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:

Get This Recipe In Your Inbox
Share your email, and we'll send it straight to your inbox. Plus, enjoy daily doses of recipe inspiration as a bonus!

Lemon Pasta

rate this recipe:
4.96 from 21 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Serves 2
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.

Equipment

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.

23 comments

4.96 from 21 votes (11 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rate this recipe (after making it)




  1. Kath
    07.07.2024

    5 stars
    I served this yesterday to my family along with cesar salad, asparagus, and garlic bread. It was easy to accommodate my sister who is vegetarian& no butter, making hers first. For the rest of us I added the butter plus sous vide chicken. My mother loved it and couldn’t stop complimenting me! My daughter, who tells me she doesn’t like leftovers, took some home with her! Definitely a go-to in my book!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      07.12.2024

      Hi Kath, that sounds like a fabulous meal! I’m so glad the pasta was a hit.

  2. Veronica Cain
    06.27.2024

    5 stars
    Oh my gosh, this is an amazing combination of flavors. I’ve never cooked with pasta water, but it made an amazing base. I also added spinach and blanched asparagus and chicken. Thank you for the recipe!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      06.28.2024

      Hi Veronica, yes, pasta water is such a game changer! I bet this recipe was delicious with those add-ins.

  3. Ashley
    06.24.2024

    5 stars
    So good! Perfect pasta for summer & so easy! I’m a lemon lover and, as a purest, this is excellent as is. However, I think this would be just as good with asparagus, shrimp, or baby kale. This is a permanent addition to my summer meal rotation.

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.25.2024

      Hi Ashley, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I love the idea of those additions too.

  4. Noah F.
    06.20.2024

    I’m new to cooking. If I wanted to make the full 16 oz box of pasta, would I just double the ingredients?

  5. Edith
    06.12.2024

    4 stars
    We enjoyed this very much, even my husband, who doesn’t like lemon, said it was a keeper. Next time I think I’ll add some asparagus or spinach, or even peas – it’s too monochromatic. Other than that – very good! Thank you.

  6. JackieY
    06.10.2024

    5 stars
    Prepared with sautéed shrimp and asparagus for lunch today. Delicious!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      06.13.2024

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  7. Megan
    05.21.2024

    5 stars
    So delicious! I made with chicken cutlets and peas 🤩

  8. Julia
    05.16.2024

    5 stars
    This was so delicious! Very quick too. Served it with a big salad.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      05.17.2024

      Hi Julia, I’m so glad you loved the pasta!

  9. Lynn
    05.05.2024

    5 stars
    My family loves this! We add shrimp. So delicious!

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      05.10.2024

      Hi Lynn, I’m so glad it’s a hit!

  10. Ria
    04.24.2024

    5 stars
    So delicious! I made it with Cajun shrimp.
    Thank you.

  11. JohnEPdx
    04.19.2024

    Getta good zester Frank! Bake a tenderloin and blackened asparagus and all on the table in under 30. Nice to add some very thin sweet pepper strips to the butter, or jalapeno if you want spicy.

  12. Diana Thornton
    04.08.2024

    5 stars
    Another home run! Made this for my husband and I. I added sundried tomatoes, chopped mushrooms, capers, green oinions, chopped spinach, dried oregano and basil. I used gluten-free spaghetti noodles as well. Really tasty and satisfying. Adding this to our rotation for meatless Monday😉

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.20.2024

      Hi Diana, I’m so glad you both enjoyed it!

  13. ITA
    04.05.2024

    PASTA MUY SABROSA, EL SABOR CITRICO RESALTA EN EL CONSUMO DE LA PREPARACION.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)
      04.05.2024

      So glad you enjoyed the recipe!

  14. Sabrina from newkitchenlife.com
    04.02.2024

    love it and love lemon flavored everything, pasta included, simple pasta recipes are always the best, thank you

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.