January 23, 2023| By

Lemon Garlic Pasta

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
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Need a quick dinner recipe that's easy and delicious? This easy recipe for lemon garlic pasta comes together in 20 minutes and only requires a few simple ingredients! It's my favorite pasta recipe to make on weeknights for a quick meal that's light and full of flavor.

For more easy pasta recipes, try my creamy salmon pasta and creamy tomato pasta with spinach!

lemon garlic pasta in a bowl with lemons, basil, and chopped parsley on top.
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You're gonna love this easy lemon garlic pasta recipe! The lemon garlic butter sauce coats every noodle like a warm hug. Every bite is full of bright lemon flavor and a creamy garlic sauce that is so light and fragrant.

I love making this dish on weeknights where I want something delicious but don't feel like doing a lot of cooking. Sometimes I even make it fancy by adding some cherry tomatoes or leftover roasted garlic if I have any on hand.

This lemon pasta recipe is a lot like the Italian dish, Pasta al limone, except this dish uses shallots and fresh herbs to really pack the flavor into the garlic cream sauce.

The best part about this simple pasta dish is that it serves well as a great side dish or main dish. Serve with garlic bread for a meal that the entire family will be begging you to make again and again!

Let's make this delicious recipe for dinner, I'll show you step-by-step so that you can have dinner ready in no time!

Why You'll Love Lemon Garlic Pasta

  • Super simple pasta recipe! This meal comes together in 20 minutes and only requires 9 ingredients!
  • Full of flavor! This dish is bursting with lemon and garlic flavor, making it so bright and refreshingly delicious!
  • Make it your own! You can customize this and add (or substract) whatever you like to fit your palate.

Ingredients

ingredients to make lemon garlic pasta - spaghetti, garlic, shallots, lemon zest, heavy cream, red pepper flakes, parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil, butter, and parsley.
  • Shallots - I used shallots because they have a subtle yet sweet onion flavor that compliments this dish so well. If you don't have shallots, you can use a yellow onion or the white part of a green onion/scallion.
  • Fresh Garlic cloves - be sure to dice your garlic as finely as possible to release all of the flavor! You can also use minced garlic here too.
  • Lemon zest - lemon zest has tons of lemony flavor and really brightens this dish.
  • Fresh lemon juice - try to use fresh lemon juice as fresh ingredients have more flavor and nutrients!
  • Heavy Cream - this will provide the basis of the sauce and adds a delicious creamy texture.
  • Parmesan - freshly grated is my favorite but if you only have the pre-shredded kind, that works too!
  • Fresh parsley - fresh herbs makes the creamy sauce taste even better. Pro tip - top with fresh basil for extra flavor.
  • Red pepper flakes - to add just a touch of heat to the buttery lemon garlic sauce.
  • Pasta - you can use spaghetti, angel hair pasta, bucatini - any long pasta noodles work for this recipe.

Substitutions

a bowl of lemon garlic pasta on top of a serving board.
  • Gluten free - use gluten-free pasta instead to fit your dietary needs.
  • Vegan / Dairy free - use vegan heavy cream, cashew milk, or full fat canned coconut milk to replace the heavy cream and vegan butter instead of butter. You'll also want to use nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan cheese to replace the parmesan cheese used in this lemon spaghetti.

Variations

One of my favorite things about this lemon parmesan pasta is that you can add whatever you'd like to make this dish your own! Here are some of my recommendations:

  • Proteins: top your pasta with some shrimp, chicken, bacon for added protein.
  • Veggies: fresh spinach, sauteed broccoli, peas, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and any summer vegetables pair exceptionally well with this light pasta dish.
  • Fresh herbs: I always add fresh basil on top but you can also add thyme or rosemary to the sauce for added flavor.

Tips

  • Add parsley last! Do not add fresh parsley until the end as the heat will cause it to wilt.
  • Fresh is best! Try to use fresh ingredients for this dish to get the most flavor!
  • Save about a cup of starchy pasta water to thin the sauce if you'd like. This is up to your preference and you do not need to do this, but I always like to add this as some people prefer a thinner pasta sauce.

How to make Lemon Garlic Pasta

lemon garlic pasta in a bowl with sliced lemons and fresh basil on top.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta noodles and cook until al dente, according to package instructions.
  • While the pasta cooks, makes the lemon garlic pasta sauce. Add a little extra virgin olive oil and butter to a large skillet. Warm over medium heat and add the shallots. Season with salt and black pepper and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add diced garlic and lemon zest. Continue to cook for another 2 minutes. For thicker sauce, cook for 1-2 minutes longer.
shallots, garlic, and lemon zest sauteed in a large skillet.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low and add heavy cream and red pepper flakes to pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add lemon juice and freshly grated parmesan cheese and stir together until the cheese is melted. Remove from the heat and stir in fresh chopped parsley. For a thinner sauce, add a ½ cup of pasta water and stir into the noodles.
lemon garlic pasta sauce in a skillet with lemon juice and fresh parsley.
  • Add drained cooked pasta to the sauce and add a dusting of parmesan cheese on top.
spaghetti noodles added to a large skillet with lemon garlic sauce.

How to Store and Reheat

  • Storing: store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days. I don't recommend freezing this dish as the cream may separate upon reheating.
  • Reheating: microwave in a microwave safe bowl until warm. You can also add to a skillet over medium heat with a splash of water until the pasta and sauce are completely warmed throughout.

More Pasta Recipes

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lemon garlic pasta in a bowl with a fork and sliced lemons on top.

Lemon Garlic Pasta

This easy recipe for lemon garlic pasta comes together in 20 minutes and only requires a few simple ingredients, perfect for weeknights!
Serving: 6
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 25 mins
Calories: 529kcal

Equipment

  • Pot
  • Large Skillet

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Spaghetti (or any long shaped pasta)
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil 
  • 2 tbsps Salted Butter
  • 2 Shallots (diced)
  • 3 cloves Garlic (diced)
  • 2 tbsps Lemon Zest
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • ½ tsp Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 cup Parmesan (freshly grated)
  • ¼ cup Lemon Juice
  • 3 tbsps Fresh Parsley

Directions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta noodles and cook until al dente, according to package instructions.
  • While the pasta cooks, makes the lemon garlic pasta sauce. Add a extra virgin olive oil and butter to a large skillet. Warm over medium heat and add the shallots. Season with salt and black pepper and cook until fragrant and translucent, about 5 minutes. Then add diced garlic and lemon zest. Continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to medium low and add heavy cream and red pepper flakes to pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add lemon juice and freshly grated parmesan cheese and stir together until the cheese is melted. For thicker sauce, cook for 1-2 minutes longer. For a thinner sauce, add a ½ cup of pasta water and stir into the noodles.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in fresh chopped parsley. Optional: add a ½ cup of pasta water to thin the sauce.
  • Add drained cooked pasta to the sauce and add a dusting of parmesan cheese on top.

Notes

Substitutions
  • Gluten free - use gluten free pasta instead to fit your dietary needs.
  • Vegan / Dairy free - use vegan heavy cream, cashew milk, or full fat canned coconut milk to replace the heavy cream and vegan butter instead of butter. You'll also want to use nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan cheese to replace the parmesan cheese used in this lemon spaghetti.
Variations
One of my favorite things about this lemon parmesan pasta is that you can add whatever you'd like to make this dish your own! Here are some of my recommendations:
  • Proteins: top your pasta with some shrimp, chicken, bacon for added protein.
  • Veggies: fresh spinach, sauteed broccoli, peas, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and any summer vegetables pair exceptionally well with this light pasta dish.
  • Fresh herbs: I always add fresh basil on top but you can also add thyme or rosemary to the sauce for added flavor.
Tips
  • Add parsley last! Do not add fresh parsley until the end as the heat will cause it to wilt.
  • Fresh is best! Try to use fresh ingredients for this dish to get the most flavor!
  • Save about a cup of starchy pasta water to thin the sauce if you'd like. This is up to your preference and you do not need to do this, but I always like to add this as some people prefer a thinner pasta sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 529kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 66mg | Sodium: 338mg | Potassium: 285mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1055IU | Vitamin C: 11mg | Calcium: 254mg | Iron: 1mg
Course: Dinner, Lunch, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Italian, Italian Inspired

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