Say hello to your new go-to comfort food that won't have you feeling like you've gained ½ kilo (a pound) after eating! This delicious, satisfyingly creamy lemon chicken pasta is a fantastic easy weeknight dinner choice that can be done in just under 30 minutes!
It's creamy, it's carby, it's a little zesty and it uses simple everyday ingredients. Sounds good? I think so too.
Although rich and creamy, this recipe uses a good mix of stock, heavy cream and parmesan cheese so that it does not taste too heavy. Will there be room for dessert after eating? You bet!
- Pasta - any shape you like, I like using fettuccine or linguine.
- Chicken breasts - easy and quick to cook lean cut. Works well with a heavy sauce like this recipe. Can use chicken thighs too if preferred.
- Parmesan cheese - where possible, buy cheese in blocks and grate at home yourself. Not only is this a more economical option, freshly grated cheese also tastes better! More importantly, freshly grated parmesan cheese melts extremely well as it does not include anti-caking agents.
- Fresh lemon - both the juice and zest of the lemon will be used for a delicious citrusy aroma.
- Thyme (not pictured, my bad!) - fresh or dried thyme will both be okay to use.
This creamy lemon chicken pasta dish is super easy to make and can be done in just under 30 minutes from prep to serve!
Pan-sear chicken and cook pasta
To start, slice chicken breasts by half horizontally. Thinner chicken breasts are much quicker to pan-sear plus there is more surface for the chicken to cook to golden brown. This in turn translates to complexity and flavour!
For extra large breastss you may wish to slice into 3 thin slices (like I did in the picture below - 5 slices for 2 breasts).
Once the chicken breasts are sliced, season with salt and pepper. Pan-sear until golden on high heat with unsalted butter. Use either a frying pan or a shallow cast iron casserole.
This will only take about 2 minutes per side. Rest then cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Now, cook fettuccine (or whatever shape you like) according to packet instructions. Remember to season the pasta cooking water generously.
The general rule of thumb for salt to pasta to water ratio is 1 teaspoon of salt for every 100 g (3.5 oz) of dried pasta using 1 litre (1 quart) of water.
Don't worry, most of the salt will remain in the water and the pasta will taste delightfully flavourful. Oh, the magic of salt.
Whilst the pasta is cooking, get the creamy lemon sauce going.
Make the creamy lemon sauce (lemony alfredo sauce)
In the same pan (no need to wash), soften finely chopped onions and minced garlic with unsalted butter. Cook on low heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to catch all the flavour from searing the chicken.
Then, scatter in plain flour. Mix well with a wooden spatula until a thick, paste is formed. Pour in chicken (or veg) stock and mix well until a very thick sauce is formed with no lumps.
Using butter and flour (roux) to thicken a sauce is the core technique of making a bechamel sauce as seen in my healthy, no cream creamy mushroom pasta recipe, my very best beef lasagna recipe or white chicken lasagna recipe!
To finish off, add heavy cream, freshly grated parmesan cheese, zest and juice of half a lemon (~1 tbsp) and thyme. Mix well. Give the sauce a quick taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking.
Bringing it all together
To complete this lemony, creamy chicken pasta sauce, add in chicken pieces with all the juices. Mix and simmer on low heat for about 2 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked (if it was not from the searing process).
By now, the pasta should be cooked. Drain and add it to the creamy lemon chicken pasta sauce. Toss and serve with extra parmesan cheese!
See how creamy this alfredo sauce is!? The beauty of this dish is that it does not taste too heavy as chicken stock is added to the (well-balanced) mix.
I would not go as far as calling this a guilt-free creamy chicken pasta but it sure is one that won't leave you feeling like you've gained ½ kilo (1 pound) after eating!
Room for dessert? Oh yes.
Optimal comfort dinner? Most definitely.
Useful tips & tricks
- Do not throw out the chicken juices - the pool of resting juices after searing is the perfect flavour booster for the sauce! Add that to the sauce.
- Simmer chicken in the sauce for no longer than 2 minutes - to avoid overcooking. Overcooked chicken breasts toughens up and become harder to chew (no matter how creamy the sauce is!)
- Generously season the pasta cooking water - no bland pasta here. This recipe uses simple ingredients so seasoning at every step is key to flavour!
- Reserve a ½ cup of pasta cooking water - this will come in handy for those going for seconds when the sauce has been mostly soaked up by the pasta! A little pasta cooking water can very easily loosen the sauce up and get it all saucy again.
Good to know
Not for this recipe as only about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice is added so the acidity isn't high enough to curdle the creamy sauce. The creamy sauce in this recipe has sufficient fat from the heavy cream, butter and parmesan cheese to prevent curdling!
Although I have not tried it, I would advise against it for this recipe! The high-fat content in this creamy alfredo sauce is what prevents the sauce from curdling once lemon juice is added.
You can make the creamy lemon chicken pasta sauce up to 3 days in advance, storing in air-tight containers. Simply cook the pasta, reheat the sauce and toss through on the day of serving.
Keeps well for up to 4 days in the fridge and up to 4 months in the freezer, stored in airtight containers.
Upon reheating, add a splash or two of water to loosen the pasta up. If frozen, let it thaw in the fridge before reheating (take it out the night before).
Made this recipe? Let me know your thoughts or questions by dropping a note in the comments section below! I'd love to hear from you. 🙂
Happy cooking! - Gen
Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta
- 500 g / 1 pound chicken breasts ~ 2 large
- 300 g / 11 ounces dried pasta fettuccine, linguine or any shape
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Creamy lemon sauce
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- 1 cup chicken stock or veg stock
- ½ cup heavy cream NOT light cream (note 1)
- ½ cup parmesan cheese + extra to serve, freshly grated (note 2)
- juice of half lemon ~1 tablespoon + zest
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
- salt and pepper
- Slice chicken breasts in half horizontally. Season with salt and pepper.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large frying pan (or a shallow cast iron casserole dish). Sear chicken breast slices on high heat until golden. About 2 minutes per side. Set aside.
- Cook pasta according to packet instructions. Remember to season the pasta cooking water with salt generously. Whilst the pasta is cooking, make the creamy lemon sauce.
To make the creamy lemon sauce
- In the same frying pan, soften onions and garlic with butter on low heat. About 4 minutes.
- Mix in flour until a thick paste is formed. Pour in half of the stock, mix well with a wooden spatula then repeat for the remaining half of the stock.
- Mix in heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Finally, add in lemon juice, the zest of half a lemon and leaves of fresh thyme. Mix, taste and season with salt and pepper.
Bringing it all together
- Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces then adds it into the creamy lemon sauce with all the juices. Simmer on low heat for ~2 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked (if it wasn't from searing). (note 3)
- By now, the pasta should be cooked. Drain, then add it into the creamy chicken sauce. Toss well then serve with extra parmesan cheese.