Food52 Pantry

Creamy Lemon Spaghetti with Crunchy Breadcrumbs

February 28, 2019
17 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 5 minutes
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Serves 2
Author Notes

I usually eat this all on its own, but a little grilled chicken or some nicely poached salmon wouldn’t hurt anyone. It’s an easy enough dish to make on any old day, but I really love it for date night because it’s quick, a little decadent, but not too heavy. Also you can make the breadcrumbs a day in advance—win! —Jo Thrasher

What You'll Need
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
  • 1/2 pound spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and stir to thoroughly coat the crumbs with the oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the crumbs are golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. It will look like nothing is happening for a long time and then all of the sudden they will turn brown. It happens quickly, so keep an eye on them.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and add 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 tablespoon parsley, and the grated cheese. Stir to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, salt it generously and add the pasta.
  4. While the pasta cooks, wipe out the skillet you used to toast the breadcrumbs and bring the cream and cream cheese to a simmer over medium-low heat – making sure to whisk into a smooth mixture. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until it thickens slightly.
  5. When pasta is just shy of al dente, reserve 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain.
  6. Add the pasta to sauce, along with lemon juice and the remaining zest and parsley. Toss to combine, adding some of the reserved pasta water, a little at a time, to thin out the sauce, it will continue to thicken as it sits.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve, garnishing with a generous amount of the breadcrumb mixture and reserved parsley.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • miriamnz
  • Megan
  • Dimply Dots
    Dimply Dots
  • Wm. Ross Herrin
    Wm. Ross Herrin
  • oregon cassie
    oregon cassie

22 Reviews

Katemc377 March 19, 2023
This was a huge hit in our house! I added garlic and doubled it and had no leftovers. Even my picky 14 year old had seconds. Will absolutely make it again
Dana November 3, 2020
Cream cheese is too thick. I recommend using creme fresh for more zing and melty texture.
miriamnz August 8, 2020
Loved this. The lemony crunch is divine.
Im wondering if i could use preserved lemons when lemons are no longer in season. Thoughts?
bakerNYC July 25, 2020
I'm sorry to say i did enjoy the cream cheese element. Loved the bread crumbs. Will try again with ricotta replacing the cream cheese
Megan May 28, 2020
I really enjoyed this! So simple and easy. Next time I will add a bit of garlic though.
Curlytexan January 20, 2020
This was delicious! I doubled the recipe (and it doubles well) since it said it served two. Doubled, I fed four and had over half left over. It was served as a side to salmon. I’m looking forward to leftovers tomorrow!
Dimply D. June 21, 2019
So good. So easy. Everyone really loved this. It needed the pasta water. Doubled easily. Thanks for the recipe!
Wm. R. May 6, 2019
Served it with grilled cedar Park Salmon, great side dish!
Paula K. May 6, 2019
I think salmon as a side dish sounds awesome. We currently have some cold smoked salmon. I also like the asparagus idea.
I have a rare stomach disorder, however, I can eat this. I have to lower fat. If it calls for cream or 1/2 1/2, I must use evaporated skim milk with a tiny 1/2&1/2 mixed in. It actually turns out well. I must cook veg well. Mine turned out great. Thanks for ideas.
Jane C. May 3, 2019
I made this exactly to the recipe, and it was FANTASTIC. My husband and I were both blown away by how easy and incredibly delicious this was. The breadcrumbs are a brilliant addition, and I recommend not cutting corners here- brown them, it makes all the difference. (I always think it's a good idea to follow the original recipe before branching out, in any case...)
This recipe is also such a great canvas for so many variations - 2nd time i made it, I added barely blanched asparagus (2 min., and peas, 30 sec.s, iced down to stop cooking, used fettuccine instead of spaghetti, topped with shrimp. Used 1/2 plain & 1/2 Italian seasoned panko. I also chucked the cream and cream cheese in the blender before heating, just to make if easier on the stirring front. 3rd time, salmon, the asparagus & peas and farfalle instead of spaghetti. Chicken is also good, I'm looking at a tofu/vegan version in the near future.
In short, I'm now making some variation of this once a week. The original is absolutely freakin' delicious, and customizes brilliantly.
In the comments, Emmy asked Leah what she did to make it vegan - no response yet, but here is what I would do:
- Cashew cream for the sauce (3/4 C raw cashews covered in water and soaked overnight, then drained and blended with 1/2 - 3/4 C water, high sped blender preferred, but a regular blender should work. Add some toasted pine nuts, ground finely, and 2-3 tsp of nutritional yeast to the breadcrumb mixture instead of the cheese.
- Easier, but not quite as "homemade" - Use a 1/2 & 1/2 mix of commercial vegan cream cheese and vegan sour cream for the sauce base (you'll probably need a little water to give it a "spoon-coating swirl", cut back a little (2 tsp?) on the lemon juice.
If anyone is remotely interested, I can report back on the vegan versions. In the meantime, I rarely post anything, anywhere, but I just had to say -
Thanks, Jo! Brilliant!!!!
Jo T. August 30, 2019
Jane, I’m so glad it was a hit! I am a big fan of cashew cream but haven’t tried it in this recipe. Now I’m intrigued and will have to give it a whirl!
missshar August 4, 2020
Hi Jane, did you end up trying the vegan version? This recipe looks delicious, but I've recently discovered that I don't do well with dairy. I also find that some dairy substitutions don't provide the expected flavours. Please do let me know :)
J. April 14, 2019
Great recipe! Made it just as above. Plenty of breadcrumbs for a second batch the next day :)
Ben April 14, 2019
Great post, I love the recipe. The breadcrumbs are a great addition since pasta recipes rarely have a nice bit of texture like that.
If you need a nice dessert to go with it take a look at
Thanks, keep up the good content!
Paula K. April 13, 2019
This sounds awesome. I have a rare stomach disorder. I can not eat garlic; which I love, and many other things.
I am good at adapting recipes. I will have to forget thee cream and use evaporated skim milk, and use a lower fat cream cheese. I will add salt and pepper; just not a lot.
I am anxious to try and I think even with my recipe substitutions, it will be great.
oregon C. April 6, 2019
Great recipe! Returned from a road trip late afternoon & didn’t want to run to the grocery store. Had everything on hand except the heavy cream — subbed with mascarpone & a splash of milk. Perfect quick pantry recipe — thanks for that.
Jo T. April 8, 2019
So happy you liked it!
Leah March 28, 2019
I made a vegan version of this and it was spectacular!! My toddler and husband loved it. That hint of lemon is perfection.
Emmy April 5, 2019
Will you please share your vegan substitutions? I'd like to try this recipe with reduced or no lactose. Thanks!
Jo T. April 8, 2019
Oh I want to hear about swaps too please!
Caitlin S. March 26, 2019
My kids loved it, too! Great recipe exactly as is!
Jo T. April 8, 2019
Thanks Caitlin. So glad you all enjoyed it!