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This is an easy lemon garlic pasta that comes together quickly with a handful of everyday ingredients and it’s fresh, silky and delicious.
It makes a lovely filling meal for when you need dinner done in 15 minutes.
I’m a big fan of using lemon and garlic in pasta sauces, and if you love this combination, you might try this lemon ricotta pasta, creamy penne pasta or pasta with olives.
And I wonder why I didn’t post this lemon garlic pasta recipe long before!
It was one of my staples when I was a student, and I just love how easy and economical it is, and it’s great that doesn’t require a ton of ingredients to make something so good.
With this simple recipe it’s a breeze to turn butter, garlic, parmesan, lemons and some pasta cooking water into a lemon garlic butter sauce that nicely coats your spaghetti.
Adding a touch of starchy pasta water to emulsify all the ingredients is a popular Italian technique that I use in many of my pasta recipes. It’s a no-brainer and it makes your pasta silky and juicy in just a few seconds.
Let’s see how to make it now!
List of the ingredients
- Parmesan cheese
- Basil (optional)
- Chili flakes (optional)
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt & pepper
How to make lemon garlic pasta
(Note: this is a quick description with step-by-step photos, the full recipe is at the bottom of the page)
- In a large skillet sauté garlic and chili flakes in butter.
- Stir in a touch of hot starchy pasta water (this helps to emulsify the rest of the ingredients that you’ll be adding to the skillet).
- Now add parmesan cheese, lemon juice and zest and stir for a few seconds just until you make a smooth runny sauce.
- Drain the pasta, add it to the skillet along with the fresh basil, toss until well combined and the pasta looks juicy and nicely coated.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Ingredients & Substitutions
Pasta: I used linguine for this recipe, but you can choose to sub with whatever pasta you’ve got on hand, also shorter one like penne/rigatoni/fusilli work well.
Butter: it boosts the flavor and richness of the sauce and makes the end result silky, but you can use extra virgin olive oil instead of butter if you wish.
Garlic: I use 4 fresh garlic cloves, but feel free to adjust the quantities to your taste, especially if you’re not a garlic lover! ; )
Lemon: I use both fresh lemon juice and the zest to bring out the flavor and I use my microplane, to grate finely the zest.
Parmesan cheese: it’s best if you use freshly grated parmesan if possible, it melts much better than the pre-grated stuff. Pecorino cheese is also a good substitution if you wish.
Basil: I love its aromatic flavor and pop of color and freshness. Fresh parsley or thyme will work too, but I don’t recommend using dried herbs.
Chili flakes: for a nice touch of heat (optional).
Extra virgin olive oil: I love serve this lemon garlic pasta with a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil for flavor, but you can skip it if you wish.
Salt & pepper: usually there’s no need to add extra salt to the butter sauce since the pasta water is already salted. However, make sure you’re happy with the seasoning before serving.
What to serve with this lemon garlic pasta
- Since this pasta is fairly filling, I think that a light side like my carrot salad or lettuce salad would be a great complement.
- If you want to add more protein to the meal, a chickpea salad, cannellini bean salad, or a quick frittata with arugula would be great options for a balanced and meatless meal.
This lemon garlic pasta is best eaten right away, but if you have leftovers you can keep in the fridge for 3 days and you can easily warm it up in a skillet. But I’m not a fan of frozen pasta, and I wouldn’t recommend freezing this one.
If you love quick pasta recipes…
This terrific collection of 13 Super Quick Pasta Recipes ready in less than 15 minutes is for you! But you might also want to check my vegan pastas and Italian pasta recipes or penne pasta recipes for more cooking inspirations!
Below some of my fav quick pasta recipes to inspire you!
- Pasta with artichokes
- Tomato basil pasta
- Creamy tomato pasta
- Mushroom ricotta pasta
- Penne arrabbiata
- Penne with pesto
Lastly, I hope you’ll love this luscious lemon garlic pasta, and if you have any questions, let me know! Leave a comment, send me a message, or rate it. I would love to hear from you!
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Lemon Garlic Pasta
- 8oz (225 grams) Linguine or spaghetti (or your fav pasta shapes)
Lemon Garlic Sauce
- 2 tablespoons (40 grams) unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- ⅛ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
- ¼ cup (60 ml) pasta cooking water
- ¼ cup (30 grams) grated parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (approx juice from ½ lemon)
- 1 lemon zest
- fine salt, to taste
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 10 basil leaves, shredded (optional)
- Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta per packet instructions.
- When the pasta is nearly done reserve ½ cup of pasta cooking water (you need it for the sauce), and stop cooking and drain the pasta when it's al dente.
Lemon garlic sauce
- When the pasta is about 4 minutes away from being done, add the butter to a skillet over medium-high heat. Once it melts, add garlic, chili flakes and cook for about 60 seconds until it's fragrant and smells nice.
- Add only ¼ cup of the reserved hot pasta pasta water (keep the rest aside), then the lemon juice, the zest, grated parmesan and a few grind of freshly ground black pepper. Stir until emulsified and smooth, taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking if needed. Turn the heat off.
- Now the pasta should be ready and al dente, drain add it to the skillet along with the fresh basil leaves. Toss until well combined and juicy, and add an extra touch of hot pasta water if needed.
- Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Enjoy!
Really nice. The lemon really adds a deliciously fresh flavor. Nice spin on a classic dish.
I’m so glad it turned out very nice, Claudia.
Thanks so much for sharing your feedback. x