Linguine al Limone is a creamy pasta that bursts with the bright flavors of summer. Lemon juice, lemon zest, and a touch of basil add freshness, while the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, butter, and pasta water create a starchy sauce that when tossed with the pasta, creates a luxurious and decadent dish that definitely lands it in the comfort food category. And with 5 main ingredients you probably have on hand, this can be made quickly, and simply, without running to the store.
Pasta al limone is the dish I make when I'm in the mood for fettuccine alfredo, but want something that tastes a little bit lighter, and brighter.
Al limone is very similar to Alfredo in that Alfredo includes the same core ingredients: butter, pasta water, and Parmigiano Reggiano. It is definitely a filling dish.
But the lemon juice and lemon zest somehow make linguine al limone taste a little less heavy.
The technique used to make the sauce for pasta al limone is the same as the technique for making bucatini cacio e pepe, spaghetti alla Nerano, and fettuccine Alfredo.
The technique involves tossing the pasta in the pan with the cheese, pasta water, and in the case of al limone, butter.
This process allows the ingredients to emulsify, and create a creamy texture that clings to the linguine.
To see my technique on how to make this exact recipe, watch my YouTube video below in the recipe card.
Essentially, all pasta should be tossed, or flipped, using this method, but for al limone, cacio e pepe, and the others listed above, it is critical to the success of the dish.
The technique isn't hard to learn - it just takes a little patience. But once you've learned it you will use it all the time and you can impress your friends or family with your fancy flipping skills. 😉
Note: you may find other recipes that use heavy cream to make al limone. Traditionally, this recipe does not call for heavy cream, although it may help you achieve that creamy texture if you're not comfortable with tossing/flipping. Think of it as a cheat code. And don't feel guilty about it - I too sometimes use heavy cream, such as in my creamy garlic mushroom pasta.
How to make linguine al limone
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Zest 2 medium-sized lemons and roughly chop the zest. Once zested, juice the same lemons until you have ~5 tablespoons of lemon juice. The amount of juice you get from lemons will vary. Pro tip: To maximize the amount of juice you get from a lemon, run it under warm water, then roll it on top of a clean surface while applying downward pressure before slicing it in half.
- Using the fine edge of a cheese grater, grate 1 ¼ cups of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Bring a pot of water to a boil adding 2 tbsp of kosher salt per gallon of water and begin to cook the linguine until al dente.
- A few minutes before the pasta is done cooking, heat a pan to low heat and add the butter and olive oil. Then, add half the lemon zest and allow it to cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Pull your linguine out of the pot using tongs and place the al dente pasta in the pan with the butter, olive oil, and zest. Toss, or stir to incorporate.
- Add the lemon juice and toss again to coat. Turn the heat off the pan and wait 30 seconds. Then, begin adding the cheese a little bit at a time.
- Toss and stir quickly to emulsify. If the sauce is too thick, add some pasta water, a tablespoon or two at a time, until the consistency is just right. Taste test and add kosher salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately as the pasta can dry out quickly. If needed, add a bit more cooler pasta water and toss again right before serving to loosen the pasta back up. Top each plate with a touch of the remaining zest, and a sprinkle of basil or parsley (completely optional), and more grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Enjoy!
More lemony goodness
It is no surprise that I love lemon. My grandmother's family was from Southern Italy where lemons are a religion, so you could say the love of lemon is in my blood.
And if you are looking at linguine al limone, it's a safe bet that you too love lemons. If that is true, check out these other foods that include lemon in some way, shape, or form.
- Lemon ricotta stuffed zucchini
- Lemon garlic shrimp pasta
- Chicken piccata
- Limoncello spritz - the perfect cocktail for summer gatherings
- Chicken francese
What to serve with linguine al limone
The cheese and butter make this a heavier dish. For that reason, I like to serve pasta al limone with a lighter side.
If you’ve enjoyed this Linguine al Limone recipe, or any recipe on this site, we want to know so tell us in the comments below. We would love to hear how you did and it’s nice to show others as well. Thanks!
Watch the video below where Jim will show you how to make this recipe with easy to follow instructions. Some people learn by watching. If you're that type of person, you can find most of our recipes on YouTube and our Facebook Page.
- 1 pound linguine or spaghetti, fettuccine, etc
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ¼ cups Parmigiano Reggiano cheese finely grated, plus more for serving
- 5 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 medium lemons, zested divided
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons basil chopped
- 2 cups reserved pasta water will not need all of it
- Cook pasta to al dente in salted water (2 tbsp kosher salt per gallon of water).
- A few minutes before the pasta finishes cooking heat a pan to low and add the butter and olive oil. Add half the lemon zest and let it cook for a minute or two.
- Add the wet (pull pasta out with tongs) al dente pasta to the pan and stir and/or toss to incorporate.
- Add the lemon juice and toss to coat. Turn the heat off. Wait 30 seconds, then begin adding the cheese a bit at a time. Toss and stir quickly to emulsify. If the sauce is too thick add a bit more pasta water (a tablespoon or two at a time) to get the consistency just right.
- Test and add kosher salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately as the pasta can dry out quickly. If needed add a bit more cooler pasta water and toss right before serving to loosen the pasta right back up. Top each plate with a touch of the remaining zest and a sprinkle of basil or parsley. Serve with more grated parmesan. Enjoy!
- Tossing pasta in the pan will help emulsify the sauce of pasta water, cheese, and lemon juice. It's a good skill to learn and will massively improve your pasta recipes!
- If the cheese clumps don't worry. It can be loosened up with cooler pasta water or even cold tap water.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days in the fridge, but pasta al limone is best served and eaten right away.