close up of creamy lemon pasta

Creamy Lemon Pasta With Garlic Butter

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fork with lemon spaghetti noodles


There are no specialty ingredients in this recipe. All you need is:

  • Dried pasta. I like to use spaghetti or rotini. Rotini is easier for my kids to eat.
  • unsalted butter
  • 6 garlic cloves (or measure with your heart)
  • heavy cream
  • the zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pasta water (from cooking your pasta)
  • love

About the cheese – don’t use the very cheapest parm you can find, but you don’t need to break the bank, either. A middle of the road parmesan is great here. The super cheap powdery stuff will give you a weird texture in the finished dish.

What’s Up With The Pasta Water?

Pasta cooking water is the secret to silky sauces that cling to the noodles. The magic is in the starch released by the pasta as it cooks. Here’s what you need to know.

  1. You do not, in fact, want your pasta water as salty as the sea. You want it salted, but not like some chefs on tv would have you do it. According to J Kenji Lopez-Alt, you want 1-2 Tablespoons of kosher salt per liter of water. Salted, but not over the top. It is important to not have too much salt in the pasta water, because you will be adding it to your sauce later.
  2. You want just enough water to cover your pasta by 1 or 2 inches. We need concentrated starchiness.
  3. Cook your pasta to just al dente. It will finish cooking in the sauce.
  4. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water before you toss the rest down the sink. Don’t forget!
  5. Have your sauce heated and ready. Add pasta to sauce and stir over medium to medium-high heat.
  6. Add a splash (1/4 cup-ish) of pasta water to the pasta, and stir. The agitation helps the starch do its thing. Add more pasta water if desired.
  7. Watch as your sauce becomes silky and amazing. Taste before adding more pasta water. You don’t want to add too much salt. The pasta water will also help add body to your sauce.
overhead shot of lemon pasta with cheese and lemon slices.

How To Make Creamy Lemon Pasta With Garlic Butter


In a large pot, bring enough water to cover your pasta by 1 or 2 inches to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add 2 to 3 Tablespoons of kosher salt (less if you’re using table salt). Add 1 pound of pasta and cook according to package directions until just al dente.

fork lifting lemon pasta off the plate


  1. Melt butter in an enameled cast iron Dutch oven or large, high-sided skillet. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  2. Whisk cream and one egg yolk together in a liquid measuring cup. Add to garlic butter. Whisk briskly until very well combined.
  3. Add lemon zest and black pepper. Whisk. Simmer.
  4. Add pasta to sauce with tongs. Stir.
  5. Add 1/2 cup pasta water and stir over medium heat until the sauce gets silky and thick and beautiful. Taste for salt. Add if needed.
  6. Turn off heat and add parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Mix very thoroughly.
  7. Bask in your cooking prowess.

Tell Me How Much You Love This Lemon Pasta!

I cannot wait for you to make this creamy lemon pasta with garlic butter. My oldest daughter and I loooove this recipe, and I know you will too. When you make it, will you please leave me a comment? I would love to hear from you.

Also, please tag me in any photos if you make my recipes. I’m on Instagram. You can also email them to me at I’m so excited to hear from you!

Happy Cooking!


close up of creamy lemon pasta

Creamy Lemon Pasta With Garlic Butter

Prepare to meet your new favorite dinner. Creamy lemon pasta with garlic butter tastes impressive, seems fancy, but it actually very easy. It's a win all around. You're going to love this tender pasta enrobed in a silky, lemony cream sauce.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 8


  • 1 medium to large pot for cooking pasta
  • 1 12 inch skillet or enameled Dutch oven if you use a skillet, use one with high sides.
  • ` Microplane/lemon zester


  • 1 pound dry spaghetti you can use any pasta shape. I like spaghetti or rotini.
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 6 cloves garlic very finely chopped or even made into a paste. See note.
  • 1 and 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese see note
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
  • 1 cup pasta water you probably will not need the whole cup, but reserve that much just in case.
  • fine sea salt to taste


  • Bring enough water to a boil to fully cover your dry pasta by about an inch. When the water is boiling, add about 3 Tablespoons of kosher salt. Cook pasta according to package directions, just to al dente. Gather all of your ingredients while the water comes to a boil.
  • Immediately after starting your pasta, finely chop 6 cloves of garlic. I mean finely. You could even make garlic paste by smashing the garlic cloves and a little salt with the side of your knife a few times.
  • zest and juice 2 lemons. Reserve the zest and the juice seperately.
  • In either an enameled cast iron Dutch oven or a high sided 12 inch skillet, melt 1-4 cup of unsalted butter over medium heat. After the butter foams and then stops foaming, add the garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 to 45 seconds.
  • Measure 1 and 1/2 cups of heavy cream into a 2 cup liquid measure. Separate the egg yolk from the white by cracking the egg into your hands over the sink or a bowl. Let the white slide through your fingers, and reserve the yolk. Add the yolk to the cream, and whisk.
  • Add the cream and egg yolk mixture to the garlic butter and whisk thoroughly. Add the lemon zest and black pepper. Bring to a simmer. You don't want a full on boil, so you may need to lower the heat. Whisk often.
  • When the pasta is finished, grab it straight from the pot with tongs or a wire spider, and add it to the cream sauce. We want the water that comes with it, so don't stress about that. The starch in the pasta water is going to help thicken and emulsify our sauce.
  • Carefully dip a 1 cup measure with a handle into the pasta water and reserve about 1 cup. Don't burn yourself.
  • After all the pasta is added to the sauce, stir vigorously. Add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta cooking water.
  • Using tongs, turn and stir the pasta for a few minutes over medium heat. Yes, I said minutes. This gives the starch in the pasta water the agitation it needs to act as an emulsifier, turning your sauce silky smooth. When the sauce is to your liking, remove from the heat. Add more pasta water if you wish. Remember, cream sauces also thicken as they cool.
  • Turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese and lemon juice. Mix thoroughly.
  • Enjoy!
  • If you have leftovers, add a splash of remaining pasta water to them before storing in the fridge. This will help prevent the sauce from getting too thick.


Ideally you will use a nice parmesan and grate it yourself, but a mid-range, pre-grated parm works perfectly well too. This recipe will not, however, work with the powdery parmesan from a can. The texture will turn out clumpy and weird.
If you do not chop your garlic finely, you might end up with unpleasant chunks of garlic in your otherwise smooth sauce. 
Keyword butter, Creamy, garlic, Lemon, Pasta, Quick & Easy

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