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Creamy Lemon Garlic Pasta

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Creamy lemon garlic pasta sauce can be made with Meyer lemons or classic lemons for a quick and easy skillet sauce to toss with your favorite pasta.

A white bowl is filled with creamy lemon garlic pasta with fresh dill and lemon slices for garnish.

I'm the luckiest girl ever -- I have a husband who tends a patio Meyer lemon tree all year round just so I can enjoy a basketful of fresh lemons each winter.

I don't want a single piece of fruit to go to waste, so I'm always testing out new lemon recipes.

This year's hit was this creamy lemon garlic pasta with fresh dill. Oh my. It was so delicious I turned around and made it a second time that same week so I could take pictures for you!

The lemon cream sauce is so quick and easy, you're dinner will be ready to serve almost as soon as the pasta is finished boiling.

Don't miss my easy serving suggestions for proteins and veggies you can add to turn it into a full meal below.

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Why This is the Best Recipe

I love lemon recipes, they are one of my very favorite things to cook if I'm making dinner just for me. I think this is the best creamy lemon garlic pasta because:

  1. Easy to Prep: The creamy lemon sauce comes together so quickly, you can have it ready by the time the pasta is finished boiling.
  2. Easy to Tweak: You could switch up the fresh herbs or add crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of heat and have an entirely new dish!
  3. Lots of Lemon Flavor: My favorite part! You can definitely taste tons of lemon goodness is this decadent creamy sauce.

Ingredients

The box of pasta and ingredients to make the lemon cream sauce are on the counter.

The ingredients to make this creamy lemon pasta are very simple:

  • Pasta: I prefer a long noodle like linguine but you could use a short noodle like penne or farfalle if you prefer. The lemon sauce would also taste wonderful with gnocchi.
  • Butter
  • Heavy Cream
  • Fresh Lemon: I used a fresh Meyer lemon from the lemon tree on our patio but a regular lemon would work, too.
  • Minced Garlic
  • Dried Fennel Seed
  • Fresh Dill: Fresh herbs have so much more flavor but you could substitute dried dill if you needed to.

Meyer Lemons vs. Classic Lemons

My husband grows a Meyer lemon tree on our backyard patio and I get so excited to use the lemon harvest each year!

A Meyer lemon is much smaller than a classic lemon and they have a thinner skin.

The flavor tastes like a cross between a lemon and an orange so is a bit sweeter than the stronger more tart flavor of a regular lemon.

I've used both kinds of lemons in this recipe and though the flavor is mildly different, they are both equally delicious.

Fresh Herb Variations

I absolutely love the fresh dill in this pasta recipe, it pairs perfectly with the lemon juice.

However, you could mix things up by swapping the herbs for one of these delicious options, too:

  • Thyme: A delicate herb that would be delicious any time.
  • Basil: Perfect for summertime.
  • Sage: Would be amazing during the fall season.
  • Rosemary: This would be a very bold choice, use the rosemary sparingly.

If you love fresh chives and parmesan, you may enjoy my lemon butter pasta with chives. It doesn't have the fresh cream in the sauce and is very quick to pull together, too.

Boil the Pasta

Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring it to a boil.

Add a pinch of kosher salt and the box of pasta. Cook according to the lowest time listed on the package.

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water about 2 minutes before it is finished cooking and set it aside. Drain the pasta and set aside.

How to Make Meyer Lemon Cream Sauce

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.

Add the grated lemon zest, minced garlic, and fennel seeds. Stir everything together and cook for 1 - 2 minutes or until the garlic is very fragrant and just beginning to turn a darker golden color.

Add the heavy cream to the skillet and stir it in. Squeeze the fresh lemon juice into the cream.

Place the cut lemon halves you just juiced cut-side down into the cream. Gently simmer the sauce until the pasta is ready.

The step by step photos show how to melt the butter and add the lemon zest, add the cream, and season with fresh dill.

Turn the heat to medium-low and add the chopped dill to the cream sauce. Give it a quick stir just before adding the cooked pasta.

Gently toss the pasta in the lemon cream sauce until coated.

The pasta will absorb much of the cream sauce, drizzle just a bit of the reserved pasta water over the top to help keep the sauce from breaking and becoming dry.

You may only need 2 - 3 tablespoons of the water, just drizzle it slowly.

Serving Suggestions

The bowl filled with creamy lemon garlic pasta has fresh dill for garnish and a few sliced lemons on the side.

A delicious fresh pasta like this recipe is meant to be enjoyed immediately. This would not make a great make-ahead dish.

I served it as a simple meatless main dish for a cozy dinner one evening but you could easily add your favorite protein on top.

Perhaps make some baked chicken breasts or broiled chicken tenderloins seasoned with Italian herb or Greek seasoning blends.

My oven baked salmon or this roasted shrimp would be great seafood options.

Easy Vegetable Sides

You can serve a delicious vegetable on the side or even toss it right in with pasta.

My favorite options would include roasted green beans, roasted zucchini, roasted asparagus, or roasted broccoli.

You could wilt baby spinach or arugula directly into the cream sauce itself or you could add a bag of frozen peas to the pot of boiling pasta for the last 30 seconds and drain them with the noodles.

More Easy Pasta Recipes

Looking for more deliciously easy pasta recipes for dinner? Don't miss these family favorites:

๐Ÿ“– Recipe

A white bowl is filled with creamy lemon garlic pasta with fresh dill and lemon slices for garnish.

Creamy Lemon Garlic Pasta

5 from 1 vote
Rich and creamy lemon garlic pasta can be made with Meyer lemons or regular lemons any time of year. This makes a delicious meatless main dish or a decadent pasta side dish for baked chicken or fish.
TOTAL TIME 20 minutes
PREP TIME 5 minutes
COOK TIME 15 minutes
YIELD 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 (16 pound) box of linguine can substitute your favorite pasta shape or package of dried gnocchi
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • Zest from 1 Meyer lemon
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp dried fennel seed
  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice from one medium-sized Meyer lemon
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Instructions

  • Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring it to a boil. Add a pinch of kosher salt and the box of pasta. Cook according to the lowest time listed on the package. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water about 2 minutes before it is finished cooking and set it aside. Drain the pasta and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, you can prepare the creamy lemon sauce for the pasta. It will likely be finished before the pasta has even finished cooking.
  • In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the grated lemon zest, minced garlic, and fennel seeds. Stir everything together and cook for 1 - 2 minutes or until the garlic is very fragrant and just beginning to turn a darker golden color.
  • Add the heavy cream to the skillet and stir it in. Squeeze the fresh lemon juice into the cream. Place the cut lemon halves you just juiced cut-side down into the cream. Gently simmer the sauce until the pasta is ready.
  • Turn the heat to medium-low and add the chopped dill to the cream sauce. Give it a quick stir just before adding the cooked pasta.
  • Gently toss the pasta in the lemon cream sauce until coated. The pasta will absorb much of the cream sauce, drizzle just a bit of the reserved pasta water over the top to help keep the sauce from breaking and becoming dry. You may only need 2 - 3 tablespoons of the water, just drizzle it slowly. Serve immediately with a pinch of salt and fresh cracked black pepper over the top.
COURSEPasta
CUISINEAmerican

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The photo collage shows a bowl of creamy lemon pasta ready to be eaten next to a photo of it being tossed together in a skillet on the stovetop.

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