This Lemon Chicken Pasta recipe is creamy, garlicky, zesty, super flavorful and is ready in under 30 minutes. It is made without wine for a family friendly meal. So so good!
A simple, restaurant worthy lemon chicken pasta. It's an amazing combination of creamy, savory and tangy sauce, along with the juicy seasoned chicken and al dente pasta. It's a quick dinner that everyone will devour!
It's perfect for the whole family, because there's no wine in the recipe, like the garlic butter shrimp pasta. The freshly squeezed juice at the end adds tons of complex flavors.
Lemon juice is tart and acidic and brightens a dish, and the thin yellow layer of zest, contains floral lemony oils. Avoid the bitter white pith beneath the yellow zest.
This is a luscious creamy lemon chicken pasta, that is packed with so much flavor and the sauce clings to each penne, making your overall eating experience enjoyable. Give this recipe a try next time you want to impress your family at the dinner table.
Why this recipe works?
- Lemon adds a citrusy tang, brightens and cuts through the richness.
- Golden, caramelized bits left in the bottom of the pan, from cooked chicken, adds complexity, savoriness and tremendous flavor to the sauce.
- No wine makes it kid friendly meal.
Scroll down to the recipe card below for full information on ingredients and amounts.
- Chicken – I cut up 2 breasts into bite size chunks. But, if you like to cook it whole and then slice for a prettier presentation, then split them in half to make two cutlets, sear, remove, slice and then add into the sauce.
- Stock – I used 33% reduced sodium stock. If you are using no sodium or regular sodium stock, then adjust salt accordingly.
- Pasta – I like to use penne like in instant pot ground chicken pasta or penne pasta recipes, however this lemon chicken pasta is delicious made with any other pasta shape like linguini, fettuccini, bow tie, spaghetti, fusilli or ziti.
- Heavy cream - Adds richness and body.
- Lemon - Both lemon juice and finely grated zest is used for a lemony punch. Use only freshly squeezed lemon juice and not the bottled kind. It makes a huge difference.
- Garlic - There's always garlic in any chicken pasta recipe.
- Cheese - Freshly shredded parmesan melts better and gives a silky smooth consistence to the lemon garlic sauce. The powdered stuff or pre-shredded parmesan cheese doesn’t have the same great flavor and texture as freshly shredded parmesan.
- Broccoli - Blanched for couple of minutes along with pasta or sautéed in olive oil before proceeding with the recipe.
- Peas - Add frozen peas along with stock and cream.
- Spinach - Add baby spinach leaves when sauce is almost done simmering, and stir to wilt.
- Zucchini - Saute diced zucchini in olive oil, until partially cooked. Transfer to another bowl and continue with the recipe. Toss it back into the simmering alfredo sauce.
- Add asparagus – Cut trimmed asparagus into 1-inch pieces and saute along with onion and garlic in the recipe.
- Make is meat free – Skip chicken (but we recommend using chicken stock).
- Use leftover rotisserie chicken instead.
- Use shrimp instead.
How to make?
You can find full printable recipe below, but here is a quick overview of the procedure along with step-by-step photos.
1.Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Toss chicken with some salt and pepper and then add in a single layer, cook stirring occasionally until half cooked.
Tip: I prefer to use cut up breasts, because it cooks in a shorter amount of time, since more surface area of the meat is exposed to heat.
2. Reduce heat to medium, add chopped onion, garlic and red pepper flakes, Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 2 minutes.
Pro tip: Sear chicken on one side, on relatively high heat to develop a deep golden color. It's a great way to add flavor. Maillard reaction is the set of reactions responsible for the beautiful golden crust on the chicken pieces. It helps to produce hundreds of aromatic compounds that adds complexity and savoriness to the lemon chicken pasta.
3. Add all stock, heavy cream, Italian seasoning, along with remaining salt and pepper. Mix well, increase heat, continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce comes to a gentle boil and has thickened slightly to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 to 5 minutes.
4 & 5. Stir in cooked penne, parmesan cheese, butter, lemon juice and lemon zest, and immediately remove pan from heat. Serve pasta after 5 to 10 minutes. The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
Pro tip: The acidic flavor of lemon juice dulls in flavor, and is mostly lost when exposed to heat. So it's best to add it right at the end.
Storage and Reheating
This dish will keep well for 2-3 days in your fridge. When it comes to re heating anything with cream sauce, I recommend adding a splash of water or stock, before heating in microwave. Stir halfway through microwave time.
I don’t recommend freezing creamy sauces as they change textures to grainy when frozen. Also, the pasta can become mushy when it’s frozen and reheated with a creamy sauce.
- Chicken - Use boneless skinless breasts, thighs or tenderloins.
- Don't overcrowd the pan - Be sure to cook your meat in a single layer so it gets a golden brown crust. If you overcrowd the pan, it might steam instead. It’s best to work in batches if your pan is not large enough to fit everything at once.
- Pasta - Use your favorite noodle shape instead of penne.
- Protein - If you prefer not to use chicken, you can use any other protein. Shrimp would be another great option.
- Use fresh Lemons - This is a prominent flavor, so use fresh lemon if possible. Lime may be substituted instead.
- Cream - Replace heavy cream with half & half to make it waist friendly, but not milk. It just makes it watery.
- Pat dry - Make sure to pat dry your chicken with paper towels, to ensure a good sear.
Al dente means “to the tooth” in Italian, is where pasta tastes and feels chewy but firm, holding its whole shape in whatever sauce you put it in.
A fresh squeeze of lemon brightens and enhances the flavor in any pasta dish. It's especially fabulous in creamy sauces, because it cuts through the richness and adds a zing.
More pasta recipes
Lemon Chicken Pasta
- 8 ounces penne pasta cooked
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 to 2 tablepoons unsalted butter optional
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 to 2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Toss chicken with some salt and pepper and then add in a single layer, cook until it develops a golden color.Pro tip: Sear chicken on one side, on relatively high heat to develop a deep golden color. It's a great way to add flavor. It adds complexity and savoriness to the dish.
- Reduce heat to medium, add chopped onion, garlic and red pepper flakes, Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about about 2 minutes.
- Add all group-1 ingredients (along with remaining salt and pepper), mix well, increase heat, continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until sauce comes to a gentle boil and has thickened slightly to coat the back of a spoon (3 to 5 minutes).
- Stir in all group-2 ingredients, stir well and immediately remove pan from heat. Serve pasta after 5 to 10 minutes (the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools).Pro tip: The acidic flavor of lemon juice dulls in flavor, and is mostly lost when exposed to heat. So it's best to add it right at the end.
Nutritional information, based on third-party calculations, should be seen as estimates, not guarantees, as various factors like product types, brands, processing methods, and more can alter the nutritional content in recipes.
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