This lemon butter garlic pasta is my go-to light and bright pasta dish. It's made with flavorful, fresh ingredients and will have everyone coming back for more. Have this simple pasta dish ready in 10 minutes!
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Quick and easy. This lemon garlic pasta is a homemade twist on Italian pasta limone. It only takes 10 minutes to prepare! Keep this pasta recipe on hand for busy weeknights, fast meal prep, or lazy dinners. Try these other quick and easy pastas, too: Creamy Truffle Pasta, Vegan Gigi Hadid Pasta, Quick Spaghetti Arrabiata, and Vegan Shrimp Scampi.
- Bursting with flavor. Cooking with lemon, garlic, and fresh basil creates the best, light pasta sauce that rivals your favorite restaurant pasta.
- Makes delicious leftovers. This lemon pasta reheats well and can be enjoyed for up to 3 days later.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- lemon - In order to make the freshest tasting lemon butter pasta, it's important to use both lemon juice and lemon zest. Make sure to use fresh lemon juice instead of bottled lemon juice for the best, bright flavor. Bottled lemon juice is watered down and you'll notice the flavor is not right. You need a fresh lemon anyway to get lemon zest, so use the real thing. If you enjoy lemon pasta, try my cold lemon pasta salad.
- garlic - Similar to the lemon juice, using fresh garlic cloves is the best choice. Garlic powder will give your garlic butter pasta a very different flavor profile.
- shallot - Shallots are similar in flavor to onions, but are more mild tasting. I love using them because they don't overpower the lemon pasta sauce. Try shallots in my Easy Gluten Free Tomato Soup and Easy Just Egg Quiche.
- parmesan - Shredded parmesan cheese is the best final touch on this light pasta dish. If you are vegan or dairy free, use dairy free parmesan cheese.
- pasta - Any kind of pasta will work in this recipe, but long pasta noodles like spaghetti, fettuccine and linguine are most popular for light, lemon garlic pasta recipes. If you are gluten free, use gluten free pasta.
Step by Step Instructions
- Start cooking the pasta. In a separate pot, begin cooking the pasta according to package instructions. While the pasta boils, prepare the ingredients needed for your lemon garlic pasta sauce.
- Melt the butter. When the pasta has 5 minutes left to boil, begin preparing the lemon garlic pasta sauce. In a medium or large sized skillet over low heat, melt the butter.
- Sauté the minced garlic and shallots. Once the butter has melted, add in the minced garlic and diced shallot and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until soft and fragrant. Stir frequently to prevent the garlic from burning.
- Add in the red pepper flakes and salt. Mix to combine.
- Reserve 3 tablespoons of pasta water. Before draining the cooked pasta, make sure to set 3 tablespoons of starchy pasta water. Add the pasta water to the lemon butter garlic pasta sauce. This is going to help the lemon garlic sauce stick to the pasta noodles.
- Mix in lemon juice and parmesan cheese. Turn off the heat and stir in the fresh lemon juice and shredded parmesan until evenly incorporated into the sauce.
- Toss in the pasta. Add the cooked and drained pasta to the lemon butter garlic pasta sauce and toss to coat in the sauce.
- Stir in the lemon zest and basil. Finally add in the fresh lemon zest and basil and toss again to combine. If desired, top the lemon garlic pasta with additional parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes.
Storing and Reheating Instructions
- How to store: The lemon garlic pasta sauce and pasta noodles can be stored together or stored separately. Leftovers will last in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Store in an airtight container for optimal freshness.
- How to reheat: Leftovers can be reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave. To heat on the stove, toss the pasta in a medium sized skillet over medium low heat until warmed through. To microwave, cook 1 serving for 45-60 seconds, stirring half way through.
Time Saving Hacks
Nothing is better than making homemade meals quicker and easier with a couple of shortcuts. Here are a few ideas to help you save time in the kitchen:
- Prep the sauce ahead of time. The pasta sauce keeps for up to 3 days, so you can meal prep the lemon butter garlic pasta sauce a couple days ahead of time and only have to cook the pasta at dinnertime.
- Buy pre-peeled garlic. Although I don't recommend buying garlic paste or garlic that has been pre-minced because it is not as flavorful, you can buy pre-peeled garlic cloves to save time.
- Use a garlic press. Mincing garlic with a knife is time consuming. Do yourself a favor and invest in a cheap garlic press and mince the garlic in seconds.
- Use the measurements on the butter wrapper. Butter sticks come wrapped in paper that has measurements printed on the paper. Cut the amount of butter you need using the printed measurements as a guide instead of using a measuring cup.
I do not recommend freezing this pasta. The flavors in the lemon garlic pasta sauce is best prepared fresh and won't be preserved well once frozen. Since preparing the lemon garlic pasta sauce only takes 10 minutes, take the time to make it fresh.
I prefer to use unsalted butter. This allows you to adjust the amount of salt in the lemon garlic pasta sauce to taste. If you are using salted butter, omit the salt and add additional salt to taste, if preferred.
When cooking ½ pound or 8 ounces of pasta, salt the water with about ½ tablespoon of salt. This is going to help add flavor to your pasta and is absorbed into the noodles as they cook. Adjust these measurements for more or less pasta.
- Use enough garlic. Make sure to use at least 1 ½ tablespoons of garlic cloves. It adds a ton of flavor to the garlic butter pasta sauce and is essential for the best flavor.
- Keep the heat on low. Be sure your skillet is not too hot or it will burn the garlic and cook off the butter. Air on the side of caution if your stovetop runs hot and lower the temperature.
More Quick and Simple Dinners to Try
10 minute Lemon Butter Garlic Pasta Sauce
- 3 tbsp lemon juice fresh
- ½ tbsp lemon zest
- ¼ cup butter block
- 4-6 Garlic cloves finely minced, appox 1.5 tbsp
- 2 ½ tbsp Shallot diced
- ¼ tsp salt omit if using salted butter
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- 2-3 tbsp basil chopped
- ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese plus more for topping (use vegan for DF+V)
- 3 tbsp reserved pasta water
- ½ lb pasta any type
- Cook your choice of pasta according to the package directions. While it is cooking, prepare all of your ingredients. When the pasta has about 5 minutes left, begin making the sauce.
- Heat a medium to large size skillet over low heat and add in the butter.
- Once the butter has melted, add the minced garlic + shallot. Mix both into the melted butter and cook until fragrant. This will likely take 2-3 minutes.
- Once fragrant, add the red pepper flakes and salt and mix. The mixture should be lose and liquid-like.
- Once the pasta is done cooking, reserve 3 tbsp of the pasta water and mix the reserved water into the garlic butter sauce in the skillet.
- Turn off the burner, and add in the lemon juice and parmesan, mixing it into the sauce.
- Add in the pasta and toss until it is fully coated in the sauce.
- Add in the lemon zest and basil then mix again. Option to garnish with more parmesan and red pepper flakes.
- Be sure your skillet is not too hot or it will burn the garlic and cook off the butter. Air on the side of caution if your stovetop runs hot and lower the temperature.
- Mince your garlic, do not chop it. Mincing will allow a stronger flavor.
- I recommend using block butter for this recipe. You can use vegan, and if you are not DF or V, you may use regular butter.
- Fresh squeeze lemon just will provide the best flavor.
- This sauce pairs well with any type of pasta.
- This sauce (with or without the pasta) can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Because it is butter based, it will harden. That is OK. It will melt once heated.
- I recommend gently heating it in a skillet or for 45-60 seconds in the microwave, stirring it after 15 seconds.
- If you are reheating the sauce with pasta + notice the pasta is dry, drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil on top. If you heat the sauce with pasta in the microwave, place a damp paper towel over the top of the microwave safe container and gently heat it for 2-3 minutes, mixing it every 45 seconds.
- I do not recommend freezing this sauce.
- Because this sauce will keep for up to 3 days and easily re-heats, prep the sauce ahead of time then re-heat during the week for a delicious pasta meals.
- Use a garlic mincing to save time rather than doing it by hand. I do not recommend using pre-minced garlic because it is less potent, but you can use pre-peeled garlic.
- Use the measurements on the butter wrapper to cut ¼ off rather than measuring. 4 tbsps = ¼ cup.