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This recipe was passed to me by my friend Lady Mulberry when I lived in Edinburgh. (She wasn’t an actual member of the aristocracy, rather an interior designer who ran a Mulberry Home concession when I worked at the sadly now departed Jenners on Princes Street.) Anyway, Lady M introduced me to the completely vegetarian, four-ingredient version.

And as tends to be my habit, I’ve fine-tuned it into the pimped-up version below, which is the perfect summer dish for pescatarians. I know the idea of lemon and spaghetti may sound weird, but this combination produces a fresh, flavorsome dish that’s not only incredibly moreish and satisfying but just as delicious when served cold the following day.

Yes, that’s right, cold lemon spaghetti.* I know, but trust me, you’ll love it. This dish is such a winner in our house that even though there’s only two of us, I always make sure there’s enough for leftovers—if indeed it lasts that long. Hopefully, you’ll also find that the more often you make it, the more likely your are to add your favorite additions such as green olives, asparagus or even rocket (arugula). 

Lemon Spaghetti

The quantities below will be enough for four, although I make this quantity for two, which allows for leftovers. Double or treble as needed.


  • 56–85 g (2–3 oz.) per person of dried spaghetti (I prefer whole wheat as it tastes nuttier and has more bite.)
  • 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 100 ml (3½ fluid oz., or a scant half cup) extra virgin olive oil plus more to adjust for taste
  • 65 g (2½ oz.) parmesan, freshly grated (Think fine strands rather than fine dust when you’re grating.)
  • Large bunch of fresh basil

For the enhanced pescatarian version, you’ll need all the above ingredients, plus all or some of the following:

  • 200g (7 oz.) smoked salmon
  • 120 g (4½ oz.) cooked, peeled crayfish tails (or shrimp)
  • 40 g (1½ oz.) capers
  • 140 g (5 oz.) cherry tomatoes


Place a large saucepan of unsalted water on the heat to boil, and then you can get to work. Start by grabbing a large bowl in which you’re going to mix everything. Then, using a zester or fine grater, remove the lovely yellow peel from one of the lemons (take care not to include any of the bitter white pith) and place it to one side.

Pour the olive oil into the bowl along with the juice of the zested lemon. Whisk together until the two are blended into a smooth emulsion, then taste. It should be a lovely balance of oil and lemon; if it’s too acidic, add a little more oil; if it’s not zingy enough, add more lemon juice. Getting this balance to your liking is the key to this dish. Once you’re happy with it, add the zest. When the water is at boiling point, add the pasta. While it cooks for the recommended amount of time, you can do the rest of the prep.

Slice the smoked salmon into strips around 1 cm or half-inch wide, slice the tomatoes into quarters and roughly chop the capers. Last, finely slice the basil leaves, by which time the pasta should be done, and you’re ready to bring it all together.   

Add the thoroughly drained pasta to the oil and lemon emulsion in the bowl. Sprinkle over the parmesan, basil, and the extra ingredients if you’re using them and turn with tongs or a long fork so everything mixes into a delicious, colorful bundle of flavor.

Grab a glass of your favorite chilled white wine and enjoy!  

I’d love to see your versions of this recipe so share on social media using the hashtag #jslemonspaghetti and tag me @jeanettesloan.

*Here’s a tip if you want to serve it hot: assembling the dish takes no time at all, but it can cool very quickly, so it’s helpful to do all the prep before or while the pasta is cooking. It doesn’t reheat particularly well, and if you’re using smoked salmon, it’s only meant to warm through, not cook when added to the pasta. On the other hand if you’re serving it cold or at room temperature, relax, and enjoy the preparations while the pasta boils away. And on that subject, I cook the spaghetti without salt as the salmon and capers add enough of a salty hit.  

About The Author

Jeanette Sloan is a British knitwear designer who lives in the city of Brighton and Hove, on the south coast of England.

With more than 170 designs in her Ravelry portfolio, Jeanette has been working at a peak of imagination and skill for a very long time. Along with many contributions to The Knitter and Knitting magazines, she has recently co-edited a collection with Kate Davies, Warm Hands, a delectable collection of 15 designs for gloves, mitts, and mittens.


  • Looks delicious! Thanks for sharing

  • Thank you! I just put the pescatarian version on my menu for today. This lovely dish will be a perfect start in into the weekend.

  • That looks delicious, I think I will have roasted cherry tomatoes with mine!

  • Wow! Jeanette is not only an amazing knitwear designer….

    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Thank you so much Arlene. I’m always thinking about my stomach!
  • I love lemon in almost anything. Sounds perfect.

  • WOW! This looks/sounds so good – thank you for sharing1

    • Made my version for supper tonight – it was light and delicious with plenty of leftovers for later this week! Thanks for sharing!

  • Why does the recipe call for 2 unwaxed lemons but only talks about using one?

    • Your comment is awaiting moderation.
      Christina is right, it’s about balancing those flavours so you need the juice of at least one lemon. You could also add extra zest if you like.
    • In the second paragraph–in case upon tasting the emulsion, you would like more lemon juice: “It should be a lovely balance of oil and lemon; if it’s too acidic, add a little more oil; if it’s not zingy enough, add more lemon juice.”

  • Looks delicious! We have more hot weather coming so cook once/ eat twice will be perfect. Also- nice of you to include both measurement systems. Someday we may get our act together in the US to go metric…

  • This looks very delicious, both versions!

  • We would call this a pasta salad where I come from. Canada.

  • I love lemon pasta. I make a very similar version that uses soften butter instead of olive oil. You add the lemon juice, zest, and herbs and squish it all together. I am definitely trying this olive oil version. I just bought some nice oil at one of the old school stores in the Bronx. Guess what’s for dinner tonight?

  • This sounds awesome … making this tonight!

    • It’s sweeping Iowa! I made this for dinner tonight! I used sweet potato noodles for my gf daughter. Super recipe. Thanks! Lucky I bought enough ingredients for a repeat performance tomorrow night.

  • I make a similar version and use shrimp as well as some cocktail sauce. The horseradish in the sauce gives it a bit of zip. My guests love the fresh taste of lemon, tomatoes, etc.

  • Sounds great! This is a regular summer recipe for us with GF spaghetti and shrimp, but she ups the game with the extra lemon and zest. (Not sure if an unwaxed lemon exists in NJ though). Wish I could print out the recipe without taking screen shots. Anybody know how?

  • This sounds so good – I do a bastardized version of spaghetti (or whatever pasta) and lemony clam sauce with 4 ingredients and cooked pasta. I heat olive oil, a clove of minced garlic, lemon, and canned clams (yup, the canned ones taste perfectly fine and are so easy for quick summer meals). I sprinkle with parmesan and minced parsley if I have them. I like mine extra lemony. The family thinks this simple meal is extra fancy, so it’s a win!

  • I can’t believe Jenners is gone! And thanks for the recipe.

  • Delicious. Made it for dinner. Substituted some anchovies for the smoked salmon.

  • OMG!
    Thank you!
    Making my version tonight!

  • Thanks so much for a recipe which suits those of us who *assemble* more than cook.

  • We can all use fast easy delicious recipes more often. Thanks!

  • I made this last night as a test run for my book group next week. It’s easy and delicious. As suggested, I made enough for four, so the two of us will enjoy it again tonight. (Bonus: today I am casting on for a cotton sweater.)

  • I made this on Tuesday night with all the ingredients and it was fabulous…did use regular spaghetti, not wheat. Cold leftovers for lunch were just as good. Tonight I’m preparing the original version…just pasta, cheese, basil and sauce. This recipe is a winner!

  • Sounds wonderful! I have a favorite lemony angel hair pasta recipe which it easy too: break up the angel hair into smaller pieces and toss it in melted butter, then add hot chicken broth and cook covered until the pasta is done and the broth mostly absorbed (about 10 minutes) Serve it with a squeeze of lemon juice and some grated parmesan and fresh ground black pepper. Comfort food at its best!

    Thanks for your recipe – it is on my menu for hubby’s birthday dinner this weekend!!

  • Just made this tonight. Delicious!!! Thank you.

  • Thia looks divine as it’s 90 F/32 C this afternoon and cold pasta sounds delish. Thank u for sharing

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