Lemon Pasta

This lemon pasta recipe is bright, fresh, and ready in 20 minutes! Made with simple ingredients, it’s a delicious, satisfying weeknight dinner.


Lemon pasta


This lemon pasta recipe is my take on Italian pasta al limone. It’s buttery, garlicky, and bright with citrus, and best of all, it’s super easy to make. You can whip it up in 20 minutes using under 10 ingredients. Even though this lemon pasta feels elegant, it’s a perfect weeknight dinner.

While many lemon pasta sauces call for heavy cream, I skip it here. Instead, butter, Parmesan, and starchy pasta cooking water create the pasta’s silky sauce. These simple ingredients let the fresh lemon flavor shine through.

Citrus fans, get ready—you’re going to love this pasta!


Lemon pasta recipe ingredients


Lemon Pasta Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make this lemon pasta recipe:

  • Pasta, of course! Spaghetti is my top pick. Another long pasta like linguine would work too.
  • Butter – It creates the sauce’s rich base. I call for extra-virgin olive oil in most of my recipes, but I actually prefer the butter here. It gives the sauce body and helps it coat the pasta.
  • Garlic – It adds savory flavor.
  • Parmesan cheese – It thickens the sauce and adds salty, umami flavor. Freshly grated pecorino is a great sub if you don’t have Parmesan on hand.
  • Lemon zest and juice – The star ingredients! The zest infuses the sauce with bright, citrusy flavor. The juice adds a tangy kick.
  • Fresh herbs – I love to garnish this dish with parsley or basil for a fresh, aromatic finishing touch.
  • And salt and pepper – To make all the flavors pop!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.


Tossing spaghetti with lemon garlic sauce in skillet


How to Make Lemon Pasta

This lemon spaghetti recipe is super simple to make! Here’s how it goes:

First, cook the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta until al dente. In the final few minutes of cooking, reserve 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.


Adding grated Parmesan cheese to skillet with spaghetti


Next, make the sauce. A few minutes before the pasta is ready, heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it foams. Reduce the heat to low and add the lemon zest and minced garlic. Cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the garlic from burning!

Use tongs to transfer the cooked pasta from the pot to the skillet with the butter mixture. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and toss until a light sauce coats the pasta. Then, add half the cheese and toss again. Finally, add the lemon juice and remaining cheese and toss until the sauce is smooth.

  • Tip: If the lemon sauce gets too thick or starts to clump, add more pasta water as needed to loosen it.

Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice. Garnish with more lemon zest and fresh basil or parsley, and serve!


Tossing spaghetti in lemon pasta sauce


What to Serve with Lemon Pasta

This pasta dish pairs nicely with fresh veggies or a salad. Serve it with a side of roasted asparagus, sautéed spinach, or one of these salad recipes:

Round out the meal with crusty bread for sopping up the flavorful sauce!

Storage and Reheating

This lemon spaghetti is best just after it’s made, but leftovers keep well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Reheat it in the microwave or on the stovetop, adding a splash of water to loosen the sauce if needed.


Lemon pasta recipe


More Favorite Pasta Recipes

If you love this lemon pasta, try one of these easy pasta recipes next:

Lemon Pasta

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5 from 1 vote
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
This lemon pasta recipe is my take on Italian pasta al limone. Bright, fresh, and ready in 20 minutes, it’s a delicious weeknight dinner.

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the package instructions, cooking until al dente. In the final minutes of cooking, reserve 1 cup of the starchy pasta cooking water.
  • A few minutes before the pasta is ready, add the butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Heat the butter until it foams, then reduce the heat to low and add the lemon zest and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove from the heat if your pasta is still cooking.
  • When the pasta is al dente, use tongs to transfer it from the pot to the skillet with the butter mixture. Add ½ cup of the reserved pasta water and cook over low heat, tossing until a sauce forms and lightly coats the pasta. Add half the cheese and toss to incorporate. Add the lemon juice and remaining cheese and toss again, cooking until the sauce is smooth. If it becomes too thick or clumpy, add more pasta water as needed to loosen it. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice.
  • Garnish with more lemon zest and fresh parsley. Serve with more cheese.

Adapted from Serious Eats.