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This creamy lemon pasta recipe is simple and fast to make with everyday ingredients! The zesty lemon brightens the decadent parmesan sauce.

You may also enjoy this White Wine Cream Sauce for Ravioli or Best Penne alla Vodka Recipe.

close-up of creamy lemon pasta in white bowl

Why you’ll love it

I’m so excited about this creamy lemon pasta sauce! I just love how easy and quick it is, and it’s great that you don’t need a ton of ingredients or time to make something so comforting. Butter, cream, a touch of garlic, parmesan, and lemon juice are always in my kitchen.

The lemon cream sauce nicely coats those tasty little tubes of pasta. You could say it’s inspired by pasta al limone, which you’ll find on restaurant menus, but it’s super simple to make at home. It makes a bright and impressive side dish or main course!

What you’ll need

  • Pasta – rigatoni is the perfect complement for the sauce
  • Butter and flour – to make a simple roux and give the sauce a thicker consistency
  • Garlic – for a pop of savory flavor
  • Chicken broth – or for a fancy touch, use a dry white wine like sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio
  • Lemon – we’re using both fresh lemon juice and zest
  • Heavy cream – for that silky, luscious texture
  • Parmesan cheese – always grate your own!
ingredients for creamy lemon pasta in prep bowls

Tools for this recipe

Check out Natasha’s favorite kitchen essentials, gadgets, and cookware!

  • To zest the lemon, I use my handy Microplane zester/grater.
  • I highly recommend grating your own parm. It tastes and melts better! I always keep a wedge in my fridge, and I use my Zyliss grater here.
  • The is the cast iron skillet I use to make the sauce.

How to make creamy lemon pasta

This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.

making a roux in a skillet and whisking creamy lemon sauce

Cook the pasta. Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt the butter and stir in the flour to make a roux. Add in the garlic, broth, lemon juice, and zest, and bubble for a minute or so. Whisk in the cream. Simmer until thickened up as desired.

adding in parmesan to a skillet with creamy lemon sauce and tossing with pasta

Stir in the parmesan, and remove from the heat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss with the drained pasta, and garnish with extra parm and chopped fresh parsley if you like.

Pro tip

If the sauce gets too thick, simply add a little bit of the pasta water to thin it out.

Substitutions and variations

  • I used rigatoni, but feel free to sub with whatever pasta you’ve got on hand. Penne would work great as well.
  • I don’t recommend subbing anything else for the cream in this recipe. The citrus is very likely to curdle the sauce, and heavy (or whipping) cream can withstand it due to the higher fat content.
  • You could add some shrimp or cooked chicken (like rotisserie chicken) if you wanted to add a protein to this dish.
close-up of lemon cream pasta

What to serve with creamy lemon pasta

Leftovers and storage

  • This pasta recipe is one I highly recommend eating fresh, but if you do have leftovers, store for 3-4 days in the fridge and reheat over a low heat.
  • I don’t recommend freezing leftovers.
creamy lemon pasta in skillet

Will you give this pasta with a lemon cream sauce a try? Questions? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love if you left a star rating and review, or tag me on Instagram.

close-up of creamy lemon pasta in white bowl
4.96 from 69 votes

Creamy Lemon Pasta

This creamy lemon pasta recipe is simple and fast to make with everyday ingredients! The zesty lemon brightens the decadent parmesan sauce.
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 25 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 8 ounces uncooked pasta rigatoni or penne recommended
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • 1 small clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth/veg broth or dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice + zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Garnish: fresh parsley & extra parm optional


  • Boil a salted pot of water for the pasta and cook it al dente according to package directions.
  • When the pasta is about 10 minutes away from being done, add the butter to a skillet over medium-high heat. Once it melts, sprinkle the flour in and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring fairly often.
  • Add in the garlic, followed by the broth (or wine) and lemon juice + zest. Let it bubble for 1 minute.
  • Whisk in the cream and cook it for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened up to your liking.
  • Stir in the parmesan cheese and take the skillet off the heat. Season with salt & pepper as needed (I am generous with both).
  • Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss until coated (I like to add a tablespoon or so of the pasta water to the sauce prior to draining it, especially if it's become a tad too thick). Garnish with more parmesan and a bit of chopped parsley if desired. Serve immediately.


  • This pasta makes 4 reasonably-sized portions with plenty of sauce, but if you’ve got really hungry people and you’re not serving it with anything else, I would double the recipe. Serves 2-4 depending on how much people eat.
  • I do NOT recommend subbing the heavy cream for anything with a lower fat content (e.g. half-and-half or milk) because the lemon in the sauce is very likely to curdle it, and you’ll have to add more flour to thicken the sauce.


Calories: 508kcal, Carbohydrates: 46g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 31g, Saturated Fat: 19g, Cholesterol: 104mg, Sodium: 257mg, Potassium: 193mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 1122IU, Vitamin C: 3mg, Calcium: 143mg, Iron: 1mg

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

© Salt & Lavender Inc. Content and photographs are copyrighted. Sharing this blog post is much appreciated, but copying and pasting full recipes without authorization to social media is strictly prohibited.

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Hi! I’m Natasha.

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  1. 4 stars
    This turned out great! My husband and I both loved it. The only thing I would do differently next time would be to add more lemon zest. Can’t wait to make it again!

      1. 5 stars
        Loved this recipe! I have made it maybe 5 times already. The more lemon zest the better it gets! I made it one time with no zest and it wasn’t the same. Now I double the amout of zest I use.

  2. 5 stars
    Tripled the recipe for Easter brunch and it was fantastic! So simple and fast to make while guests were enjoying appetizers. Everyone loved it.. including the kids! This recipe is a keeper!