If you have linguine, lemons, butter, and parmesan cheese in your pantry, then you can whip up Pasta Limone in 20 minutes or less. This creamy lemon-infused pasta is bursting with bright lemon flavor and a luxurious butter sauce. Serve with a big green salad, some green veggies, and this dinner is complete.
5-Ingredient Pasta Limone
When I’m finished with a draining day and don’t have much time to whip up dinner on whim, I don’t reach for the store-bought macaroni or lasagna from the freezer section. Instead, I look to the pantry to see what staples I can use to make a fabulous dinner without a lot of effort.
Some days that means fried rice with bacon and eggs, or a quick parmesan chicken with frozen chicken tenders, but honestly, most days, it means pasta.
Whether it’s an easy carbonara, Garlicky Shrimp Papradelle, or today’s 5-Ingredient Pasta Limone, a homemade pasta dinner is always within arm’s reach at our house.
The beauty of pasta is you don’t need a large quantity of ingredients to make a quality meal your entire family will enjoy. I always try to have a few boxes of dried pasta on hand for these situations, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find my fridge void of parmesan cheese on any day. Oh, and butter? Always a staple.
If you’re not someone who keeps these types of ingredients on hand at all times, you’re in luck, because even if you have to buy every single ingredient, you’re still looking at a grocery bill of $15 or less.
Pasta limone is my current favorite quick pasta, because it’s light, fresh and reminds me of recent warmer days. For me, citrus is something I use all year round, so I’m not limited to only making it in the summer. It’s also nice to have a slight departure from the heartier dishes I’ve been churning out lately, even though I love them so.
Ingredients in 5-Ingredient Pasta Limone
Linguine. I love linguine in simple pasta recipes like these, but you could use any long-strand pasta. Spaghetti, bucatini, or fettuccine would all work great.
Lemons. Here, the lemon is used both for its peel and juice. So it’s kind of a duel ingredient, which we always love. Depending on the amount of juice your lemon has, you may need up to three lemons. Remember, this is a pasta limone, so the focus, is of course, on the lemons.
Butter. Lots and lots of butter. This is what makes pasta limone. It gives it a creamy, luxurious texture you can’t get with olive oil or anything else. You can use unsalted or salted butter, just reduce the amount of salt in the recipe if you use salted.
I also like to make sure my butter is slightly softened so it melts into the sauce a little bit easier.
Pasta water. Another key ingredient. I really didn’t want to add cream here, so in addition to the butter, the starchy, salty cooking liquid is going to build on the butter sauce. I use close to a cup or even more, depending on what your preference is.
Also, I like to use as little water as possible when cooking the linguine, so the pasta water is SUPER starchy. Only fill the water up about halfway in the pot.
Parmesan. I like to use parmigiano reggiano, but any aged parmesan will work.
Parsley. For color and just a touch of freshness.
Salt. Another key ingredient. I salt the pasta water, add salt before adding in the starchy cooking liquid, after the cooking liquid, and then again, just before serving.
How to make Pasta Limone
Cook the pasta. As aforementioned, I like to use as little pasta water as possible to cook the linguine. Because the starchy cooking liquid is an essential ingredient in this simple pasta limone, you want the water to be super starchy. I fill up a large pot about halfway full, bring it to a boil and then add the pasta.
Also throw in a good amount of salt. A general rule is the pasta water should taste almost as salty as sea water. This is only time you’ll be able to actually salt the pasta, so take advantage.
Cook the pasta until it’s just UNDER aldente. Like you want a definite slight crunch to the pasta when you bite into it. Because the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce, it’s essential to take it out when it’s just under so you don’t overcook it later.
Use a liquid measuring cup to reserve as much pasta water as you can, I’d save about 1 1/2 cups if you can. Drain the pasta.
Add the lemon juice and pasta water. Return the pasta back to the pot and keep over a low heat. Add the lemon juice, one cup of the pasta water, and a little bit of salt. Use tongs to toss the pasta.
Add in the butter. Add the butter a tablespoon at a time, tossing with tongs until it melts into the pasta. Repeat until you’ve used up all the butter.
This step is going to help emulsify the sauce so it’s one homogenous sauce.
Stir in the parmesan. While tossing still, add in the parmesan cheese. Continue to toss until the parmesan has melted.
Season to taste. If needed add in more pasta water to loosen the sauce up. Season with lots of freshly cracked black pepper and salt.
Can I make this in advance?
This is one of those pasta you really shouldn’t make in advance. Because it’s a sauce that relies heavily on butter, if you re-heat it, the sauce may break. It will still taste delicious, it just won’t have the creamy, smooth mouthfeel you would get if you ate it right away.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success.
- Grate in a little bit of garlic into the hot pasta just after draining.
- Add in a little bit of crushed red pepper flakes for a spicy lemon pasta.
- Again, you can use any kind of long-strand pasta like spaghetti, bucatini, or fettuccine.
- Try to work as quickly as possible so you don’t over cook the pasta. You want it to have a slight bite to it.
- Make sure your butter is room temperature so it emulsifies into the sauce a bit easier and faster.
5-Ingredient Pasta Limone
- 1 lb linguine or other long noodle
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 7 tbsp unsalted or salted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp lemon zest (about 3 lemons)
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- stock pot
- Fill a large stock pot halfway full with water. It's important to only fill it half way so the cooking liquid becomes very starchy. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Season with salt. It should taste as salty as sea water. Add the pasta. Use tongs to make sure the pasta seperates. After it cooks a few minutes, use the tongs to seperate the noodles again. Cook the pasta until it's just UNDER aldente. It should still have a slight crunch to it. It will cook longer later.
- Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the starchy cooking liquid. Set aside. Drain pasta.
- Add pasta back to the pot along with lemon juice, salt, and 1 cup of hot pasta water. Turn the heat on low. While tossing the pasta with tongs or stirring with a wooden spoon, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Toss or stir until the butter has melted and incorporated into the sauce, then repeat with remaining butter. Once all the butter has been incorporated, add in the parmesan cheese, black pepper and lemon zest. Toss until the cheese melts. If needed, add more pasta water to loosen the sauce up.
- Season with plenty of salt and pepper. Add parsley. Toss. Serve immediately.
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