Easy Lemon Garlic Pasta (Pasta al Limone)

Lemon garlic butter pasta is a simple, fuss-free, and amazingly delectable zesty dish. It only needs five ingredients and 15 minutes to prepare. Enjoy this pasta dish as a side, or add veggies and protein to make it a meal.

Cooked pasta rolled into nests.

This is for you if you love an easy lemon garlic pasta recipe! It’s made in 15 minutes and then topped with shredded parmesan cheese, parsley, or red pepper flakes for a spicy dish.

Though it might sound like a summer dish, lemon garlic pasta is enjoyed all year round; for a light and refreshing summer meal, pair it with rose water lemonade and Turkish Shephard salad; it’s the best of simple summer Mediterranean recipes.

Hand squeezing grilled lemon on pasta.

Recipe Snapshot

EASE: Super Easy
CUISINE: Italian
COURSE: Side Dish (I eat it as a main dish too!)
TIME: 15 Minutes

What Is Pasta Al Limone?

Originating in Sicily, Pasta al Limone is a classic Italian simple pasta dish that combines long pasta noodles with butter, lemon, parmesan cheese, and garlic. This easy recipe proves delicious food can be made with simple ingredients.

The secret to making the perfect lemon garlic butter sauce is adding starchy pasta water to create a cream sauce, which clings to the noodles and adds flavor. 

This recipe is perfect as a side dish or a light dinner. It can also be topped with tofu, shrimp, scallops, salmon, or chicken and made into a meal.

Ingredients

Ingredients used to make the recipe.
  • Pasta – Angel hair, spaghetti, or other long pasta: I love using thin or angel hair pasta; nevertheless, any long noodle will work. The lemon garlic pasta sauce works best in a longer shape than a round shape. Substitute with keto-friendly or gluten-free pasta for easy diet modification.
  • Butter – Use traditional butter or plant-based butter. My recipe was made with plant-based butter to keep the recipe vegan.
  • Garlic – I recommend using a minimum of five cloves. For extra flavor, use roasted garlic!
  • Lemon – If you prefer more lemon, you can adjust the amount of juice. I always add extra.
  • Cheese: Use traditional parmesan or vegan parmesan. For vegans, I recommend the “Follow Your Heart” brand. The cheese is perfect when the container is freshly opened.
Pasta noodles in a pot.
The number 1 with a circle around it.

Prepare the Pasta

  • Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1 pound (450g) of pasta and cook until just shy of al dente.
  • Reserve about 1 cup (240ml) of pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.
The number 2 with a circle around it.

Make the Lemon Garlic Sauce

  • While the pasta is cooking, melt five tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Once the butter begins to foam, reduce heat to low.
  • Add the zest and juice of 1 lemon and five minced garlic cloves to the skillet.
  • Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
Noodles being added to sauce.
The number 3 with a circle around it.

Combine Ingredients and Garnish

  • Pour 1 cup of the reserved pasta water into the skillet with the butter mixture and stir to combine.
  • Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss to coat it evenly with the sauce.
  • Sprinkle ½ cups (50g) of grated cheese over the pasta and toss vigorously until the sauce thickens.
  • Add more reserved pasta water for a creamy consistency if the sauce becomes too thick or dry.
  • Adjust the flavor with additional lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Garnish as desired. (See garnish suggestions)

Garnish and Topping Suggestions

Below are some of my favorite garnishes and toppings with this recipe.

  • Asparagus: Topped with asparagus makes for the perfect springtime pasta dish!
  • Crushed red pepper: To add a touch of spice!
  • Fresh Parsley: A sprinkle of parsley adds a fresh herb flavor/.
  • Mediterranean flavors – I like to add kalamata olives, capers, artichoke hearts, and/or roasted red peppers to give this dish a strong Mediterranean flair!
  • Peas – Peas work perfectly with this dish to add flavor and texture.

For more topping ideas, check out this Reddit thread on what to eat with lemon pasta.

Pairings Suggestions

Hand squeezing grilled lemon on pasta.

Frequently Asked Questions

The water from the pasta is reserved to add flavor and starchy thickness to the sauce. If your pasta with lemon sauce lacks starch, add parmesan cheese to help thicken the sauce.

Yes, you can substitute garlic powder for fresh garlic. One garlic clove equals ¼ of a teaspoon of garlic powder.

If you have leftovers, use an airtight container and store them in the refrigerator for up to five days. Freezing lemon garlic pasta is not recommended. 

Bowl of garnished pasta.

Easy Lemon Garlic Pasta (Pasta al Limone)

Lemon garlic butter pasta is a simple, fuss-free, and amazingly delectable zesty dish. You only need five ingredients and 15 minutes. Enjoy this pasta dish as a side, or add veggies and protein to make it a meal.
5 from 1 vote
Print Rate
Course: All Day, Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 5 people
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Equipment

  • 1 microplane
  • 1 cheese grater
  • 1 large skillet
  • 1 tongs
  • 1 large pot

Ingredients

  • 1 pound 450g pasta (options: angel hair, thin spaghetti, or spaghetti)
  • 5 tablespoons butter or plant-based butter
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • ½ cup 50g grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or plant-based Parmesan
  • Optional garnishes: parsley basil, and/or pine nuts

Instructions

Prepare the Pasta:

  • Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add 1 pound (450g) of pasta and cook until just shy of al dente.
  • Reserve about 1 cup (240ml) of pasta water, then drain the pasta and set aside.

Make the Lemon Sauce:

  • While the pasta is cooking, melt 5 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter begins to foam, reduce heat to low.
  • Add the zest and juice of 1 lemon, along with 5 minced garlic cloves to the skillet. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove from heat.

Combine:

  • Pour 1 cup of the reserved pasta water into the skillet with the butter mixture and stir to combine.
  • Add the drained pasta to the skillet and toss to evenly coat with the sauce.
  • Sprinkle ½ cup (50g) of grated cheese over the pasta and toss vigorously until the sauce thickens. If the sauce becomes too thick or dry, gradually add more reserved pasta water to achieve a creamy consistency.

Garnish and Serve:

  • Adjust the flavor with additional lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve the pasta topped with your choice of parsley, basil, or pine nuts as garnishes.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Easy Lemon Garlic Pasta (Pasta al Limone)
Amount per Serving
Calories
 
481
Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
15
g
23
%
Cholesterol
 
37
mg
12
%
Sodium
 
256
mg
11
%
Carbohydrates
 
69
g
23
%
Fiber
 
3
g
13
%
Sugar
 
3
g
3
%
Protein
 
16
g
32
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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