Lemon Pasta (Pasta al Limone)
Lemon Pasta (also known as Pasta al Limone) is one of those light, simple throw-together pasta dishes that is just perfect for spring and summer. It makes a perfect side dish for just about any dinner that comes off the grill or out of the oven, from steak to chicken to shrimp. Its flavors are fresh, bright, and delicious. Even better, it can be prepared in a flash!
My family absolutely loves this lemon pasta recipe! It’s SO tasty and I love how quick and easy it is to whip up. While the angel hair pasta cooks, you can stir together the lemon dressing. Once the spaghetti is done, toss it in the dressing and finish it off with sweet tomatoes, salty capers, fresh basil, and grated Parmesan cheese, for just a bit of richness and creaminess. You can’t get much simpler than that, and with such clean flavors, this is an excellent complement to a variety of cuisines.
This is also a great make ahead dish because it’s really delicious enjoyed cold — maybe even better? I made it the other afternoon, stuck it in the fridge and then served it later with my Italian Salad and some crusty bread. So good!
We also often enjoy it served alongside grilled chicken or salmon too. Now pour yourself a glass of buttery chardonnay and you’re set!
OH MY GOODNESS!! Can’t think of a simpler, healthier or more fabulous warm weather dinner! Made it as is but used zoodles and chickpea pasta and added shrimp as you suggested! My husband and and teenage son LOVED!— Kristen
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Quick & easy. An easy-to-make vegetarian recipe that uses simple pantry staples and is all cooked in one pan. Ready in just about 15 minutes!
- Very tasty. The flavors of this recipe will leave you wanting to go for seconds. And it’s an excellent complement to a variety of cuisines. Serve it as a side with chicken, salmon or pork.
- A family-friendly recipe. This lemon pasta is not one of those meals you will have to worry about whether the kids will eat. It works for everyone!
Nothing too fancy in this delicious lemon pasta recipe. All you need are high-quality, basic ingredients. Here’s the lineup:
- Pasta. We love to use a thin spaghetti, like angel hair, but really any type of noodles will work. Rigatoni, rotini, linguine, fettuccine, or penne pasta would all be great choices. Use gluten-free or whole wheat pasta as desired.
- Olive oil + lemon juice. This mixture dresses your noodles and gives the dish a lovely, sunny flavor. I recommend using a high quality extra virgin olive oil for this recipe. This olive oil is my favorite and I also really like this more budget-friendly olive oil as well.
- Salt. Brings out all of the delicious flavor!
- Garlic powder. Garlic is pretty much a must in any pasta dish. By all means, use fresh garlic if you have it.
- Parmesan cheese. I highly recommend buying a high-quality parm or Parmigiano-Reggiano and grating it yourself. Because this recipe contains so few ingredients, quality really counts.
- Tomatoes. Use one large diced tomato or some sweet cherry tomatoes that are halved. Feel free to add as much or as little tomato as you like.
- Capers. One of my favorite ingredients for adding extra pizzaz to a dish. Capers are tangy, briney, and somewhat lemony. They are perfect in lemon pasta!
- Basil. Finishes this pasta with that special something! Use fresh parsley, instead, if that’s what you have.
How to make this recipe
This pasta al Limone recipe couldn’t be more simple! It’s ready in three easy steps! Here’s a quick rundown of the process, but for printable instructions, reference the recipe card at the bottom of the post.
- Boil pasta. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling, salted water according to package instructions and until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite.
- Make lemon vinaigrette. While the pasta is cooking, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic powder and salt.
- Combine ingredients and enjoy. Once pasta is cooked, toss it with lemon sauce, add in the parmesan, tomatoes, and capers. Stir everything together and serve or refrigerate for about an hour to serve cold. Add fresh basil and black pepper just before serving. Taste and season as needed. Dig in!
- Do not overcook the pasta. It is always best to cook your pasta al-dente because it will continue to cook even after you remove it from the boiling water. Do wait for the water to boil before adding the pasta, and don’t forget to add some salt to the pasta water.
- Salt in pasta water. Season the water with plenty of salt before adding in the noodles; otherwise this dish may taste under-seasoned. As a general rule of thumb, I add 1 teaspoon salt per 4 cups of water.
- Fresh lemon juice. We recommend fresh lemon juice for the best flavor.
Customize this recipe
This is delicious as written, but feel free to change things up to customize it to your family’s preferences and what you have available. Here’s some options:
- Make it gluten free. Simply use a gluten-free pasta of choice.
- Make it vegan. Use a vegan parmesan cheese or a few tablespoons of nutritional yeast instead, or just omit the cheese.
- Add protein. Feel free to toss the pasta with cooked, diced chicken breast or shredded rotisserie chicken or cooked shrimp.
- Add veggies. I think chopped roasted bell pepper, sautéed broccoli and/or chopped artichokes would also be super tasty in this recipe.
Frequently asked questions
Lemon is a flavor enhancer and gives this recipe that perfect flavor without adding a whole lot of other ingredients that would increase the calories. Lemon is acidic and gives the pasta a refreshing, light taste.
Pasta is like a blank canvas and there are many other ingredients you can add to it to make it more flavorful. Consider adding things like sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic, lemon zest, butter, heavy cream, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, spices, red pepper flakes, olives or capers.
For the best tasting pasta, be sure to add plenty of salt to the water before cooking. Also, cook the pasta to al dente, which means it’ll have a bit of a bite to it. It’ll cook a bit more as it cools. And don’t rinse the cooked pasta. Rinsing with water in a colander, strips it of its starch, which is what helps the sauce stick to the noodles.
- To store. Place any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. No need to reheat! Give it a good stir and serve it cold and garnish it with some extra basil. We do not recommend freezing this pasta dish.
- To reheat. If you would like to reheat this, gently rewarm leftovers in a Dutch oven or large pot on the stovetop over medium-low heat, splashing in a bit of water, as needed to loosen the sauce. You can also reheat individual servings in the microwave.
The next time you’re on the hunt for a summery side dish, I hope you’ll give this Pasta al Limone a try! The adults will love it. The kids will inhale it. Heck, you can even throw some slices of chicken breast on top and call it dinner! A quick, stovetop dish that’s tasty and versatile? Sign. Me. Up.
If you try this, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves it as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.
- 1/2 pound (usually 1/2 box) thin spaghetti or angel hair pasta or another favorite long pasta
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (or the juice from one lemon)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
- 1 large tomato diced or a handful of sweet cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1/4 cup capers
- 15-20 leaves fresh basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally.
- Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic powder. Whisk together until smooth. Pour desired amount over pasta. Then top with the parmesan, tomatoes, and capers. Stir to combine. This is great served warm, but we like it even better served cold. To serve cold, refrigerate the pasta for about an hour. Add basil right before serving. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Enjoy!
Did you make this recipe?
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OH MY GOODNESS!! Can’t think of a simpler, healthier or more fabulous warm weather dinner! Made it as is but used zoodles and chickpea pasta and added shrimp as you suggested! My husband and and teenage son LOVED!
Oh that makes me so happy! Love that you used zoodles and chickpea pasta!
We loved this so much! It was super easy and had the best flavor!
So glad you enjoyed!