This citrus cream pasta recipe is an easy, refreshing dinner that takes just 15 minutes! It’s a great dish for busy weeknights.

This recipe serves six people and costs about $14.30 to make. That’s just $2.40 per serving.

A picture of the finished pasta in a serving bowl and on a plate.

Citrus Cream Pasta

There’s something about citrus that brightens and enhances the flavor of most dishes, and this citrus cream pasta is no exception. This citrus cream sauce combines the richness of cream with the refreshing tanginess of citrus fruits, resulting in a unique and vibrant flavor profile. 

Combining zest from navel oranges and lemons adds a citrusy brightness that cuts through the dish’s creaminess, providing a delightful balance. 

Citrus cream pasta is filling as a main dish or a side. However, it pairs well with lots of other food, too! For example, things like French carrot salad, air fryer asparagus, air fryer green beans, or even scalloped potatoes will all feed a hungry family.

Why You’ll Love Citrus Cream Pasta

  • Simple and Quick To Make: This is a great weeknight dish that everyone will love, and it’s done in 15 minutes. If your busy family needs something new and fresh for dinner, this is your meal.
  • Burst of Fresh Flavors: The combination of navel oranges, lemons, and fresh herbs like mint and basil adds a vibrant and refreshing burst of flavors to the dish. 
  • Creamy and Indulgent Texture: Adding heavy cream creates a luxurious and velvety sauce that coats the linguine, giving the dish a rich and indulgent texture. 
  • Versatile and customizable: You can adjust the amount of citrus zest and herbs according to your taste, adding more or less to achieve your desired tanginess or freshness. You can also add protein such as grilled chicken, shrimp, or vegetables to make it a complete and balanced meal.
A picture of the finished pasta in a serving bowl.

Citrus Cream Sauce With Pasta Ingredients and Estimated Cost:

Per Serving Cost: $2.40

Recipe Cost: $14.30

  •     1 lb linguine: $1.28
  •     1 Tablespoon olive oil: $0.12
  •     3 large garlic cloves, minced: $1.92
  •     2 cups heavy cream: $5.00
  •     2 navel oranges, zested: $1.50
  •     2 lemons, zested: $1.16
  •     1 teaspoon salt: $0.02
  •     ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped: $0.69
  •     ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped: $0.56
  •     1 cup grated Parmesan cheese: $2.05

NOTE: The recipe prices are calculated by using grocery store websites. The recipe cost is calculated by the amounts needed for the recipe. The actual cost will vary depending on what ingredients you already have. I updated the pricing for this recipe in June 2023.

A picture of the ingredients needed to make this recipe.

How To Make Creamy Lemon Pasta

Though this dish sounds like a high-end meal you’d have at a once-a-year fancy restaurant (at least, in my opinion!), it’s easy and quick to make.

To make this creamy lemon pasta:

  1. Cook linguine as per package instructions until al dente.
  2. While the pasta cooks, add olive oil and garlic to a large 12-inch pan and cook over medium heat until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes).
  3. Add cream and citrus zest. 
  4. Reduce the heat to low and bring the mixture to a VERY LOW simmer. 
  5. Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. 
  6. Add salt and herbs and stir to combine. 
  7. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese until it’s melted. 
  8. Toss this sauce with the pasta and serve immediately!

A picture collage showing how to make this recipe.

Citrus Cream Pasta Variations and Substitutions

  • Protein Additions: Grilled chicken, cooked shrimp, or pan-seared salmon can be great additions. Simply cook the protein separately and add it to the pasta when combining the sauce and linguine.
  • Vegetable Additions: For a vegetarian version, you can add roasted vegetables like cherry tomatoes, zucchini, or bell peppers. Toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roast until tender. Mix the roasted vegetables into the pasta along with the sauce.
  • Citrus Variations: While the recipe calls for navel oranges and lemons, you can experiment with different citrus fruits. Try using grapefruit or blood oranges for a slightly different flavor profile. Adjust the amount of zest according to your preference and the intensity of the fruit’s flavor.
  • Herb Substitutions: If you don’t have fresh mint or basil, you can use other herbs like parsley, cilantro, chives, or tarragon.
  • Pasta Alternatives: While linguine works well in this recipe, you can switch to other pasta shapes, such as fettuccine, spaghetti, or penne, depending on your preference or what you have available in your pantry.
  • Lighter Option: If you prefer a lighter version, you can substitute part or all of the heavy cream with half-and-half or whole milk. Remember that this will affect the richness and creaminess of the sauce.

Gluten-Free Option: If you require a gluten-free alternative, substitute the linguine with gluten-free pasta made from rice, corn, or other gluten-free grains.

Creamy Lemon Pasta: Storage & Serving Tips

SERVE: As stated above, serve the pasta immediately. It’ll absorb the sauce quickly if you don’t, and we don’t want that!

STORE: You can keep creamy lemon pasta in the fridge for about four days.

FREEZE: Use a freezer-safe container; this pasta should remain fresh for three months.

REHEAT: Creamy lemon pasta reheats well in the microwave and stove. Just thaw it in the fridge first overnight.

Creamy Lemon Pasta Recipe FAQs

How long does it take to make this creamy lemon pasta?

This is a major time-saver of a meal, as I said. You only need 5 minutes of prep time and 10 minutes of cooking time for the ingredients.

How many servings does this recipe produce?

This should make enough for about six people, depending on portion sizes. It’ll feed even more if you add a protein, like my lemon chicken recipe or shrimp.

My cream sauce is grainy. Did I do something wrong?

Ensure your sauce never comes to a boil! You just want to warm it up. If it goes beyond a simmer, it’ll break the cream, making the sauce grainy.

What other herbs pair well with this recipe (if any)?

This dish is very versatile when it comes to the herbs. Use whatever herbs you like or have on hand. My favorite combination is basil and mint for this citrus cream pasta since they keep things vibrant and fresh.

Can you use other kinds of pasta?

Absolutely. Penne or rigatoni are both amazing with this, too.

Can I use something with a lower fat content rather than the heavy cream?

I wouldn’t recommend it, as the lemon will generally curdle things like half-and-half.

A picture of the finished pasta on a plate with salad on it.

More pasta recipes:

An up close picture of the finished pasta in a serving bowl.
5 from 12 votes

Citrus Cream Pasta

Author Jillian – a Food, Folks and Fun original!
Recipe Cost $ $14.30
Serving Cost $ $2.40
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
6 people
This citrus cream pasta recipe is an easy, refreshing dinner that takes just 15 minutes! It’s a great dish for busy weeknights.

Equipment

  • Measuring spoons
  • Measuring cups
  • large cooking pot
  • large 12 in pan
  • mixing spoon

Ingredients
 
 

Instructions

MAKE PASTA:

  • Cook linguine as per package instructions until al dente.

MAKE SAUCE:

  • While pasta cooks, add olive oil and garlic to large 12-inch pan and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add cream and citrus zest, reduce heat to low and bring the mixture to a VERY LOW simmer.
  • Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes.
  • Add salt and herbs, stir to combine.
  • Turn off heat and stir in cheese until melted.

TO FINISH:

  • Toss the sauce with pasta and serve immediately.

Nutrition

Serving: 1.33cup | Calories: 661kcal | Carbohydrates: 63g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 22g | Cholesterol: 123mg | Sodium: 679mg | Potassium: 315mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1445IU | Vitamin C: 20.8mg | Calcium: 271mg | Iron: 1.5mg

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5 from 12 votes (1 rating without comment)

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24 Comments

  1. Stephanie says:

    This sounds so good! I think I’ll plan on making it for lunch one day next week. Thanks!

  2. Healing Tomato says:

    This is exactly what I need for weeknight dinner idea. Quick, delicious and so comforting.

    1. Enjoy, it’s a family favorite around my house!

  3. Any recipe with citrus and pasta is a winner in my book. Thanks.

    1. Me, too! I just love it. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Theresa Sutton says:

    I’ve never tried citrus with pasta, but it looks pretty darn good! Can’t wait to try it!

  5. Cami @ The Crafting Nook says:

    Looks absolutely delicious and this is by far one of my favorite types of dish. Pasta something citrus and a delicious sauce! I’m pinning so I can keep this handy! Awesome recipe!
    XO

  6. oh my gosh, sounds heavenly!

  7. I’ve been looking for something like this to add to our dinner plan. Thanks!

  8. Matt @ Plating Pixels says:

    Looks super simple and perfect for a weeknight meal! Loving the fresh herbs too.

  9. Victoria @ Creative Home Keeper says:

    I would have never thought to add citrus flavors to the cream sauce but it was amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Mmmm, YUM! This pasta looks amazing (and we love adding citrus to our recipes whenever we can!)

    1. Same here, it just brightens the flavor which is perfect for long winters!

  11. I love quick meals and this pasta was delicious!

    1. Aw, thanks so much Kallee!

  12. simplerecipestips says:

    This lemon chicken recipe is really tasty and looking very nice.and you can add some types recipes with lemon.

  13. I would have never thought to combine citrus and cream but it is out of this world. Thanks for recipe!

  14. I have citrus trees in my yard too and can never get enough of the wonderful flavors. We’re so spoiled! I love the idea of adding orange flavor into a lemon pasta sauce. Why didn’t I ever think of that?! This looks delicious and is bound to be on my table soon.

  15. Hannah F Healy says:

    This looks so fresh and delicious. Perfect for summer! I love how quick the recipe is too!

  16. I have yet to try a citrus pasta, and this creamy version looks just delightful! Can’t wait to try it!

  17. You know I have never had pasta with a citrus flavor before but it sounds just wonderful! We have citrus trees in our yard and this will be a great way to use them.

  18. Jacqueline Debono says:

    I love pasta with lemon. It’s very traditional here in Italy, especially in Amalfi and Sorrrento. I’ve never added oranges to it. Sounds delicious. Can’t wait to try your recipe!