This Pasta Limone is one of my favorite pasta dishes. If you’ve been to Lil’ Frankie’s in NYC’s East Village Dinner — Lil’ Frankie’s (, you’ve probably tried their iconic Spaghetti Limone. This recipe is by Frank Prisinzano and after making it, you will quickly understand how it came to be such a famous dish. This pasta is on repeat at my home—it’s easy, quick, and uses just a few basic ingredients that you probably already have on hand.

This recipe has always reminded me of the OG Italian “Alfredo” which simply consists of butter, Parmigiano, and pasta water. It’s called “pasta al burro” and it’s the same concept as pasta limone, minus the lemons. The addition of lemons in this dish make me feel as if I am sitting on the coast of Positano with a glass of wine in hand.

This recipe uses only lemon juice, salt, butter, and pasta water (the liquid gold that binds everything together). It takes 15 minutes from start to finish, and what’s better than a speedy fast meal!

Although I am giving you ingredient measurements, I suggest you measure everything with your heart, and add the amounts that suit your personal taste.

Pasta Limone

The Modern NonnaThe Modern Nonna
This recipe uses only lemon juice, salt, butter, and pasta water (the liquid gold that binds everything together). It takes 15 minutes from start to finish, and what's better than a speedy fast meal!
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 3


  • salt
  • 350 grams (3/4 pound) spaghetti (or pasta shape of choice)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes (preferably grass-fed)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan) to taste, grated on the finest side of the box grater (use a high-quality block of Parmigiano)


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Generously salt the water as this is your only chance to flavor it—the water should be as salty as the sea.
  • Add the spaghetti and cook until al dente. This should take about 10 minutes but please cook the pasta to your desired doneness.
  • Using tongs, transfer the cooked spaghetti to a clean pot. Add the cubed butter and a small ladle or two of the pasta-cooking water. Add the lemon juice (removing any pits, as necessary).
  • Using tongs or a wooden spoon, stir the pasta in a circular motion until the butter has melted and you are left with a beautiful butter-lemon sauce at the bottom of the pot.
  • Traditionally this pasta is served on oven-safe plates warmed briefly in a low oven. This helps keeps the pasta warm after serving, but this is optional.
  • Once the pasta is plated, garnish with lots of freshly finely grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!


The pasta water should be as salty as the sea, as this is your only chance to flavor it. 
Don’t use too much of the pasta water or your sauce may be too thin. About 1/3 cup should be enough to bind the sauce together. Always start with less water, and add more as needed. 
Fresh lemons are key for this recipe so please use the highest quality ingredients you can find and afford, as this make all the difference in the success of this dish. 
Please buy a fresh block of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and grate it yourself. Avoid anything in a box or anything pre-grated. Authentic Parmigiano Reggiano will be stamped on the rind. 
Feel free to add a protein, such as chicken or shrimp, as it would make for the perfect pairing. 
Tried this recipe?Mention @themodernnonna or tag #themodernnonna!
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7 Responses

  1. 5 stars
    Great recipe! I’m not a huge lemon fan but I’m completely converted. I roughly doubled the recipe and measured with my heart. This was easy, quick, inexpensive and every person loved it in my big Italian family.

  2. 5 stars
    We had a “Modern Nonna Dinner” today: Pasta Limone and Grilled Lemon Chicken Breast served with a simple fresh green salad. The whole family enjoyed it so much, they didn’t know this very special lemon taste from our meals. Now they want more of this kind…LOL

  3. So quick and easy and delicious! Loved the light summery flavour of the lemon!I used lime as well, only had 1 lemon on hand.

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