Classic lemon pasta (“pasta al limone” in Italian) is one of the easiest dishes you can make in 20 minutes and guaranteed to become a lemony, buttery, amply cheesy repeat favorite!
Lemon pasta is a light, vibrant, quick and easy dinner you can have on your table in 20 minutes flat! It’s silky, peppery, garlicky, herbaceous, singing with bold, lemon tanginess punctuated by rich, salty Pecorino Romano. Enjoy the lemon spaghetti in its simplicity, or add protein or veggies. Serve this recipe with garlic bread and Caesar salad for the perfect weeknight dinner that tastes like a million bucks!
We love quick cooking pasta dishes for an easy weeknight dinner win. Don’t miss some of our favorites: Pesto Pasta, Pasta Carbonara, Fettuccine Alfredo, Cacio e Pepe, Bacon Spaghetti, Homemade Mac and Cheese, Weeknight Spaghetti Bolognese and Blackened Chicken Alfredo.
HOW TO MAKE Lemon Pasta VIDEo
Lemon spaghetti Ingredients
This is a quick and easy pasta recipe that’s flavored with layers of acid, aromatics, herbs and heat. The bright lemon is complemented by a few non-traditional additions of fresh herbs and salty capers which elevate this to quite possible the best lemon pasta recipe. But we’ll let your taste buds be the judge of that. Here’s what you’ll need to make lemon spaghetti:
How to Make Lemon Pasta
This lemon pasta recipe is as simple as tossing the pasta in a lemon butter sauce punched up with loads of garlic, freshly cracked pepper, crushed red pepper and capers. Then, add the lemon juice, lemon zest, starchy pasta water, fold in the pasta and fresh herbs and shower the dish with loads of salty, nutty Pecorino Romano.
Here’s a step-step look at how the lemon pasta is made (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):
- Step 1: Cook the spaghetti. You’ll cook the pasta in less water than usual because we want the water to be very starchy, which will make the sauce thick and glossy. Cook the pasta until almost al dente – you want your pasta to still have some bite to it! Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta (do not rinse the pasta – we want all of the starch).
- Step 2: Sauté the aromatics. While the pasta is cooking, add the butter, olive oil, capers, garlic, red pepper flakes and freshly cracked pepper to a large pan (I use my favorite braiser). Cook just until fragrant and then remove from the heat. This “blooms” the pepper and deepens the flavor.
- Step 3: Make the lemon pasta sauce. Once the pasta has been drained, return the garlic mixture to medium heat. Whisk in ⅓ cup of the reserved pasta water, as well as the lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano, and salt.
- Step 4: Assemble the pasta. Add the drained pasta, basil, parsley, and cheese. Toss to coat, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is cooked to al dente.
- Step 5: Garnish and serve. Remove the pasta from the heat and garnish with freshly grated cheese just before serving.
Tips for MAking the Best Lemon Pasta Recipe
This is a very simple recipe, so it’s important to pay attention to a few key details:
Tools Used in This Recipe
Save This Recipe To Your Recipe Box
You can now create an account on our site and save your favorite recipes all in one place!
- 16 ounces spaghetti
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
- 1/3 cup drained capers
- 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 40 turns freshly cracked pepper
- zest and juice from 2 lemons (about ⅓ cup juice)
- 1/2 tsp EACH salt, dried oregano
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced (may sub 1 tsp dried)
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, minced (may sub 1 tsp dried)
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (may sub Parmesan)
- Add roughly 2 quarts water (8 cups) to a large Dutch oven (or stockpot wide enough to fit spaghetti). The water will be very shallow because we want it to be very starchy. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover and stir in 1 tablespoon salt then add the spaghetti.
- Cook spaghetti, uncovered, until almost al dente (it will finish cooking in the sauce), stirring often. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the pasta (do not rinse the pasta – we want all of the starch).
- Meanwhile, heat a large braiser (this is the exact one I use), or saucepan, over medium heat. Add the olive oil, butter, capers, garlic, red pepper flakes and freshly cracked pepper. Cook for a couple minutes, until very fragrant. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice, lemon zest, oregano and salt.
- Once the pasta is cooked drained, return the garlic lemon mixture to medium heat. Whisk in ⅓ cup reserved pasta water,
- Add the drained pasta, basil, parsley and cheese. Toss to coat, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is cooked al dente, adding additional reserved pasta water ¼ cup at a time as needed to moisten.
- Remove from heat and garnish with additional freshly grated cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
- Lemons: can be zested and juiced up to 3 days in advance. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cheese: can be grated and stored in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
- Fresh Herbs: can be chopped and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to one day ahead of time.
How to Store and ReheatYou may need to add a splash of water if the pasta seems dry or for extra decadence, add additional butter. The lemon flavor will mellow some, so you may want to add a splash of lemon juice.
- Storage: Store leftover pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days.
- Microwave: Microwave small portions for 1 minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30-second intervals until warmed through.
- Stove: For larger portions, reheat pasta gently on the stove over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
Did You Make This Recipe?
Tag @CarlsbadCravings and Use #CarlsbadCravngs
Leave a Review, I Always Love Hearing From You!