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Gemelli Pasta with Lemon and Garlic is a quick, easy dish that’s perfect for a weeknight dinner or whenever you’re short on time. It comes together in less than 20 minutes and delivers vibrant flavor using just a handful of simple ingredients.
Lemon and garlic are a match made in heaven–when cooked, the sharpness of the garlic mellows to a richer, milder flavor that is perfectly complemented by the acidity of the lemon juice. With a generous drizzle of olive oil and butter (plus a bit of parmesan and parsley), you’re left with a vibrant sauce that turns tender Gemelli pasta into a flavor powerhouse.
Gemelli Pasta with Lemon and Garlic Ingredients
- Gemelli Pasta: or other short pasta
- Olive Oil: good quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Butter: salted butter or unsalted butter
- Garlic: fresh garlic cloves
- Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- Lemon: fresh lemon juice and zest
- Fresh Parsley: ideally flat leaf parsley (Italian parsley)
- Parmesan Cheese: or other hard Italian cheese like Pecorino Romano
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
What is gemelli pasta?
Gemelli pasta is the key ingredient that distinguishes this dish from other lemon-garlic pastas. It's a short variety of pasta that looks like two tubes twisted together, but is actually a single strand. This distinct shape creates channels for sauce to cling to, making it the perfect vessel for soaking up every last bit of luscious lemon-garlic sauce. The name “gemelli” loosely translates to “twins” in Italian, a clever name for this symmetrical pasta.
Though this recipe specifically calls for gemelli, you can use any short pasta. Fusilli and rotini are close in shape and contain similar channels for holding sauce, but other short pastas like penne or rigatoni are also fine substitutions. Follow the package instructions provided if you choose to swap the pasta, as the cooking time varies among different shapes.
To make this a meal on its own, add spinach or other tender greens or other vegetables (broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms are all good options). As written, this recipe is vegetarian, but you can add diced chicken or shrimp for a heartier dish.
More Classic Italian Pasta Recipes
- Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta
- Lemon Garlic Pasta (The same luscious sauce as this recipe, but with long, slender pasta - a reader favorite!)
- Shrimp Fra Diavolo
- Pasta Aglio e Olio
- The Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
- 45+ Best Pasta Recipes
How to Make Gemelli Pasta with Lemon and Garlic
Cook gemelli pasta according to package directions; drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
Meanwhile cook and stir garlic and red pepper flakes in a large skillet of sizzling butter and olive oil until fragrant. Stir in cooked pasta and pasta water as needed to loosen the sauce. Season to taste and serve topped with parmesan cheese and parsley.
Gemelli Pasta with Lemon and Garlic
- 12 ounces gemelli pasta or other short pasta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 5 large garlic cloves minced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more
- 1 large lemon juice and zest
- ⅓ cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 2 ounces parmesan cheese freshly grated
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook gemelli pasta until al dente (firm to the bite), 8-10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of cooking water.
- While pasta cooks, heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat until sizzling. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes; cook and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
- Once you've drained the pasta, set skillet with the garlic mixture over medium heat. Add drained, cooked pasta along with ¼ cup of reserved pasta water and toss to coat. Cook and stir until heated through, adding more pasta water as needed if pasta seems too dry.
- Remove skillet from heat and stir lemon zest and juice, and parsley into pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to serving bowl or platter and top with grated parmesan cheese; serve.
- Use any short pasta you like (penne, fusilli, rotini, bow-tie pasta, etc.) for this recipe.