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This lemon garlic pasta is a quick, flavorful, and vibrant recipe that requires little effort in the kitchen! Al dente spaghetti is bathed in a light and zesty sauce before vegan parmesan is sprinkled on top. Now all you need is a glass of vino!
Table of Contents
🥇 Why this recipe works
- Ready in minutes. Lemon garlic pasta is a weeknight favorite because it only takes 20 minutes before dinner is on the table.
- Simple ingredients. Made with ingredients you probably have on hand, there’s nothing that will break the bank here!
- Restaurant quality. This is a quick and easy recipe that tastes like it was made in a restaurant. It’s filled with rich, buttery flavors that are perfectly balanced with zesty lemon.
🍝 What is lemon garlic pasta?
Lemon garlic pasta, which also goes by pasta al limone, is a very popular Southern Italian meal.
The dish features al dente pasta, typically spaghetti, mixed with lemon, butter, olive oil, and salt. All ingredients are mixed together before being served with a sprinkle of fresh parmesan.
For a recipe that requires so few ingredients and time to make, it’s quite an eloquent meal that boasts light, zesty flavors. Your family is going to love this one!
While the exact origins of pasta al limone are disputed, this dish is a quintessential component of Southern Italian cuisine.
Along the spectacular Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, and other parts of Campania, lemons are a staple crop. The world-renowned Sorrento lemons are sweet, vibrant, and aromatic, making them the perfect addition to pasta sauce.
Amongst other classic Italian treats like gelato and limoncello, pasta al limone transforms what can sometimes be a rather heavy dish into a light, refreshing, and summery meal.
🌱 Is it vegan?
Lemon garlic pasta can be prepared in a multitude of different ways. The most popular version is made with butter in the sauce and parmesan cheese on top.
You can easily substitute butter for vegan butter or more olive oil, and try cashew parmesan to keep things fully plant-based.
🗝️ The key to al dente pasta
- Heat: Add water to a large pot over high heat.
- Boil: Salt the boiling water, then add spaghetti (don’t forget the salt).
- Taste: Start tasting your pasta ~1-2 minutes before it reaches the cook time indicated on the package to see if it’s al dente.
- Drain: Once the pasta is tender and chewy, drain it in a colander (saving the water).
Pro tip: To confirm al dente pasta, bite the spaghetti and check for a white dot in the center, indicating it’s nearly cooked through.
🛒 Ingredients & substitutions
Pasta — We prefer long varieties like spaghetti, linguine, capellini, or bucatini. If you like short pasta varieties, try rotini or fusilli.
Olive oil — Use extra virgin olive oil for the sauce. Since there aren’t many ingredients, it’s important to use good quality oil.
Butter — For a rich and decadent sauce, make sure to add vegan butter! The brand you use is up to you, but some options include Miyoko’s, Earth Balance, or Melt.
Garlic — We strongly urge you to incorporate fresh garlic into this recipe. The flavor is much more vibrant and zesty. If you don’t have fresh garlic on hand, replace it with 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
Red pepper flakes — For a little heat factor, we love red pepper flakes. You can also use cayenne or chili flakes.
Lemon — Lemon juice and lemon zest are called for in this recipe. Both add a tart, tangy, and lively element that round out the richness of the butter and olive oil. Don’t skimp on the lemon!
Vegan parmesan — You can use store-bought or homemade vegan parmesan. We love the texture of cashew parmesan, but it’s completely up to you.
Parsley — We love the flavor and freshness that parsley brings to this dish. If you’re not a parsley fan, feel free to omit it.
For a complete ingredient list and step-by-step guide, scroll down to our recipe card.
Step 1 — Bring a stockpot of water to boil. Once it’s boiling, add a large pinch of salt. Cook your spaghetti (or other pasta) until it is al dente. Remember, don’t rinse the pasta when it’s finished cooking as the starch helps the sauce stick.
Step 2 — In the meantime, heat the olive oil and vegan butter in a large skillet over medium. Add in freshly minced garlic and pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, then remove from heat.
Step 3 — Add the cooked spaghetti to the skillet. Cook the pasta until it’s heated all the way through, adding pasta water as needed.
Step 4 — Remove the skillet from heat and stir in lemon juice, lemon zest, and fresh parsley.
Step 5 — Season the pasta with salt and pepper to taste, then transfer it to a serving bowl.
Step 6 — Add a sprinkle of vegan parmesan cheese or extra parsley on top and serve immediately. Happy eating!
If you have questions about this lemon garlic pasta recipe, check out our FAQs or leave a comment down below!
🥗 What to serve with lemon garlic pasta
The great thing about pasta is how many different ways you can serve it. Here are a few of our favorite ways to dress this lemon garlic pasta up:
Salad — Kale caesar salad, spring mix, or other greens pair beautifully with this dish.
Bread — Try sourdough, vegan garlic bread, dairy-free bread, or any other type of bread alongside your spaghetti.
Vegetables — We always love our pasta with a side of steamed or sautéed vegetables. Green beans, broccoli, asparagus, and zucchini are all great options.
🌡️ Storage & reheating
For the freshest flavor and texture, pasta is best eaten immediately. If you’re like us and don’t mind heating it up the next day, here are a couple of storage tips:
Fridge — Keep the pasta in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
Freezer — You can store lemon garlic pasta in the freezer for up to 3 months. Ensure it’s in a freezer-safe bag or container.
Reheating — If frozen, thaw this dish in the fridge overnight. Once ready, add the pasta and sauce to a skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil or butter. Cook until warm, then serve with parsley, cracked black pepper, and parmesan.
Gluten-free — Replace regular pasta with your favorite gluten-free variety.
Olive oil only — For a lighter version of this dish, use extra olive oil in place of the vegan butter.
Make it creamy — Make a creamy sauce by adding cashew crema or sour cream to the mix.
Tomato-based — Switch up the flavors by adding San Marzano tomato sauce in place of the lemon this recipe.
🧑🍳 Top tips
Reserve pasta water — Save some pasta water in case the pasta looks dry. The starch thickens the sauce and helps it stick to the pasta better.
Zest carefully — Avoid any bitterness by zesting only the yellow portion of the lemon. The white part, or the pith, is where the bitter flavor comes from.
Use quality ingredients — Since there are so few needed, use the highest quality ingredients you can find to elevate this dish.
Salt the water — Make sure the pasta water is salted for an extra-flavorful end result.
We don’t recommend replacing garlic cloves with powder. Not only will it dry out the pasta, but the flavor is much more pleasant with fresh garlic. If you do replace it, use 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder for every fresh clove.
Yes, you can replace wheat-based spaghetti with your favorite gluten-free brand. One of our favorites is Rummo gluten-free spaghetti.
🍴 More recipes like this one
If you enjoyed this lemon garlic pasta, be sure to check out some of these other satisfying pasta dishes:
- White spaghetti: Creamy, cashew sauce served with spaghetti and topped with vegan parmesan.
- Red spaghetti: A Mexican red spaghetti recipe with a smoky finish.
- Green spaghetti: Spicy poblano-infused pasta, popularized in Mexico.
- Fettuccine alfredo: A rich, creamy, and indulgent vegan fettuccine alfredo.
- Dairy-free mac and cheese: Featuring elbow pasta bathed in creamy cashew sauce, then baked with a crunchy panko topping.
Easy Lemon Garlic Pasta
- Large stockpot
- Large skillet
- 8 ounces spaghetti ($0.25)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil ($0.33)
- 3 tablespoons vegan butter ($0.44)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced ($0.16)
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes ($0.02)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice ($0.18)
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 3-4 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced ($0.03)
- Salt & pepper to taste ($0.02)
- Vegan parmesan cheese
- Extra minced parsley
- Bring a stockpot of water to boil. Salt it generously, then cook your spaghetti according to package instructions, or until al dente. When the pasta is ready, drain but don't rinse it (save some pasta water for later).
- In the meantime, heat olive oil and vegan butter in a large skillet over medium. Add garlic and pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant, about 20-30 seconds.
- Add the spaghetti to the skillet. Cook until heated all the way through, adding pasta water as needed (we added about ½ cup of pasta water).
- Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, zest, and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Transfer to a serving bowl, add a sprinkle of vegan parmesan and extra parsley on top, then serve immediately. Happy eating!
- Reserve pasta water — Save some pasta water in case the pasta looks dry. The starch thickens the sauce and helps it stick to the pasta better.
- Zest carefully — Avoid any bitterness by zesting only the yellow portion of the lemon. The white part, or the pith, is where the bitter flavor comes from.
- Use quality ingredients — Since there are so few needed, use the highest quality ingredients you can find to elevate this dish.
- Salt the water — Make sure the pasta water is salted for an extra-flavorful end result.
- We calculate nutritional information for our recipes with Cronometer.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe to recipe. All prices are in USD.