This lemon mascarpone pasta is a super easy and tasty one pot meal. It's quick to make, with tasty flavors, all brought together by the creamy and citrusy sauce. Easy to adapt too, it's perfect for a busy night.
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Pasta is most definitely one of our go-to meals when we're running short of time (or out of ideas). More often than not that involves arugula pesto, but we also enjoy Bolognese, lamb ragu and other dishes if I have time to prep ahead a bit.
I keep trying to work on some other ideas for quick meals, and this one is a perfect fit. It comes together so easily and you can play around with the additions as well. It has a lovely balance of being creamy but also fresh from the lemon, and best of all, it's as simple as a little grating and stirring.
This one came about as I had some leftover mascarpone that I needed to use up. I considered a dessert as I often use it for, but liked the idea of it with pasta. I did a bit of digging and after going through a few variations on the theme, came up with this. It draws most heavily on this The Kitchn recipe, but with a few of my own tweaks.
From what I can tell, this sauce isn't a traditional Italian one by any means, but don't let that put you off as it's most definitely worth trying. In fact, I think I'll have to make sure I have mascarpone in the fridge more often to make it more often.
Ways to adapt this dish
The sauce here is the thing that really brings it together, so it's non-negotiable to me. It's simply mascarpone, lemon juice and zest and a little parmesan. Then that magic ingredient to help thin it out: pasta water. In case you are not familiar, that's the water from cooking the pasta, and it's perfect to help many sauces become just right.
Now you could go super simple and leave it at that, but I like a few additions. Here I cooked some peas in with the pasta during their last couple minutes, and then added some spinach at the end. The spinach wilts just enough with the pasta water and warm pasta, though you may want to chop it a bit if the leaves are large.
You could easily add some other vegetables in with the pasta, such as asparagus, broccoli florets or snow peas. Instead of spinach, you could use arugula/rocket.
As for other additions, while this works perfectly as a vegetarian meal, you could also add in some cooked chicken or shrimp. Both would be a great fit flavor-wise (and would make it a slightly heartier meal).
I added some toasted pine nuts at the end as both the texture and flavor go really well. I guess technically that takes it over one pot, but hey, you could make them ahead. You could skip them but I highly recommend them.
This lemon mascarpone pasta comes together so easily and is full of delicious flavors. Creamy, but light and citrusy, it's one tasty meal in no time.
Try these other pasta sauces:
- Walnut sauce (a traditional sauce from the Genoa area)
- Creamy bacon sauce with spinach
- Pesto alla Trapanese (Sicilian tomato almond sauce)
- Plus get more 30 minute meal ideas in the archives.
Lemon mascarpone pasta
- 6 oz pasta 170g
- ¼ cup mascarpone 4tbsp, 60g
- ½ lemon zest ie from ½ lemon
- ½ lemon juice ie from ½ lemon, approx 1tbsp
- 1 tbsp parmesan 4g (finely grated)
- 1 pinch black pepper
For rest of dish
- ¼ cup peas 35g (fresh or frozen - or more if prefer)
- 1 ½ oz baby spinach 45g, roughly 2 handfuls
- 2 tbsp pine nuts 17g, toasted (can be prepared ahead)
- Set the pasta to cook in a pot of boiling water according to packet instructions. Keep a note of cooking time and when you start it so you put peas in at the right time.
- Mix together all of the sauce ingredients in a small bowl (mascarpone, lemon zest and juice, parmesan and a little black pepper). Set aside.
- If using fresh peas, add them to the pot with the pasta when it has roughly 3 minutes to go. If using frozen, add them about a minute before the end. If your spinach leaves are large, roughly chop them.
- Once the pasta is cooked, remove some of the pasta cooking water (around ¼-1/2 cup) then drain the pasta and peas.
- Add the spinach to the pasta in the pot and stir to start wilting a little with the heat of the pasta and pot. Add the mascarpone sauce and some of the reserved pasta water (start with around 2-3 tablespoons), pouring the hot water over the spinach as much as possible to help it wilt further. Stir and add a little more water as needed until you get the consistency you like.
- Serve topped with the toasted pine nuts (and extra parmesan, as you prefer).
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