Spaghetti With Creamy Lemon Sauce

lemon spaghetti

My friend Skye McAlpine is one of those hosts who makes it look easy — a bowl of ripe peaches, a hunk of salty parmesan, a couple of kids underfoot. So, when I saw that she wrote a new cookbook, I jumped at the chance to learn some of her secrets. It’s filled with burrata platters, couscous salads and carpaccio plates (with “runny honey”) and all the kinds of food that shout “pull up a chair!” Here’s her lemony pasta, where the flavors burst with simple ingredients…

Spaghetti With Creamy Lemon Sauce
From A Table for Friends by Skye McAlpine

“This recipe – like eating a bowl of sunshine – is so simple that even I can happily chat and bring it together at the same time. I prepare the sauce in advance and leave it covered on the hob, then, while the pasta is bubbling, slice the lemon, shuffle everyone to the table and assemble the dish once they are sitting down, so they eat it hot. You need little more with this, as it’s pretty much a meal in itself. Perhaps a nice green salad.”

Recipe: Spaghetti With Creamy Lemon Sauce
Serves 4

2 lemons
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Scant 1 cup of half-and-half
1 egg yolk
3/4 pound (about 4 portions) spaghetti
A small bunch of thyme
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Meanwhile, finely zest both the lemons and toss the zest into a deep frying pan, then add the olive oil and set it over a medium heat. Gently fry the zest for a few minutes until it begins to take on a deep, vibrant yellow color.

Now pour in the cream and the egg yolk, mix well with a wooden spoon, then reduce the heat and leave to gently cook for 5–10 minutes, giving it a stir every now and then.

Add a generous pinch of salt to the boiling water, and, when it begins to gallop, add the spaghetti and cook until al dente according to the packet instructions. Finely slice one-third of a lemon.

When the pasta is cooked, drain in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water (roughly 1⁄4 cup). Squeeze the juice of the remaining lemons into the sauce, add salt and pepper to taste, then toss the pasta into the frying pan. Add the reserved cooking water, throw in the lemon slices and toss everything together so the pasta is well covered with sauce. Tear up the thyme sprigs, sprinkle generously over and serve immediately.

table for friends by Skye McAlpine

Thank you, Skye!

P.S. The best lemon cake you’ll ever have, and an easy conversation starter.

(Photos from A Table for Friends by Skye McAlpine.)

  1. R Smith says...

    I made this last night. Suggestions: temper the egg/cream before adding to zest. do NOT make it until you you are ready to serve. Use more cream. EVen tho it was not pretty, it was delicious, and I will be making it again.

  2. Shannon says...

    I made this last night and, while it was very good and lemony, the oil + lemon zest was too hot upon adding the egg and cream, and it scrambled the egg a bit (or perhaps curdled the cream? but it didn’t taste sour). I would recommend cooling the zest mixture before adding other ingredients to keep it smooth!

    • R Smith says...

      I just posted about this! It was delicious. But the egg/cream needed to be tempered. I also think a smaller pasta would be good too.

  3. mojgan says...

    it’s gonna be a recipe of all the time. having this once in a week.
    and the perfect name you chose
    “Bowl of Sunshine”

  4. Oh gosh, this looks amazing!

  5. Jo says...

    What’s half and half

    • Emily L says...

      You can find it in the milk section and it’s typically used for coffee. Thicker than whole milk, thinner than cream.

    • Belinda says...

      I think it’s a U.S only thing

    • Erin says...

      Also, you can make half and half by mixing half milk and half heavy cream– handy tip!

  6. Vanessa says...

    My easy—but delicious— recipe for when I don’t feel like cooking.
    Spaghetti or angel hair pasta, squeeze a lemon, open a can of tuna, and mix everything together with some olive oil. Add a bit of red pepper flakes to taste and voila *chef kisses fingers*

  7. Suzi says...

    I knew I wanted to make this dish as soon as I saw the photo (that dress! that pasta dish!). We just had it for dinner and found it lacked a bit of umami. So we mixed a bit of chicken stock in the reserved cooking water and added briny black olives to the finished dish. Capers would work too. Lovely summer dinner!

    • Clare says...

      I love this recipe and make it by heart at least once a week. I add broccoli florets for the last couple of minutes of pasta cooking time so we can pretend there are health benefits to eating an enormous bowl of pasta on the couch every Friday night…

  8. Erin says...

    I saw this recipe yesterday and knew I’d be making it for dinner the same night. My bar is always “Would I be happy to receive this at a restaurant,” and the answer was “YES!” Really easy to make, too. I’ve made lemon pasta in the past that was more oily, but this was creamy and delicious, without being too creamy. Just perfect. This is definitely one for the repertoire. Looking forward to leftovers for lunch.

  9. Nic says...

    Sounds simple re the ingredients but I reckon recipes like this actually take a lot of skill and experience or you’ll end up with lemon flavoured scrambled egg.

  10. KK says...

    I tried to make this recipe and followed it exactly. It turned out terribly. Truly the worst thing I have ever cooked.

    • Nic says...

      I hear you.

    • LG says...

      Same here. Haha.

    • Kate says...

      Oh, no! LOL

      That has been happening to me recently with NYT Cooking recipes. Leaves me with major WTF vibes while my husband I choke the latest failure down.

  11. Katie says...

    I’d love to see a week of outfits from Skye, her style is so unique…

  12. Car says...

    Just made this! Ended up using cream instead of half and half, because that’s what I had. So simple and truly divine. Thank you for sharing such a beautifully simple summer recipe.

  13. Oh, Skye! I’m an avid follower. She’s got quite the inspiring life…and the food…oh my goodness!!!

  14. Diana K says...

    You should note to add the egg slowly and lower the temp BEFORE putting it in. I just tried this recipe and made lemon scrambled egg the first time.

    • Charlotte Lovato says...

      Thx for the tip I want to make it for dinner tonight.👍😀

  15. Leah Rose says...

    Are you really friends?? JEALOUS. She’s amazing!! Just ordered the cookbook!

    • E says...

      Joanna, you have such interesting friends! I absolutely love my friends, but I find myself being envious of yours from time to time! ;)

  16. Nikki P says...

    This looks so good and excited to find another wonderful food instagram account to follow. Thank you.
    My very favourite instagram food account is a local South African chef Zola Nene, love her modern takes on traditional South African food: https://www.zolanene.com
    One day I’m going to convince her to deliver her food to me :-)

    • Megan says...

      Zola looks awesome! Thanks for the rec.

  17. OLeary Amy says...

    yum! I love the dress in the photo as well!

  18. Karina says...

    Side not but I loooove that dress the model is wearing with the blue roses. Any one know where it’s from?

    • Lisa G says...

      Agreed! If this is Skye…can we get a beauty uniform or a week of outfits pretty please??

    • Blythe says...

      I second the request for a week of outfits from Skye!

    • Eloise says...

      That sounds SOOOO good – and easy enough for (even) me to make!!

    • Carole says...

      THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!! Vegan and allergies to eggs and dairy over here!! But we still like yummy pasta hahaha!!!

    • Joanna says...

      Thank you for sharing alternative – great for those with food allergies in the family!

      I’ll try without the Parmesan.

  19. Ashleigh Wilson says...

    I just love this blog and love the food posts so much:) I find them simple and delicious!

  20. Jordan G says...

    This looks delicious! Can’t wait to try it.

  21. Tamara says...

    Looks great!! FYI there’s no cream in the ingredient list but it’s mentioned in the instructions.

    • Sarah says...

      Half-and-half is a product that’s half cream and half milk.

  22. Kelly says...

    This looks delish- do you have any recommendations on how to make it dairy-free?

  23. Sarah says...

    I really want to try this! I have everything except fresh thyme. Which would be better in this case: Sub fresh basil or sub dried thyme?

    • Laura R says...

      I vote fresh basil! Basil and lemon go well together.

    • Emma says...

      Fresh basil would be good! Fresh dill would probably be amazing, too.

  24. Emily Howard says...

    Henceforth I will no longer refer to water as boiling but GALLOPING. This recipe sounds amazing!

  25. This looks delicious! Is there a good way to make this non-dairy? I often substitute coconut cream for heavy cream, but not sure if that would interact weirdly with the lemon??

    • Rose says...

      I was wondering the same! Or if heavy cream could be used instead of half and half. I’m lactose intolerant so I can’t have half and half, but heavy cream would be ok, though I’m sure it would make the meal very rich!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      ooh, rika, this looks so good!

    • Daynya says...

      I have used coconut milk (canned) to sub in for milk in Chicken in Milk, which uses lemons, and it turns out to be DELICIOUS. I was planning to do exactly that with this recipe. On my gluten free pasta. Very high needs household over here. ;-)

    • Emma says...

      I’ve been making a dairy free version of this lately! I used the 15-Minute Keeper Lemon Soup as inspiration, and whisk some of the hot pasta water in with eggs/lemon juice to make a creamy lemony sauce.