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This creamy lemon basil pasta is a rich yet fresh vegetarian pasta dish that is ready in only 20 minutes!

creamy lemon basil pasta in a white bowl with a fork

This pasta dish is creamy, yet it’s cream-free. Usually I don’t shy away from cream around here, but I wanted to try something a bit different. I used cream cheese in place of cream, and its tanginess perfectly pairs with the lemon in this dish.

The cream cheese melts into a nice, thick sauce. Adding a generous helping of parmesan cheese to the other cheese makes this even more delightful. 😉

bowl of vegetarian creamy basil pasta

Add some lovely fresh herbs (basil and parsley), garlic (duh), and some lemon zest and you’ve got yourself a quick meal that’s perfect for spring. It looks like my weather wishes may have been answered and spring is possibly on the way here! *fingers crossed*

Fresh basil is one of my favorite things. It really lifts anything you put it in! I sometimes struggle to find nice basil in the winter, but that doesn’t stop me from hunting it down and buying it every week anyway.

I sometimes wonder if I could grow my own (I have reasons not to, including my total lack of green thumb). Maaaybe we’ll attempt it this summer.

I used my handy Microplane zester/grater to zest the lemon. It’s one of my favorite kitchen tools!

Other creamy pasta recipes to try:

close-up of creamy lemon basil pasta in a bowl

Will you make this creamy lemon basil pasta?

Questions? Leave me a comment below.

This creamy lemon basil pasta is a rich yet fresh vegetarian pasta dish that is ready in only 20 minutes!
5 from 3 votes

Creamy Lemon Basil Pasta

A deliciously creamy vegetarian pasta dish that's super quick and easy.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 8 ounces pasta (I used penne)
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese softened
  • Juice & zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 dashes Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 large handful fresh basil torn
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped finely
  • Salt & pepper to taste


  • Boil a salted pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions.
  • When the pasta water is about to boil, add olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 8-10 minutes, or until it's softened and lightly browned.
  • Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  • Add the cream cheese, lemon juice and zest, and Italian seasoning. Stir for a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted into a sauce. Stir in the parmesan.
  • Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water prior to draining the pasta. Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the sauce. If you want the sauce thinned even more, add pasta water one tablespoon at a time. Once the sauce is thinned to your liking, add in the basil, parsley, and salt & pepper. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss. Serve immediately.


  • This recipe goes smoother if you let the cream cheese soften up for a bit (30+ minutes) prior to starting, or microwave it for 20-30 seconds.
  • Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.


Calories: 555kcal, Carbohydrates: 49g, Protein: 21g, Fat: 31g, Saturated Fat: 16g, Cholesterol: 84mg, Sodium: 569mg, Potassium: 265mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 1154IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 365mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Hi! I’m Natasha.

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  1. 5 stars
    Another amazing recipe! So so so good! Not a huge creamy pasta eater in the summer time but the lemon and basil makes it so fresh and perfect for summer.

  2. Made this today , added capers and fresh chopped parsley used butter , added olive oil , Tbl water , fixed sauce texture , great flavors! Great recipe for adding shrimp or chicken

  3. This makes a great base for seafood, too! Shrimp, salmon, scallops all pair well with the lemony, creamy goodness. I use white wine to thin the sauce vs. pasta water, for another flavour level too.

  4. 5 stars
    Hi. This looks wonderful. Noticed you said you wish you could grow your own. Check out I use this with the international basil pods and it is so easy and no green thumb required. Comes up 5 times faster than soil. And you will have plenty. Indoor, no bugs, tastes out of this world. Check it out.

  5. 5 stars
    Fab recipe, may I suggest you use the white pepper mill with this one? Not only does the heat of the white peppercorns underpin the cream cheese rather better than the more aromatic black pepper, it keeps the dish a lovely pale colour. Using the black peppermill gives a speckled sauce that just slightly irritates me. Yeah, I know, picky, picky, picky . . . . .

  6. Thank you for sharing, this sounds like a wonderful dish. I can see my husband grilling fresh Italian sausage to eat with it because to him the meat is the meal. ????

  7. I’ve been on the lookout for quick and easy recipes without meat lately, just for a change, and this one looks great! I’ll have to give it a go.

  8. Okay, I know I’ve said this before but I really HAVE to try this recipe!!!! I have never made a pasta sauce with cream cheese before if you can believe it, but I’ve heard great things about the texture. That definitely shows here. And I’m totally with you on the fresh basil in winter thing – I’m so excited to grow it in the garden soon!!! You should try it! You just need to buy a big enough pot and then get like 3-4 plants from the store and combine them. Then it grows like crazy in the hot weather. You just have to water it everyday which can be a huge pain in the ass, but it’s worth it 🙂

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I default to cream, but the cream cheese is something different. I’d definitely try it again. Thanks for the basil growing tips! My husband definitely has more of a green thumb than I do. The only issue will be having someone water it when we’re away.