This creamy Caramelized Lemon Pasta is packed with fresh flavors and uses only a few simple ingredients! The silky sauce is made with a whole lemon (rind and all!) and takes just 20 minutes to prepare. Easily adapted for dairy-free and vegan.
I am a huge fan of caramelized onions and shallots in my pasta, like in this amazing One Pot French Onion Pasta, so I thought I’d give the same technique a try with lemons. It’s not something you see very often, most recipes use lemon juice or zest, but why not just use the whole lemon? I was initially worried that it might be too overpowering, but the flavors actually mellowed out quite nicely and created a really unique and delicious dish!
The thinly sliced lemon rind softens and caramelizes with a bit of sugar which helps cut the acidity and bitterness. The lemon juice reduces and you’re left with a sweet lemon flavor that infuses the shallot and garlic. Pasta water and grated parmesan cheese help create a silky smooth sauce that makes this pasta even more delicious. The ingredients are super simple too! Chances are, you already have most of the them on hand!
Here’s what you’ll need to make this Caramelized Lemon Pasta:
- A whole lemon (rind and all)
- Shallot & garlic
- Linguini, spaghetti or other long-cut pasta
- Parmesan cheese (I used dairy free)
- Olive oil
- To serve: freshly ground black pepper, parsley and toasted breadcrumbs (optional, but delicious)
Tips for making Caramelized Lemon Pasta
- Make sure you slice the lemon rind very thin. I recommend using a sharp knife to cut the lemon into rounds, then slice each round into quarters or sixths.
- To make this Lemon Pasta recipe vegan and dairy-free, simply use a non-dairy parmesan cheese. You can omit the cheese entirely but the sauce won’t be quite as rich and creamy.
- Make sure to remove the pasta from the heat and transfer it to the sauce a minute or two before it’s done cooking. There should be a small dot of white in the center of each noodle when you bite into it. The pasta will finish cooking in the sauce and absorb all that lemony goodness.
- Salt your pasta water! I’ve found that this is one of those recipes that requires a little extra seasoning to really bring out the flavors. If the final product tastes a little bland, chances are it needs more salt to balance out the acidity.
This Caramelized Lemon pasta goes wonderfully with toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled on top. I like to toast Panko breadcrumbs in a little olive oil until they’re golden brown. Homemade breadcrumbs would also be delicious! The pasta also goes well with arugula which has a nice peppery flavor and compliments the lemon.
If you’re looking to add a protein, try grilled chicken, steak or shrimp. Stirring in a can of drained chickpeas or white beans would make for a heartier vegetarian meal.
More pasta recipes to try
- One Pot Harissa Bolognese
- Miso Butter Pasta with Sweet Corn
- Harissa Meatballs with Fregola and Lemony Yogurt
- Roasted Garlic Fettuccine
- Wild Mushroom and White Bean Tagliatelle