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This Creamy Lemon Pasta Sauce (formally titled Citrus Pasta) comes together in minutes. Bright flavors like lemon and orange zest and fresh basil lighten up the decadent cream sauce. Mmmm, sooo good.
I have been making this pasta sauce for years and years. It comes together quickly and is a total crowd pleaser. It’s fresh, zesty, and full of flavor.
Ingredients in Creamy Lemon Pasta Sauce
With just a few heavy-hitter ingredients, you’ll have restaurant quality pasta on your plate in no time.
- Heavy cream – I’ve tried it with half & half and it just doesn’t work. Heavy cream is a must.
- Sherry cooking wine – This acid brightens up the dish and heightens the flavors. The alcohol cooks off when it simmers.
- Lemon & orange zest – Use a microplane zester for this. You taste the lemon the most between the two of these.
- Fresh basil – Fresh is far better than dried!
How to Make Lemon Pasta Sauce
The great thing about this sauce is that it comes together fast! In fact, I almost always make it right alongside the pasta.
While the pasta boils, gently simmer the cream, sherry, zests, and salt for 7-10 minutes until it starts to thicken up. Then remove it from the heat.
After the pasta is cooked and drained, add the sauce and parmesan cheese and toss it with tongs until well combined.
What Goes Well with Lemon Pasta Sauce?
Here are a few ideas on how to make the most of this recipe:
- Serve it with shrimp! I’ve added cooked shrimp to my pasta when I use this sauce and it’s DIVINE.
- It pairs well with Oven Roasted Asparagus. Asparagus cooks up fast in the oven so it could be roasting while you make the pasta.
- Add in some grilled, chopped Lemon Garlic Chicken. An easy way to add some protein.
Pasta Pro Tips
Here are some general tips in order to make pasta like a pro!
- Salt the water. After your water comes to a boil, add in salt (here’s how much). This allows the pasta to absorb the salt from the inside out.
- Don’t overcook it! I almost always err on the shorter cooking side when given a range.
- Use a big pot and plenty of water. Fill your pot with at least 2 quarts for each ½ pound of pasta. This will help prevent your pasta from sticking together during cooking.
- Stir right away and every couple of minutes. Pasta will want to start clumping together if you don’t give it a stir.
- Don’t rinse your pasta after it’s been drained. While it may seem logical, don’t run cold water over your hot pasta. You’ll risk losing the flavorful starches that will help sauces cling to it later.
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- 12 oz. spaghetti or linguine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons cognac or 2 tablespoons dry sherry (sherry cooking wine will work)
- zest of 1 lemon
- zest of 1 navel orange
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for the pasta water
- 12 leaves fresh basil, chopped or torn
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- optional: add 1 lb of cooked shrimp to the pasta. I love it this way!
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- Cook pasta according to directions until al dente, making sure to salt the water once it comes to a boil. Drain.
- While pasta is cooking, warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Add in the dry sherry, lemon and orange zest, and salt. Simmer for 7-10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the basil.
- Toss the hot, drained pasta with the sauce and grated cheese.