This Lemon Basil Pasta Recipe is a simple, bright, tasty dinner that’s on the table in under 20 minutes. It’s packed full of fresh flavors like garlic, zesty lemon, and creamy parmesan cheese. Serve it as-is or add your favorite side dish or protein to round it out!
Easy Lemon Garlic Pasta with Basil
This lemon pasta recipe is one of those too-good-to-be-true, insanely simple, but incredibly delicious recipes. I mean, it tastes decadent but comes together in no more than 20 minutes.
You won’t even be able to believe how fast it came together once you try a bite. Plus, it’s made with ingredients you can probably find in your kitchen!
This fresh lemon basil pasta is savory, citrusy, and elevated with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh herbs. It’s the perfect summertime dinner!
How to Make Lemon Pasta
This lemon basil pasta recipe will become a family favorite. Here's how we make it:
Scroll to the recipe card below for ingredient amounts and full instructions.
- Cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions. Once cooked, drain the pasta but reserve 1 cup of the water.
- In a bowl, mix together oil, cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, then melt butter in a large skillet on the stove. Add in the garlic, sauté for 30 seconds, then stir in the lemon cheese mixture and about half of the reserved pasta water.
- To the skillet, add the cooked pasta, fresh basil, and lemon zest. Toss to combine, then garnish and serve!
Tips and Notes
- Cook the pasta al dente. Slightly under-cooking the pasta helps prevent it from getting soggy or gummy or sticking together.
- Don’t forget to reserve the pasta water! Adding a little bit of pasta water to the sauce helps everything come together for a smooth, velvety texture.
- Shred your own cheese. Pre-shredded cheeses have an anti-caking agent that can result in a slightly gritty texture. I recommend shredding fresh parmesan off the block for the best results.
- Use fresh lemon. The flavor of fresh lemon juice really is unmatched!
What to Serve with Lemon and Basil Pasta
Lemon basil pasta can be served as a delicious vegetarian entree or as a decadent side dish with your favorite protein. Here are a few of our favorite pairings:
Storage and Reheating
Refrigerator: Leftover lemon and basil pasta will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Freezer: I don’t recommend freezing this pasta, because the texture of the sauce won’t hold up when thawed.
Reheating: To reheat leftovers, warm in the microwave or on low on the stove until heated through. If the pasta seems dry, add a splash of milk, broth, or water to moisten.
What Can I Add to Pasta to Make it More Interesting?
Well, for starters, you can add a tangy, fresh, garlicky, savory lemon garlic sauce and fresh herbs!
I think this lemon basil pasta is plenty flavorful and interesting as-is. However, if you do want to play around with the recipe, you can:
- Add a little extra flavor by cooking the pasta in veggie broth or chicken broth.
- Spice things up with cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes.
- Make it more filling by adding cooked and chopped or shredded chicken or Italian sausage.
- Make it creamier by swapping the pasta water out for milk, heavy cream, or half-and-half.
- Fill it out by mixing in sun dried tomatoes, spinach, sautéed mushrooms, roasted broccoli, sautéed peppers, etc.
Is Dried Basil Good For Pasta?
While you can use dried basil for basil lemon pasta if that’s what you have on hand, this recipe is definitely better with all the fresh ingredients.
If possible, I recommend sticking with fresh basil!
Recipe Card with Ingredient Amounts and Instructions
- 16 ounces linguine pasta
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated off the block, plus more for garnish
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, freshly squeezed (about 2 to 3 large lemons)
- ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons basil leaves, fresh, chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- Chopped basil or parsley, for garnish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta to al dente (about 1 minute less than the package directions). Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, and drain the remaining.16 ounces linguine pasta1 cup reserved pasta water
- While the water is coming to a boil, combine the oil, cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Set aside.¼ cup extra virgin olive oil½ cup parmesan cheese½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice½ teaspoons kosher salt½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- In a large skillet over low heat, melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, add the lemon cheese mixture and about ½ of the reserved pasta water. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, and remove from heat.3 tablespoons unsalted butter4 garlic cloves
- Add the cooked pasta, fresh basil, and lemon zest. Toss to combine. Use a splash or two of the remaining reserved pasta water to loosen the noodles if desired.2 tablespoons basil leaves1 tablespoon lemon zest
- Garnish with freshly chopped basil or parsley and extra Parmesan cheese. Serve warm. See post for storage options.Chopped basil or parsley