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Spaghetti with Lemon Pesto

4 Servings

25 minutes

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This pasta dish is modeled on the spaghetti al pesto di limone that Giovanna Aceto made for us on her family’s farm in Amalfi, Italy. The lemons commonly available in the U.S. are more acidic than Amalfi’s lemons, so to make a lemon pesto that approximates the original, we use a little sugar to temper the flavor. For extra citrus complexity, we add lemon zest to the pasta cooking water; the oils from the zest lightly perfume the spaghetti, reinforcing the lemony notes of the pesto.




Don’t forget to remove the lemon zest from the boiling water before dropping in the pasta. If left in as the spaghetti cooks, the zest may turn the water bitter, and the strips are a nuisance to remove from the strands of cooked noodles.

25 minutes


  • 4


  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper


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David C.
May 9, 2024
Quick, easy, tasty
I cut this in half, but used 6 oz whole wheat spaghetti. I wound up using all the pasta water. It turned out great, not 'too lemony' as another said. I used a smaller food processor and added half the pasta water to that to give the emulsification a head start. It took me 45 minutes, rather than 25, but I was multi-tasking some broccoli.
George L.
February 1, 2024
I’ll make it again
Yes it was good. I modified it by exchanging spinach for English peas. The little crispy pop was great!
Mary V.
January 3, 2024
This recipe is fantastic. I have made it MANY times, it's that good!
Kyt B.
October 29, 2023
Easy and exactly the way a lemon pasta should taste.
Mike S.
July 31, 2023
recipe worked very well as written, tasted like meals I had in Sorrento.
susan a. R.

I do not see any nutrishinal info or calorie info

Kathryn A.

I plugged this into the MyFitnessPal recipe builder and came up with 733 calories per serving.

Deborah K.

The spaghetti with lemon pesto was amazing. I added one squeeze of lemon in the pesto but otherwise followed the recipe as written. A new go to pasta dish from Milk Street. Really delicious.

Buzz M.

Can the lemon pesto in the recipe SPAGHETTI WITH LEMON PESTO, be made and frozen, for use later?
Thank you.

Lynn C.

Hi Buzz-

We haven't tested this, but we think this would work fine!

The Milk Street Team

Kathryn A.

While tasty, I reduced the pasta to 2 oz dry per serving and it was still too caloric to keep as a staple.

Elizabeth H.

Somehow, this came out like almond butter. Re-reading the recipe, I realize why this would be the case. Did anyone else have this experience, or did I goof?

Jennifer B.

Um sorry, I love lemon bit this was just too much. Maybe some garlic would have evened it out. Sorry, milk Street, not this time.

Clare M.

Can you use this with fresh pasta or is dried better to use?

Lynn C.

Hi Clare -

Since fresh pasta cooks so much faster than dried we worry that there wouldn't be enough time for the lemon-y cooking water to infuse fresh pasta.

The Milk Street Team

Tatiana R.

I suspect a Meyer lemon, which is now widely available (I remember a few years ago, it really wasn't the case), is going to be a good substitute for the Amalfi lemon without having to resort to using sugar.

Sanford B.

Tried this last night. Relatively subtle but good sprinkled with a bit of extra Maldon salt. Might use a touch of red pepper in the pesto next time.

However, "remove the zest in long, wide strips" and "remove and discard the zest" are much easier said than done. Some suggested technique here would have been a big help.

Astra F.

Far too lemony. I think next time I’ll roast the almonds, add far less lemon and some basil