This creamy lemon pasta is simple to make yet decadent, punctuated by thin strips of lemon zest and tender-crisp asparagus pieces to ring in the spring flavors!
Calling all lemon lovers! Here’s a pasta recipe you’ll love.
Lemon is my favorite, go-to flavor for savory dishes. I usually make a simple lemon vinaigrette on salads, I make my hollandaise sauce super lemony, and my favorite broccoli salad is just flavored with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice.
So when I saw this creamy lemon pasta recipe from the New York Times, I just couldn’t resist. You didn’t have to ask me twice to make this one.
Now, I usually use lemon juice to flavor sauces, marinades and dressings because it’s easy to keep a bottle in the fridge. But fresh lemons are a must for this pasta.
When I saw this recipe included thinly-sliced strips of lemon zest mixed into the pasta, I knew it was going to be good. And the freshly-squeezed lemon juice really makes a difference.
Preparing Creamy Lemon Pasta with Asparagus
The most time-consuming part of this creamy lemon pasta recipe is actually preparing those strips of lemon zest. Everything else comes together in a matter of minutes with very little hands-on time.
I used a regular vegetable peeler on the lemon rind to get large pieces of zest, and then shaved off any white pith from the underside of those pieces with a sharp knife. You really don’t want too much pith in your dish or it will add an unpleasant bitterness. Then I sliced the pith-free pieces of zest into thin strips about an inch long.
If you don’t have time to prepare the zest like this, you can always use a regular microplane zester to finely grate the lemon zest. The flavor will be just as good but you won’t get the added texture and visual appeal of having more substantial strips in the pasta.
After you zest and juice the lemons, this creamy lemon pasta couldn’t be more simple to prepare. Just simmer some cream with the lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and pour over tender egg noodles along with your freshly squeezed lemon juice. Simple and delicious.
I used a bag of egg fettuccini I had in my pantry, but you can use regular extra-wide egg noodles. And don’t add the lemon juice until after you toss the pasta with the cream sauce because you don’t want the cream to curdle!
If you are unsure of the extent of your love of lemons, add the juice a little at a time, to taste. You can always add more of the juice, but you can’t take it out!
Since we’re starting to get a taste of spring in the air, I also added some asparagus to the dish. I just added the cut pieces to the pasta pot just before it’s done cooking so the asparagus is nice and tender-crisp by the time you drain the noodles. I think it would also be excellent with the addition of artichoke hearts – maybe next time!
I love this creamy lemon pasta because it’s simple and springy, and the inclusion of thin strips of lemon zest throughout makes it feel decadent too. Can’t go wrong! I’ll definitely be making this again.
More Savory Recipes for Lemon Lovers
If you love savory lemon recipes as much as I do, try some of these other dishes from the blog!
Creamy Lemon Pasta with Asparagus
- 12 oz pasta fettuccini or wide egg noodles
- 1 bunch asparagus about a pound
- zest and juice of 2 lemons zest cut in very thin strips about an inch long
- 1 cup heavy cream
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- Zest your two lemons using a vegetable peeler. Slice off any white pith from the inside of your zest pieces so it won't be bitter, then thinly slice into pieces about an inch long. This is the most time-consuming part of the recipe, so if you want to save some time, just use a regular microplane zester on your lemons. You won't have the nice strips of zest in your pasta, but it will still taste great!
- Juice the lemons and set aside.
- Prepare asparagus as follows: Snap off tough ends by holding asparagus in about the middle with one hand, and at the fat end with the other hand. Bend until it snaps naturally, and discard the end. Repeat for each asparagus stalk. Cut into one-inch pieces.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, then cook pasta according to package directions or until al dente. About 2 minutes before the pasta is finished, add the asparagus to the pasta pot. Drain pasta and asparagus, then return to the pot.
- Just before the noodles and asparagus are done, combine cream, lemon zest (not the juice yet), salt, and a generous amount of pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring so it doesn't burn.
- Pour cream mixture over noodles, along with lemon juice, and stir to coat. If you are not a diehard lemon lover, you may want to add the lemon juice a little at a time, to taste. Depending on the size of your lemons and your particular level of lemon tolerance, you may not want to use all of the juice. I, personally, use all of it.
- Cook over medium heat for a minute or two or until the liquid is mostly absorbed by the pasta. Serve, topped with additional freshly ground pepper.