How to Make Creamy Lemon Pasta Without Any Cream

Many times throughout the week, I stare into the abyss of my fridge, craving an easy, satisfying meal that doesn't take a ton of effort but tastes like it came from a fancy restaurant (isn't that the dream?). So when I saw this creamy lemon pasta recipe on The Mediterranean Dish, I knew all my springtime dinner woes were about to come to an end.

The ingredients were super simple—it's things that almost every cook will have in their fridge or pantry already—and it shockingly doesn't include cream, which made me even more intrigued. Here's what happened when I tried it in my kitchen.

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Ingredients for Creamy Lemon Pasta Without Cream

For this simple hack, you're going to need spaghetti, shredded Parmesan, minced garlic, kosher salt, pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil and fresh parsley.

Ingredients for Creamy Lemon Pasta<p>Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel</p>
Ingredients for Creamy Lemon Pasta

Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel

Related: 50 Fast and Easy Penne Pasta Recipes for the Weeknight Dinner Win

How to Make Creamy Lemon Pasta Without Cream

Start off by boiling a pot of water and adding your spaghetti. About halfway through boiling the pasta, add some olive oil in a frying pan, add minced garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 30 seconds, then add lemon juice, shredded Parmesan, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Add in about a quarter cup of pasta water after you drain your spaghetti, then add in the pasta to the skillet followed by chopped parsley, lemon zest and a bit more salt and pepper to taste. Thin out with a tiny bit more pasta water so you get a creamy sauce going in your pan, then garnish and serve. It really couldn't be easier.

Creamy Lemon Pasta in Pan<p>Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel</p>
Creamy Lemon Pasta in Pan

Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel

What's the Trick for Making Creamy Pasta Sauce Without Cream?

Now for the fun part—how it works. The pasta water has leftover starch in it from boiling your pasta, so when you splash it into your pan later, it's going to bind the ingredients to the pasta and thicken up nicely so the result is a creamy sauce (ta-da!) without the cream.

Be sure to add the water slowly and watch the consistency to make sure you don't overdo it and end up with a runny sauce. Also, don't throw out that liquid gold (aka pasta cooking water)! Keep in a container, as you can reheat your leftovers with a bit of the water over the top to re-emulsify it later (better yet, pour into ice cube trays and freeze then pop out whenever you need to thicken a sauce).

What I Thought of This Recipe

Like most kitchen hacks, I start out skeptical, re-reading and re-watching the tip, convinced there must be a catch. I thought for sure the combination of olive oil, lemon juice and pasta water would make for a runny sauce with not a ton of flavor but boy was I wrong. When following the recipe directions to a 'T,' the pasta water, olive oil and lemon juice emulsified and coated the strands of spaghetti beautifully.

I wouldn't exactly say it was a stand-in for a heavy cream sauce, but it definitely was a pretty magical sauce that had all the notes I want: bright from the lemon, punchy from the garlic, salty from the Parmesan and spicy from the hot pepper flakes. The cream wasn't anywhere to be found and wasn't missed in the least bit. Folks, this one's a keeper.

Creamy Lemon Pasta<p>Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel</p>
Creamy Lemon Pasta

Courtesy of Jessica Wrubel

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