This creamy Lemon Pasta recipe, featuring a blend of three cheeses, makes for a perfect one-pot dinner. Its garlicky, zesty sauce deliciously coats each noodle, offering an ultra-comforting experience in every bite.
This delicious lemon pasta will push all your other pasta recipes aside for a while! When cooking one-pot pasta dishes, not draining the pasta cooking liquid is a deliberate choice that contributes to the dish’s final texture and flavor. As the pasta cooks, it releases starch into the water. This starchy pasta water acts as a natural thickener for the sauce. When combined with other ingredients like cream cheese or cheese in your recipe, it helps to create a creamy, cohesive sauce that clings well to the pasta.
Why You’ll Love This Lemon Pasta Recipe
- Quick. You only need 20 minutes to place this pasta dinner on the table.
- Prep-friendly. Boil the pasta in advance so you can get a head-start for the week.
- Easy clean-up. It’s all made in the same pot so you don’t have to spend hours cleaning up after dinner.
- Creamy. The sauce is made with three kinds of gooey, melty cheese!
What You’ll Need
For this Lemon Pasta recipe, we’ll use a selection of simple ingredients to create a truly flavorful dish. It makes for an easy dinner, and the creamy lemon sauce is next level.
- Penne pasta: Use regular or whole-wheat pasta.
- Water: Can be substituted with vegetable broth for extra flavor.
- Vegetable broth: Opt for a low-sodium variety, and you can even substitute 1/4 cup of white wine for added depth of flavor.
- Onion: White or yellow onions work great.
- Fresh basil: Look for fresh and green, avoiding any yellowing leaves.
- Garlic cloves: Use fresh garlic so it can infuse the stock.
- Salt and pepper: Go for kosher salt and freshly-cracked black pepper.
- Cream cheese: Feel free to use low-fat or full-fat cheese, but make sure it’s at room temperature for smoother blending into the sauce.
- Fresh lemon juice: Lime juice is a suitable substitute, but use half the amount.
- Lemon Zest: Use fresh zest from the lemons you just squeezed.
- Mozzarella cheese: Any melty shredded cheese works for this.
- Parmesan cheese: Freshly-grated is best.
- Fresh parsley: This is an optional garnish, but feel free to skip it or use other fresh herbs.
How to Make Creamy Lemon Pasta Recipe
This recipe is just like your favorite creamy pasta dinner but with a tangy twist, and it’s sure to become a hit with the whole family, finding its way into your regular rotation. Scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of the post for detailed instructions.
- Make the stock. Bring the pasta, water, broth, onions, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper to a boil in a deep, large skillet or pasta pot set over medium-high heat. Cover it with the lid.
- Cook the pasta. Add the pasta and cook it until the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Check the package directions as a guideline because some brands take longer (or shorter) to cook through. Stir occasionally.
- Prepare the sauce. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the cream cheese, lemon juice, zest, mozzarella, and parmesan. Stir until all the cheeses are melted and the sauce becomes creamy.
- Serve. Garnish the pasta with fresh parsley and basil leaves for a burst of color and flavor. For best results, serve it immediately.
Recipe Tips And Variations
Keep this easy pasta recipe super simple for weeknights, or add a twist of gourmet flair for special occasions.
- Add protein. Grilled chicken, shredded rotisserie chicken, turkey, or shrimp are great ways to make this one-pot dinner extra hearty.
- Swap the type of pasta. Try a different pasta shape, like fettuccine, linguine, or pappardelle. The wide surfaces of these long pasta shapes allow the lemon sauce to cling to them.
- Make it spicy. Add cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, or chili oil to taste for a kick of heat.
- Mix in veggies. Steamed broccoli, sauteed mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and spinach are great ways to add more flavor and texture.
- Prep ahead. Boil the pasta a day in advance and toss it with a bit of extra virgin olive oil before storing it. You can then make the sauce and mix it all together right before dinner.
- Make it extra saucy. To make a creamier sauce, mix in heavy cream or add a cup of your favorite Alfredo or bechamel sauce into the homemade pasta sauce.
This lemon pasta recipe is a great dinner option when paired with a simple side dish or main dish. For protein, try my Juicy Turkey Breast or Roast Chicken. Nothing too saucy, so the pasta has a chance to shine. If you’re looking for veggie sides, go for my Garlic Butter Collard Greens and Roasted Cauliflower Steaks. My La Scala Chopped Salad is another yummy option.
How to Store & Reheat Leftovers
- Transfer pasta leftovers to an airtight container and keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days. This recipe is not freezer-friendly because the creamy sauce would split when thawed.
- To reheat it, microwave it for 30 seconds at a time until warm. You can also heat it in a pan (covered) over medium-high heat. Add a couple of tablespoons of milk and let it heat up for 5 to 7 minutes.
Easy Pasta Recipes To Try
- Garlic Butter Shrimp Pasta Recipe
- Skinny Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo
- Rigatoni Bolognese
- Lemon Shrimp Spaghetti
Lemon Pasta Recipe
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 2½ cups water
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 ounces cream cheese, or Neufchatel cheese, at room temperature
- 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
- chopped fresh parsley, for garnish, optional
- fresh basil leaves, for garnish, optional
- In a pasta pot or stockpot, combine pasta, water, vegetable broth, onions, basil leaves, garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Cover and cook over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
- Remove the cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente and the liquid is absorbed.
- Remove from heat and immediately stir in the cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, mozzarella, and parmesan cheese; continue to stir until melted and creamy.
- Garnish with fresh parsley and basil, and serve.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.