Fettucine al limone (or any pasta al limone!) is a go to in my home. My Southern Italian roots go crazy for anything zesty. Plus, this pasta literally takes 20-25 minutes to make!
If you don’t love lemon, it’s hard for me to understand you. It’s incredible how something could be so naturally zesty and acidic. What marvels me even more is how its rind has such an epic fragrance. I guess that goes for most citrus. So, let me rephrase: if you don’t love citrus, I don’t understand you.
My Story Behind Pasta al Limone
Now that you know I am a diehard citrus fan, you wouldn’t be surprised by my fondness of Southern Italy. Since I was a wee baby, I would visit family and friends just south of Rome and in Positano. Let me tell you – the lemons in Positano (and the Amalfi Coast) are some of the most ridiculous things you will ever see.
With all my love for the cuisine and people in Sud Italia, I had to make pasta al limone. You can find variations of this dish around Italy. But, nothing beats one inspired by the Amalfi Coast version.
You probably think I copied Frank Prisinzano for this. His spaghetti al limone method is top notch and I suggest everyone to try it. Or, venture to one of his no frills restaurants. My recipe, however, is influenced from many moments in the kitchen with my family and meals on the Amalfi coast.
Of course, I didn’t have access to Amalfi Coast or Sicilian lemons to make this dish. However, I read and speak Italian so I could figure out a recipe!
Ingredients in Pasta al Limone
What I love most about this recipe is it is stupid simple. It requires literally 5 ingredients (including your pasta water!)
Another thing – this recipe is super light and refreshing. It contains zero cream – just the magic of pasta water and butter. Many love to make al limone with a touch of cream. All power to ya, but I think butter does enough for this dish.
Here is the pasta al limone ingredient breakdown:
- Butter (around 3-4 tablespoons, enough to melt and fill pan)
- Lemon (one whole lemon, juice and zest)
- Parmigiano (about a half cup FRESHLY grated – you can really use as much as you want, as long as it doesn’t become too salty)
- Fettuccine (or any long pasta will do! Dry or fresh, just make sure you like it!)
- Salt (for your pasta water – salty like the sea baby!)
- Parsley or basil (for garnishing purposes!)
Although I kept the garnish for this dish simple, it also tastes great topped with a luscious fresh cheese. I would suggest whipped ricotta, especially a sheep’s milk ricotta. Or, stracciatella! If you can find stracciatella di bufala (or burrata di bufala,) those would make an amazing combo as well.
All you need is just a dollop on top! Then, garnish with a little parsley or basil – whatever you have on hand! A little green garnish on this dish adds just the perfect touch.
How to Make Pasta al Limone
So, let’s get down to it!
First, get your pasta water rolling
You need the water to be almost as salty as the sea. This gives your pasta flavor!
Prep your lemon
Grate the zest, making sure you don’t go too deep (into the white flesh.) Then, juice your lemon, removing the seeds.
Fire up your pasta
If using fresh pasta that cooks quickly, move this step to after you create your lemon butter.
Melt your butter
Heat a pan over medium heat. Slowly melt your butter with your zest.
Add in your lemon juice
If your pasta cooking by now, add in a scoop of pasta water.
Grate your parm
Into a separate bowl. You will need around a half a cup (or more… 😉
Mix your pasta into your lemon butter
Watch as the starchy sauce comes together.
Toss with parm
Along with a bit of pasta water. You want to create a ‘creamy’ sauce.
Serve it up!
It’s delicious alone, with extra parm or a dollop of fresh cheese (stracciatella, ricotta, etc…)