Luscious creamy lemon garlic butter pasta with its fresh citrusy flavour is so easy to make and a perfect under 20 minutes dinner recipe. It is vegetarian, has no cream and can easily be made vegan.
The flavours may sound simple to you but you will be surprised how tasty the pasta turns out once you actually try it. Though it is a perfect summer recipe with its zesty bright notes but you can even enjoy it on days when you don’t want to have a heavy meal or are bored of tomato based pasta sauces.
I got inspired to make this pasta after tasting ‘Pasta al Limone‘ which is authentic Italian Lemon Pasta. I loved the way it tasted so refreshingly different, zesty, creamy yet not overtly heavy on palate. On coming back home, I tried making it but did a little change by adding some garlic and chilli flakes to it.
The lemon garlic butter sauce pasta recipe shared here is:
- Vegetarian / Vegan
- Quick and easy dinner idea
- Made without adding cream or flour in sauce
- Requires minimal effort and just handful of ingredients
The pepper, lemon zest and garlic are first sautéed in butter and olive oil. This way the fat becomes a carrier of all these flavours which then later emulsifies with starchy pasta water to give a thick sauce. This sauce along with parmesan coats each strand of pasta perfectly, giving a burst of flavour in every bite.
Lemon Butter Pasta Ingredients:
Pasta: Long pasta like spargetti, fettuccini, linguini or pappardelle pairs best with oil based sauces. If you want to keep the recipe gluten free, then use any gluten free pasta variety.
Lemons: As lemon flavour is the highlight of this dish, pick fresh firm spotless lemons. We will extract both lemon zest and lemon juice to make the pasta sauce.
Butter: It make the sauce rich, smooth and creamy. I have used salted butter here but if you are using unsalted butter adjust the amount of salt as per your taste. For vegan lemon pasta, use dairy free butter or make the recipe in olive oil only.
Garlic: Fresh minced garlic gives the best flavour to the sauce. You can adjust its amount as per your liking.
Seasoning: The sauce is seasoned with freshly ground black pepper, chilli flakes, garlic cloves and salt. I love the spiciness of chilli flakes with lemon flavour but you can skip it also.
Olive Oil: Use good quality extra virgin olive oil as it adds lovely flavour, aroma to the sauce and prevents the butter from burning (by increasing it smoke point).
Parmesan: Parmesan cheese instantly lifts the taste of this lemon garlic pasta by its sharp, nutty and slightly salty taste. If you are making vegan pasta, use vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast to get the cheesy flavour.
Herbs: The addition of herbs like basil, parsley or mint adds so much of freshness to the pasta and compliments the citrusy zesty taste of lemons.
The starchy pasta water (left after boiling the pasta) is the secret ingredient that binds the sauce and pasta together. If you want creamier texture in sauce, you can add heavy cream, coconut milk or cashew cream (I have not added any).
To make cashew cream soak 1/4 cup cashews in 1/2 cup warm water for 10-15 minutes and then blend well. As cashews absorb more water while cooking you might have to add some more ‘pasta water’ while cooking the pasta.
You can easily customise the pasta by adding veggies or protein of your choice like broccoli, peas, zucchini, spinach or asparagus etc. Sharing few variation ideas;
Lemon Caper Pasta: Capers are known to have salty, briny and slightly sour taste like lemons. Add 1-2 tbsp of capers when you are sautéing garlic pepper in butter.
Lemon Spinach Pasta: Handful of baby spinach (or kale) goes well in this recipe. Add them when you are adding pasta to the lemon sauce. They will gradually wilt when you are tossing the pasta in sauce.
Lemon Mushroom Pasta: First sauté the mushroom in olive oil in a pan and keep them aside. Then in the same pan you can proceed with the recipe as it is. Add these sautéed mushrooms when you are tossing pasta in lemon garlic sauce.
Lemon Pesto Pasta: Add 2-3 tbsp of pesto to add earthy, nutty flavour to this lemon garlic pasta.
Lemon Feta Pasta: Feta with its tangy salty flavour is perfect to accompany bold lemony flavour. Sprinkle some crumbled feta over the pasta before serving.
More vegetarian pasta recipes:
- Penne Arrabiata
- Cottage Cheese Pasta
- Béchamel Sauce Pasta
- Macaroni Salad (no mayo)
- Baked Feta Pasta (air fryer)
- Lemon Vegetable Orzo Soup
Ingredients: (For 2-3 servings)
- Pasta (Spaghetti)- 200 gms (7 oz.)
- Butter (Salted) / Vegan Butter- 2 tbsp
- Olive Oil (extra virgin)- 1 tbsp
- Garlic (minced)- 2 to 3 cloves
- Lemon zest- 2 tsp
- Lemon juice- 1/4 cup
- Chilli Flakes- 1/4 tsp (optional)
- Crushed Black Pepper- 1/2 tsp
- Parmesan cheese (grated)- 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup (1 oz.)
- Water- for boiling pasta
- Salt- to taste
- Fresh Basil / Parsley (finely chopped) – 3 tbsp
(If you want to make this recipe vegan or dairy free, use vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast for cheesy flavour and replace butter with vegan butter or olive oil.)
Boil water in a pot and add 1 tsp salt to it. When the water comes to rolling boil, add pasta & cook it for 1-2 minutes less than mentioned in packet instructions. Do not overcook the pasta as we will cook it little bit more in sauce later. Drain it and reserve 3/4 cup pasta water aside.
While the pasta is boiling, you can do the prep. Mince the garlic. Scrape the lemon peel using a grater (or zester) to get lemon zest. Make sure not to grate the white part (pith) as it is bitter in taste. Juice the lemon after this.
Melt butter in a pan and add olive oil to it. Add minced garlic, chilli flakes, crushed black pepper, lemon zest and mix well. Let them cook in oil for 40-45 seconds. Keep the flame to medium low as we don’t want to burn the garlic.
Add 1/2 cup reserved pasta water, lemon juice and mix well. Add 1/8 tsp salt or more as per your taste (note butter and pasta water already has salt). Cook for a minute.
Add boiled pasta to this sauce along with parmesan. Keep the flame to low. Toss gently or mix with the help of a kitchen tong and cook for 1-2 minutes (add more pasta water if required). Sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley or basil towards the end.
Garnish with more parmesan cheese, lemon zest or chilli flakes and serve it straightaway. Enjoy delicious lemony garlic pasta.
How to store and reheat leftover pasta?
This lemon garlic pasta tastes best when fresh but if you still have some leftovers, store them in an airtight container in fridge for 2-3 days. To reheat, add a splash of water or reserved pasta water and heat in microwave or in a pan on stovetop.
1. If you want to make this pasta more creamy, add 2-3 tbsp heavy cream or coconut milk in the sauce just before adding pasta. Don’t heat the cream too much to avoid it from splitting.
3. Choose a large size pan for making this pasta as it helps in tossing or mixing the pasta with sauce.
4. If you are not going to add pasta straight away to the lemon sauce, then rinse it with cold water once and toss in 1-2 tsp olive oil to avoid it from clumping. Store in airtight container to prevent the pasta from drying.
5. Feel free to make your own variation of this pasta by adding spinach, kale, arugula or sautéed mushrooms (explained in detail in post above).
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