Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce
Updated: Oct 11, 2022
It's interesting how recipes come to me because the routes and journeys can be so different from one recipe to the next. Like many people, a lot of my recipes were passed down to me from various members of my family, but mostly my mom and grandma. Others are recipes that I asked people for them after having a dish at a party. These are pretty typical ways to acquire recipes for most people.
But if you're REALLY into cooking, a big portion of your recipes come to you through random ideas and inspiration. I can't tell you how many times I'm doing something completely unrrelated to cooking and an idea strikes me for a recipe to experiment with. I have a working list in the "notes" section of my phone so I never forget the ideas that pop into my head unexpectedly and I can reference it when I'm in the creative mood.
Well, this pasta with lemon cream sauce came to me.... not like that at all really. It's pretty simple. Sean and I went to the farmers market one Saturday morning and I bought this beautiful fresh pappardelle with pepper. I had no plans for it when I bought it, but I said I'd figure out the perfect sauce for it later. And that I did.
The pepper in the pasta dough is really what drove my creativity. What goes well with a peppery bite? But it's still summer so what is fresh and light tasting? But I'm also feeling like I want a comforting pasta dish. How do I make this all come together? LEMON CREAM SAUCE.
So yes, the pasta inspired the sauce and it turned out magnificently. It really balances comforting and cozy with fresh and light. Not just lemon juice, but lemon zest keep the sauce from feeling too heavy, but the cream gives you down home but also luxurious comfort. It's lovely. It's perfect. And it's actually quite easy.
I realize not everyone (including myself) can get their hands on fresh peppered pappardelle at any given moment, so in lieu of that, I would suggest a plain or dried pappardelle or any other long-cut pasta like fettuccine, linguine, or even spaghetti. There is something about the long noodles that I think this dish just craves, but feel free to make it with whatever pasta you have or love. And let me know how it goes!
Pasta with Lemon Cream Sauce Makes ~ 2 servings Cook time: 15 minutes
Click the file below to download and print the recipe
I recommend reading the recipe all the way through, including the recipe notes at the bottom, before you start cooking.
2 garlic cloves
1.5 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. flour
1 C. heavy cream
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 C. parmesan cheese
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
8 oz. long-cut pasta (fresh pappardelle preferred, but any long-cut pasta, fresh or dry works great!)*
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. If using fresh pasta, wait until the sauce is almost done to cook the pasta because it will only take a few minutes. Cook whatever pasta you are using according to the package instructions**.
Microwave the lemon juice for 15 seconds then set aside. This step is important because it will keep the sauce from curdling when you add it to the cream later.
Meanwhile, drizzle the olive oil into a large skillet and begin heating over low heat. As the pan heats up, grate the 2 cloves of garlic into the oil with a microplane***. Alternatively, mince the garlic instead. Stir around the garlic until it becomes fragrant (about 1 minute).
As soon as the garlic turns fragrant, add the flour and whisk around for about 1 minute. If there isn't enough oil, you may need to add another 1/2 tsp. or so.
SLOWLY whisk in the cream to the flour and garlic mixture. Whisk continuously to avoid lumps. Once all of the cream is added, add the lemon zest, salt, and pepper and continue to whisk until the sauce has thickened slightly. If it is bubbling hard, turn down the heat.
Whisk in the lemon juice and parmesan cheese. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed.
Add the cooked pasta to the pan directly from the pasta water. If you had to drain the pasta because it was done cooking early, reserve 1/4 C. of pasta water before draining.
Toss the pasta in the sauce with tongs until everything is fully coated. Add 1 teaspoon of pasta water at a time if it looks too thick.
Top with chopped parsley if desired. Serve immediately.
*Recipe notes + Variations*
*I used some amazing fresh pepper-infused pappardelle pasta from the farmers market when I tested/photographed this recipe. It was DIVINE! But I know not everyone (myself included) doesn't necessarily have access to something like that all of the time. In lieu of it, I would suggest plain fresh or dried pappardelle. If you don't have that, then linguine, fettuccine, or spaghetti would be my recommendation. You definitely could use a short-cut pasta (rigatoni, gemelli, etc.) with no problem, but something about this luxurious sauce screams long pasta to me.
**Fresh pasta only take 1-2 minutes to cook. Don't start cooking the pasta until the sauce is basically done so you can pull it straight from the pasta water into the pan with the sauce. The little bit of pasta water that will carry to the pan will help bind the sauce and make it extra creamy. If you have to drain the pasta before the sauce is ready, save 1/4 C of the starchy pasta water to add 1 tsp. at a time to the cream sauce when mixing the pasta.
***I specifically grated the garlic for this because I wanted the flavor without biting into a piece of garlic. You certainly can just do minced garlic if you don't have a microplane.