Lemon Garlic Pasta delivers bold, vibrant flavor with minimal effort. It’s the kind of one-pot pasta dish you turn to on busy weeknights when you want a satisfying dinner on the table in 20 minutes flat.
Think of this as a lighter, brighter version of the classic Italian pasta recipe, Pasta al Limone. Here I’ve swapped out heavy cream for a mixture of olive oil and butter, to add richness without dulling the vivid lemon flavor. I’ve also added a touch of crushed red pepper along with traditional black pepper for extra kick.
You’ll toss hot pasta in a rich blend of olive oil and butter, punched up with lots of garlic and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Then fold in fresh parsley, lemon juice and zest to add lively freshness and zing. A final shower of nutty parmesan cheese rounds everything out.
Ingredients You Need for Lemon Garlic Pasta
- Dry Spaghetti Noodles: Or any long, slender dry pasta.
- Olive Oil: Use a good, flavorful one as it’s a major component of the sauce.
- Butter: If you use unsalted butter, you’ll want to add a little extra salt at the end.
- Lemon: You’ll need a whole lemon, ideally organic since you’ll be using the zest.
- Fresh Parsley: Look for a perky, bright green bunch of flat leaf (Italian) parsley.
- Garlic: Get the freshest, plumpest head you can find. You’ll be using 5 cloves of it!
- Parmesan Cheese: Ideally Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
For this Lemon Garlic Pasta, you want a pasta shape that’s easy to slick with sauce. I’ve called for spaghetti, but any long, slender pasta will do nicely. Linguine or angel hair pasta (Capellini) are good options. Adding a splash of the starchy cooking water toward the end helps the sauce adhere. This serves 4 as a hearty main course or 6 as a side dish. (I love to pair it with this simple Arugula Salad and Chocolate Panna Cotta or Affogato for dessert.)
Do lemon and garlic go together?
Lemon and garlic work beautifully together either raw or cooked! In their raw form, they go well in salad dressings, particularly when mellowed by fruity olive oil. When cooked, garlic loses its pungency and turns mild and buttery. Again, a perfect compliment to lemon’s bright acidity.
More Must Try Pasta Dishes
- Pasta Aglio e Olio (Perfect for date night!)
- Bucatini all’Amatriciana (Another delicious classic that’s easy enough for a weeknight.)
- Broccoli Rabe and Sausage Pasta (This is a go-to for us and is a meal on its own – no side dish required!)
How to Make Lemon Garlic Pasta
Step 1: Cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.
Step 2: In a large skillet, heat olive oil and butter until sizzling. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes; cook and stir 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
Step 3: Once pasta is cooked and drained, return skillet to medium heat. Add pasta and 1/4 cup of cooking liquid; stir until heated through, adding more cooking liquid if pasta is too dry.
Step 4: Remove skillet from heat and stir in parsley and lemon juice and zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving platter or bowl and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve.
Lemon Garlic Pasta
- 12 ounces dried spaghetti
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 5 large garlic cloves minced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or more
- 1 large lemon juice and zest
- 1/3 cup 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 spaghetti until firm to the bite (al dente), about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet 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 and 1/4 cup of reserved pasta water; toss to coat. Cook and stir until heated through, adding more pasta water if pasta seems too dry.
- Remove pasta from heat and stir in lemon zest and juice, and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl or platter; top with grated parmesan cheese and serve.
- Use any long, slender pasta you like for this recipe.