This Lemon Garlic Pasta is one of the best tasting, easy weeknight pasta dishes loaded with zesty flavor! An easy recipe that combines a few of our favorite things including fresh lemon juice, butter, parmesan cheese, and lots of garlic. Make your taste buds sing with this simple pasta dish.
This garlic lemon pasta is a quick dinner for the whole family, made with a handful of ingredients that you probably have on hand.
❤️Why we love this recipe
- Made with simple, fresh ingredients - This simple pasta recipe is full of big flavor, but it's made with common kitchen staples.
- Perfect for busy weeknights - Don't have much time? Make the perfect weeknight meal in under 25 minutes. It pairs perfectly with many proteins and the simple, yet delicious flavors are loved by everyone.
- Customizable with pasta options - You can use any pasta you like for this recipe so that it fits your diet. This recipe can suit gluten-free, keto or low carb, even dairy free or vegan diets!
Here are the ingredients you'll need for the pasta. You can find full quantities and nutritional information in the recipe card.
- Pasta of choice - You can go with whatever your favorite pasta is, that suits your preferences and dietary needs. We usually use long pasta, like angel hair pasta or linguine, but the pasta shape doesn't really matter. You can use keto-friendly or gluten-free pasta as well if you like! Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.
- Pasta water - Reserve some of the starchy water to help make your sauce later on.
- Fresh garlic - Lots of it! We'd recommend at least 6 or 7 cloves of garlic, but we usually use a whole head of a small garlic bulb.
- Kosher salt & black pepper - Don't be shy, you'll need quite a bit of each. Make sure to add plenty of salt to the pasta water to infuse some more flavor into the dish as the pasta cooks.
- Italian seasoning - A blend of all our favorite dried Italian herbs. This adds another delicious layer of flavor to the dish.
- Red pepper flakes - Optional, but add so much extra flavor. Add to taste. We like spicy so we are a little heavy-handed with it ourselves.
- Unsalted butter & extra virgin olive oil - The mixture of buttery flavor and olive oil is absolutely perfect. Since these make up a lot of the flavor, use the best quality you can find.
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice & lemon zest - This is the bulk of the flavor in this recipe, so use good quality, fresh lemons. Try to use organic lemons if possible since we will be using lots of lemon zest.
- Parmesan cheese - Freshly grated, this helps us create a luscious sauce. Pre-shredded pieces of parmesan will not melt properly, so make sure to grate it fresh when it's time to make your dish.
- Fresh parsley for garnish - Adds a little extra freshness to the pasta.
- Prepare the pasta according to the package instructions. Make sure to set aside at least 2 cups of pasta water!
- Mince garlic.
- Zest and juice the lemons.
- Grate parmesan.
- Chop parsley.
Step 1 - Start the sauce
In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter and add olive oil. Add in the minced garlic, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir frequently to prevent the garlic from burning.
Step 2 - Add lemon juice and zest
After the garlic is fragrant (at about 30 seconds) remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice, zest, some of the black pepper and salt.
Step 3 - Add the cooked pasta
Now, toss in the cooked pasta with some of the pasta water. You will want to use roughly ¼ of a cup at a time. Season with more salt and pepper. Make sure to completely coat the noodles.
Step 4 - Add the finishing touches
Now, add in freshly grated parmesan, parsley, and seasonings to taste.
Step 5 - Toss to combine
Toss to combine. Add more pasta water to thin the sauce if desired.
Step 6 - Serve and enjoy
Serve with more fresh parmesan, parsley, and seasonings to taste. Enjoy while it's nice and hot!
✨Tips & tricks
- Use fresh, high quality ingredients. There are definitely times we think that short cuts in recipes can be just as tasty, but using the freshest and highest quality ingredients you can will make all the difference here. This recipe has very few ingredients, so each one makes a big impact.
- Cook pasta al dente. Make sure to not over cook your pasta! No one likes soggy pasta. Cooking the pasta al dente will make sure it holds up well once the sauce is added.
- Don't forget to heavily salt the water! As mentioned, this is super important to make sure your dish is as flavorful as possible.
- Don't burn the garlic. This recipe is ready very quickly, so don't walk away from the skillet at all. You will need to stir the garlic constantly to ensure it doesn't burn. If it burns, you need to start over with the dish.
✏️Substitutions & variations
The ingredients are pretty straightforward, but here's a few simple swaps you can make. To make this dish suit your diet type, flavor craving, or ingredients you have on hand.
- Dairy free - Use a dairy free or vegan butter and parmesan here if you don't eat any dairy.
- Vegan - Follow the swaps for dairy free, and just make sure you're using a vegan friendly pasta.
- Spicy - Love spice? Add extra red pepper flakes, or even a tablespoon of crushed Calabrian chilis (affiliate link).
- Add protein- Super hungry? Add protein like shrimp, chicken, or salmon!
- Herbed - You can always add more herbs! We love adding fresh basil when we have it, and it makes an excellent addition to this dish.
- Super creamy - If you're looking for something extra creamy, add in some heavy cream to the sauce, or even a little bit of ricotta or mascarpone cheese.
- Gluten free - Use your favorite gluten-free pasta for this recipe, as the rest of the ingredients are naturally gluten free!
- Low carb or keto - Want to make this low carb? No problem. Just use a tasty low carb pasta. We adore this low carb fettuccine! For keto, try this protein packed, plant-based pasta by Kaizen.
- Low carb & gluten free - If you're looking for a low carb AND gluten free option, use shirataki noodles, palmini noodles, or zucchini noodles.
*Note - If using a pasta alternative, you may need to add more parmesan cheese directly to the sauce to help thicken it, as some pasta alternatives lack starch.
💭Frequently asked questions
Pasta al Limone is a classic Italian pasta. It's popular in Sicily (where it's thought to have originated from) and in other regions that produce lots of lemons.
The simple recipe combines pasta with fresh lemon, garlic, butter, olive oil, salt, pepper, and parmesan. The sauce is made creamy without using cream (usually) just by adding pasta water. This helps the sauce come together and stick to the noodles.
Since there are only a few basic ingredients in this recipe, we highly recommend using fresh garlic if possible.
However, you can use garlic powder if that is all you have on hand. One garlic clove is equivalent to ¼ of a teaspoon of garlic powder, so keep this in mind.
The water reserved from the pasta has some starches in it, which helps us to create a silky smooth sauce to coat the noodles.
If you are using an alternative pasta, the texture and starch level may vary, so you may need additional parmesan cheese to help thicken the sauce if your pasta lacks starch.
Yes! If you don't salt the water, the noodles will become bland and flavorless. Use at least 1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt per every pound of pasta. We know it seems like a lot, but since the pasta is only in the water for a few minutes, it needs to make an impact.
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Luckily, this recipe is pretty standard and you really don't need much to make it.
- We love our enameled cast iron skillet, as it's super easy to clean, but you can use any skillet you'd like to bring this dish together.
- If using enameled cast iron, make sure to use silicone or wooden utensils, so you don't scrape the bottom of the pan.
- You'll definitely need a large stock pot for boiling the pasta.
- We use a Microplane to finely grate the parmesan cheese, and zest the lemons.
🥣Storage & reheating
This pasta is most definitely enjoyed fresh, while it's nice and hot. However, it will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. We don't recommend freezing this recipe.
To reheat on the stovetop, we'd recommend adding a little bit of water, and more olive oil or butter with the pasta to your skillet. Move around constantly to prevent any sticking or burning, and remove from the skillet as soon as the noodles are warmed through.
In the microwave, add a few tablespoons of water to the noodles, and reheat in 15-second intervals, stirring in between until the noodles are warmed through.
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Lemon Garlic Pasta
- 12 ounces cooked pasta of choice (any pasta can be used, but regular linguine pasta is used in the nutrition facts)
- 2 cups reserved pasta water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
- 2 lemons juice and zest
- 4 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese (to taste)
- fresh parsley, chopped (optional and to taste)
- Prepare the pasta in salted water according to package instructions. Reserve 2 cups of of pasta water, then set pasta aside.
- In a skillet over medium heat, melt butter and add olive oil. Once the butter is melted, stir in garlic, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Stir constantly for about 1 minute until garlic is fragrant, then remove the skillet from the heat.
- Stir in salt, pepper, fresh lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add the cooked pasta and toss to combine, with about 2 ounces of pasta water, then toss to combine.
- Add freshly grated parmesan, and chopped parsley to the noodles, along with seasoning to taste. Stir in more pasta water until desired consistency is reached. Serve, and enjoy!
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- If the pasta begins to dry out, add small amounts of pasta water and toss the noodles to coat until the sauce becomes silky smooth again.
- Always heavily salt the pasta water to make sure the noodles absorb flavor.
- Cook the pasta al dente.
- Use fresh ingredients whenever possible for this recipe.
- For more substitutions, variations, and diet types, be sure to check the body of the blog post.