5 Ingredients or Fewer

Barbara Kafka’s Creamy Lemon Pasta

June 15, 2021
50 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 25 minutes
  • Cook time 15 minutes
  • Serves 2 to 4
Author Notes

This might be the most luxurious-feeling dinner you can conjure from near-thin air. It takes something like 15 minutes and three ingredients (no, not counting salt and pepper—you have those), and it sparkles in just about any situation you can hurl its way. It’s good for a dinner party, good for making the masses at the table happy, good for when you’re feeling off-kilter and need righting. It’s just good.
Adapted slightly from the New York Times (March 10, 1999). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Barbara Kafka’s Creamy Lemon Pasta
  • 12 ounces wide egg noodles
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons; zest removed with a vegetable peeler and cut in very thin strips 1 inch long (see note)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Lots of freshly ground black pepper
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles, and stir to separate. Cook for 8 minutes, or until just barely tender (the noodles will cook a bit more in step 3, and you don't want mush). Drain, then return to the cooking pot.
  2. Just before noodles are done, in a small saucepan combine the lemon zest, cream, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until cream comes to a boil.
  3. Pour cream mixture over drained noodles, and add the lemon juice (you may want to start with 3 to 4 tablespoons and add to taste). Stir to coat. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until all the liquid is absorbed, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with additional pepper, if desired.
  4. Note about lemon zest: Alternately, you can grate on a Microplane. The flavor will be a bit stronger as more flavorful oils are released this way, and you won't get the texture of the hand-sliced version. Dealer's choice!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • cookbabycook
  • Charity Prawitz
    Charity Prawitz
  • Jihyun Oh
    Jihyun Oh
  • debplusthree
  • SMSF
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

53 Reviews

Eric July 16, 2022
It was very delicious!
Woodside March 20, 2022
Minimal ingredients. Straightforward preparation. Great lemon flavor. I used 4 Tbs. of lemon juice and got a good, pronounced lemon flavor, but not overwhelming. Next time I might add a splash of pasta water to loosen the sauce just a bit. The result to effort ratio is great.
cookbabycook January 17, 2022
Delicious! I've cooked this with Noodles as a side (adding 2 tsp fresh Sage or Thyme) and when I needed a light pasta sauce to go with Lobster Ravioli (adding 1 top dried Tarragon) and it was amazing both times. I added 4T Lemon Juice directly into the reduced Cream (I love lemons) but use 3T if you don't want it too strong. With fresh pasta and a salad, this is a 5-10 minute dinner, and so good! Definite keeper.
F00dl0ver! April 8, 2021
Really delicious. I added some blanched peas and asparagus for a spring supper.
Val G. February 9, 2021
This has become a family favorite, replacing the cream with 2% Greek yogurt and adding store bought sliced grilled chicken. Green salad on the side and dinner is ready in 15 minutes!
Charity P. October 16, 2020
So simple! So delicious! I am adding this to my "favorite recipes" collection. I will make it again and again. Thank you!
Charity P. October 16, 2020
So simple! So delicious! I am adding this to my "favorite recipes" collection. I will make it again and again. Thank you!
Jihyun O. June 25, 2020
This is one of my favorite pasta recipes. Super easy to make and very yummy!.
I love lemon very much so this is perfect for me. My husband who is a not a big fan of pasta dishes, he loves this pasta whenever I make this (made this evening again and we both loved it very much!). The pasta smells like a piece of heaven!
Jihyun O. June 25, 2020
I love lemon! This is one of my favorite pasta recipes. Ultra easy to make and very delicious. My husband who is not a big fan of pasta but whenever I make this, he loves it. Sort of smell like a piece of heaven :)
debplusthree June 7, 2020
I have been so excited to try this recipe, I made it last night with a side salad and some sourdough crisped in olive oil. What a dreamy meal. It is so fun to watch the lemon make the sauce thicken! Thank you so much for another superb recipe that I probably would never have tried without your encouragement!! Yay for another Genius Recipe win!!!
rebecca June 2, 2020
Ohhhhh .. my .. creamy and dreamy!
Am imagining .. entertaining .. thoughts of serving this with a lovely salmon and fresh peas.
But it’s so yummy, honestly it’ll take a few more repeats for hubby and I to be sated sufficiently to share it.
Denise October 17, 2019
I am a lemon superfan and this pasta was a big hit! Although it would have been fine as written, I doctored the recipe a little bit: I made bacon bits and added those, plus peas, to the dish. I also tossed some blanched broccoli with the bacon fat and roasted it in the oven as a side dish. The whole family gobbled it up and asked me to make it again some time.
SMSF September 19, 2019
Made this with Meyer lemon from the yard and used tagliatelle instead of egg noodles. So simple and delicious! Next time I want to have it with some sauteed or grilled shrimp (I didn't want to make an extra trip to the store this time). Thanks for sharing this!
Gayla T. September 15, 2019
This was, quite possibly, one of the most luscious, delicious side dishes I have ever made! I ate it until I couldn't possibly swallow another bite. You can bet I will make this often. Followed the recipe to a tee,using lemon zest. I did halve all the ingredients since it was for 2. Thank you for sharing.
Lacey W. July 12, 2019
Yuck. Way too lemony. I was super disappointed in this recipe and my family barely wanted to eat it. I threw the rest of it away and I hate wasting food. I won't be making this one again.
Deborah J. September 5, 2019
What a shame, Lacey. We loved it and we didn't think that it was overly lemony at all. Mine came out perfectly creamy with just the right amount of lemon flavor, quite subtle in fact. Anyways, it was a big hit for us!
Edwin September 23, 2019
She obviously did something wrong, what do you think it was?
Lori July 31, 2021
I’m betting she left a bunch of the pith on the lemon peel giving it a bitter lemon taste.
elfleming May 12, 2019
Apologies in advance for a “I changed most of this recipe” review, but...I added caramelized onions and peas to the sauce and stirred in chopped bacon at the end. I also subbed spaghetti for the egg noodles. It ended up tasting like a very springy carbonara. Highly recommend!
Judi May 9, 2019
OK, I was very surprised; thought anything with 4 ingredients would taste like it had 4 ingredients. AMAZING. Even my grandkids loved it. We had a surplus of lemons and used lots of rind and juice. It was so easy and so delicious. Will be one of my new favourites. I might not want to share as I want folks to believe it was complicated. Thanks for an amazing recipe!
Mary H. May 8, 2019
Lemon pasta is heaven-sent, in my opinion. My go-to recipe for years comes from Marcella Hazan: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1991-08-15-9103290074-story.html The technique is slightly different (it's "lightning quick" to prepare, as Marcella puts it, because the sauce is made separately and literally takes seconds to thicken). Her recipe also incorporates a hefty chunk of butter, so I'll be eager to try this one without it! (Crème fraîche can also be substituted for the cream.)
Kendall March 28, 2018
I made this last night as written. I liked it a lot, as did my guest.

I think your enjoyment of this recipe depends on whether or not you appreciate simplicity. To me... this is the sort of thing cooks come up with at two in the morning. The restaurant is closed, most of the staff gone, and you've just finished squaring away the kitchen. The grill is gleaming- you hit the surface with lemon water for that as new sheen- the ovens are cold, and the prep, and morning orders, are taken care of. Just as you reach for the light switch... That special person comes back to the kitchen.

You know the one. The one you find yourself looking at, twenty times a night, and you can't quite figure out why. Though you have ideas. Wait staff, front of the house staff, a fellow cook. Whatever, whoever. They've lingered. And you find yourself wanting to be... impressive.

So you make this. Simple, direct, as subtle as a velvet wrapped brick through a window. You make this because you want to be busy, keep moving- gain a little time to think about what's happening- and- you're a cook. You reach out to people through your food.

So you make this- spur of the moment, an idea- and plate it up. Your guest goes out to the house and brings in a couple of glasses of wine. You don't sit, you don't go to a table. You stand, leaning over the line, and eat. Trying not to spend too much time looking over. Trying not to get ahead of yourself.

This is not something for a menu- where you probably want a broader palette of flavors. You'd want to add chicken stock into the cream reduction, maybe finish with a splash of tarragon infused oil and a grated Pecorino. Which would be good- but it would not be this.

This is something for a quiet night and a little romance.

Janet R. January 6, 2019
This is the best online recipe comment/review I've ever read! It sounded like a good recipe, but now it sounds like something really special and I can't wait to try it.
Brenda E. May 8, 2019
OMG....You've been there before...."))). I'm not sure if I would have thought of this. Your statement...."You'd want to add chicken stock into the cream reduction, maybe finish with a splash of tarragon infused oil and a grated Pecorino." I would probably just add shrimp:)). GREAT GREAT review.
Karen W. May 8, 2019
Adding or serving with shrimp is brilliant!
cpulliam May 8, 2019
I seriously want to buy your first book! And all the ones after... Wow!
Paula C. May 8, 2019
Kendall- Clearly you are a good writer and one who is passionate about - cooking. Please tell us where we can find more of your writing - and cooking.
anna May 24, 2019
Don't leave us hanging. What happened next?

(What a joy to read. Just kiss him, for crying out loud.)
arcane54 April 19, 2021
You win the interwebby today - and this whole week - because NOTHING will top that story. Please tell me they fell in love with you! If not, they were the fool.
Ruth M. July 31, 2021
You are a terrific writer! Let me know when your book comes out!
[email protected]
Shireen January 10, 2018
Easy and so delicious, especially with homemade egg noodles!