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Lemon Garlic Pasta delivers bold, vibrant flavor with minimal effort. It’s the kind of 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 simple lemon garlic butter sauce. 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 to meaty main dishes like Chicken Kabobs in the Oven, Bacon Wrapped Pork Chops, or Baked Lamb Chops. (Round out the meal 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

How to Make Lemon Garlic Pasta

Step 1: Cook pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.

pasta boiling in water

Step 2: For the lemon garlic butter sauce, heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat until sizzling. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes; cook and stir 30 seconds. Remove from heat.

garlic and red pepper flakes cooked in olive oil and butter

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.

tossing pasta with garlic butter sauce

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.

tossing pasta with parsley lemon juice and zest
lemon garlic pasta served

Lemon Garlic Pasta Recipe Video

Lemon Garlic Pasta

4.97 from 55 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 530
Servings: 4 people
A brightly flavored, crowd pleasing pasta tossed in a simple lemon garlic butter sauce that's ready to serve in about 20 minutes!

Ingredients  

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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 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 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.

Notes

  1. Use any long, slender pasta you like for this recipe.

Nutrition

Calories: 530kcal | Carbohydrates: 68g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 288mg | Potassium: 283mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 744IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 206mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Leave a comment & rate the recipe below!

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141 Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    5 stars
    Added tomatoes, asparagus and peas. Was a hit! Total winner!! Will definitely make this again.

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      This is so great to hear, Jennifer. Thank you!

  2. Naomi Robinson says:

    5 stars
    I love this lighter version so much!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thanks so much, Naomi!

  3. Valentina says:

    5 stars
    I love, love, love lemon with pasta! Delicious! 🙂 ~Valentina

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      Thank you, Valentina!

  4. Leanne says:

    5 stars
    This is a perfect pasta dish for busy weeknights or even a date night at home. Love lemon and garlic together!

  5. Alex says:

    5 stars
    Simple pasta dishes like this are the very best, in my opinion! I adore lemon and garlic together – such beautiful and fresh flavours!