Lemon garlic pasta is a simple pasta dish that's perfect for busy weeknights. Lemon zest, sauteed garlic, and parmesan cheese add big flavor to this 20 minute meal.
Looking for more quick dinner ideas? If you love making simple pasta recipes like spaghetti aglio e olio, you'll want to give this version a try. Lemon garlic pasta is made with just a handful of ingredients and can be ready in about 20 minutes!
First, you'll cook your favorite pasta to al dente - I used fettuccine, but spaghetti or linguine make great alternatives. Then, you'll toss the pasta in sauteed garlic and olive oil, a little pasta water, plus lemon zest and juice. Top it off with fresh parsley and parmesan cheese and it's ready to serve.
Make a batch of lemon garlic pasta for a quick weeknight meal or lunch. It pairs well with a side salad and some garlic bread, or your favorite protein.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Pasta - Feel free to use your favorite pasta shape in this recipe. Long pasta works best. I used fettuccine because it's what I had on hand, but spaghetti, linguine, or angel hair are other great choices.
- Olive oil - Used to sauté the garlic and coat the pasta. I recommend using a quality olive oil (or other cooking oil) with a flavor you enjoy. Since we're using so few ingredients in this recipe, it's important that they're flavorful and good quality.
- Garlic - Adds flavor to your pasta dish. I do not recommend omitting the garlic as it's a main ingredient in this recipe.
- Lemon - We'll be zesting and juicing one lemon for this recipe. Lemon adds a bright, fresh citrus flavor to your pasta.
- Salt and pepper - Enhance the flavor of your pasta.
- Parsley - Adds a touch of color to your pasta dish as well as a mild, peppery flavor.
- Parmesan cheese - I highly recommend grating your parmesan cheese fresh from a block instead of using pre-grated cheese (especially parmesan-style cheese from a green canister). Pre-shredded cheeses can clump up and add a grainy texture to your dish.
Reserving pasta water
This recipe calls for a bit of reserved pasta water to add in a later step. Why? Pasta water contains leftover starches and salt after your pasta has finished cooking. Adding this water to your pasta creates a silky, creamy texture and also adds a bit of flavor.
To reserve pasta water, wait until your pasta is cooked to al dente. Carefully ladle out a cup of pasta water and transfer to a liquid measuring cup before draining your pasta. Or, use tongs or a pasta fork to remove the pasta from the water, then ladle out as much pasta water as you'd like.
Chicken - Add a handful of shredded rotisserie chicken or sliced sauteed chicken breast.
Shrimp - Add garlic butter shrimp or grilled shrimp.
Butter - Add a tablespoon or two of butter to your pasta with the lemon zest for extra creaminess and flavor.
Red pepper flakes - Add a pinch of red pepper flakes while sautéing your garlic for a hint of heat.
Fresh herbs - Add more fresh herbs along with the parsley, like basil and chives.
Steamed veggies - This is the perfect dish to toss in some steamed veggies like broccoli or asparagus.
What to serve with lemon garlic pasta
Want to serve lemon garlic pasta as a side dish or as part of a light lunch? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Garlic butter shrimp
- Strawberry walnut salad
- Grilled lemon pepper chicken
- Grilled broccolini
- Baked parmesan crusted chicken tenders
- Freezer garlic bread
Lemon Garlic Pasta
- 12 ounces dried pasta, like spaghetti or fettuccine
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, slivered
- ½ cup pasta water
- 1 lemon, juiced and zested
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions. Reserve at least ½ cup of the pasta water and set aside for a later step.
- Meanwhile, add olive oil to a sauté pan over medium heat. Add slivered garlic and cook until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add cooked pasta and reserved pasta water to pan and toss pasta until it looks creamy and coated. Remove from heat.
- Add lemon zest, juice, parsley, salt, and pepper. Toss pasta until evenly combined.
- Transfer pasta to serving plates, top with parmesan cheese, and serve.
- Leftover pasta will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days in a tightly sealed container. Leftovers can be served cold or warm. Emulsified sauce may break upon reheating.
- Variations: add cooked shrimp, chicken, butter, fresh herbs like basil and chives, or steamed veggies to your pasta as desired.
- I do not recommend tossing the cheese into the pasta because the acidity of the lemon can cause it to clump.
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