. Pour the lemon juice to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce. Add 1/4 cup of pasta water at a time to make it as creamy as you’d like. Sprinkle with grated parmesan, fine lemon zest, and a dash of black pepper. Stir to combine, taste and adjust salt or pasta water as needed. When the sauce thickens slightly, serve warm with chicken, fish, or shrimp! If the sauce thickens too much at any point, use the pasta water to thin it back out again to your liking.

Have you made this recipe?

If you enjoyed this recipe, please consider leaving a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below. You can also share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #LITTLESPICEJAR, I'd love to see what you made!