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A closeup overhead image of pasta al limone on a marble counter next to a beige linen, glass of white wine, and wood bowl with pine nuts.
5 from 3 votes

Creamy Lemon Pasta with Fried Pine Nuts

Yield: 4 big servings
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Total Time: 20 mins
Cozy creamy lemon pasta with fried pine nuts and fresh basil is a simple, flavorful meal for summer! Serve on its own with a light side salad or alongside grilled chicken or shrimp for a crowd.


Fried Pine Nuts

  • 1/4 c pine nuts
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • Pinch of Kosher salt

Creamy Lemon Pasta

  • 1 lb rigatoni, or other long/tube-shaped pasta
  • 6 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbs lemon zest (about 1 lemon)
  • 1/4 c lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 c pasta water
  • 2.5 oz grated Parmesan (about 3/4 cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
  • Julienned basil, Parmesan, and lemon zest, for serving


Fried Pine Nuts

  • In a small pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pine nuts, and cook, stirring constantly, until toasty. Spoon the pine nuts onto a plate and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

Creamy Lemon Pasta

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta, stirring frequently, one minute less than al dente according to package directions. Remember to reserve 1 1/2 c. of pasta water before draining!*
  • While pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and cream until emulsified. Let cool over low heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is finished cooking.
  • Add 1/2 cup of pasta water to the sauce and stir until smooth and slightly thickened. Toss the drained pasta with the sauce, and add the grated Parmesan in small handfuls until melted and smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add more splashes of pasta water until nice and creamy - I usually end up using about 1 cup total.** Taste, and add salt if necessary.
  • Divide the pasta between four bowls. Top with the fried pine nuts, basil, more Parmesan, and black pepper. Enjoy!


*Starchy pasta water is essential for this sauce! Make sure to save at least 1 cup, but preferably 1 1/2 cups to be safe.
**The sauce will thicken as it cools, so go saucier when in doubt. If you add too much pasta water, just stir over low heat until it thickens a bit.
Cuisine: Italian
Course: Main Course
Serving: 1bowl, Calories: 821kcal, Carbohydrates: 87.8g, Protein: 22.6g, Fat: 43.6g, Saturated Fat: 21.8g, Cholesterol: 100mg, Sodium: 308mg, Potassium: 108mg, Fiber: 4.5g, Sugar: 4.8g, Calcium: 189mg, Iron: 5mg
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