Lemon Basil Pasta

This lemon basil pasta is an easy and delicious dinner or lunch recipe. It’s perfect for entertaining but quick and simple enough to make on busy weeknights too. This flavorful, budget-friendly dish is a must try.

Main ingredients in this lemon basil pasta

Fresh lemon zest and juice give this dish its refreshing, tart flavor. I don’t recommend substituting bottled lemon juice in this dish.

Fresh basil is another essential ingredient in this pasta. Dried basil just doesn’t provide the same flavor, so definitely go for the fresh stuff when making this recipe.

Fresh garlic adds a savory layer of flavor to this pasta. You can substitute jarred chopped garlic or garlic powder if necessary.

You can use any type of pasta you like in this dish. There are so many nutrient-dense pasta options to choose from these days. I opted for kamut pasta this time, but whole wheat pasta or chickpea pasta are nutritious options too.

A serving of lemon basil pasta in a white bowl.

How to make it

Start by removing the zest from the lemon. I like to use a microplane zester to do this but a regular grater works too.

Lemon zest on a white plate.

Transfer the zest to a bowl, then squeeze the lemon juice into the bowl along with the zest.

Next you’ll chop the basil. I like to use the chiffonade method to create thin strands (but you can just roughly chop it if you prefer). For the chiffonade method, start by stacking 4-5 basil leaves.

Then tightly roll up the stack of basil leaves.

A hand holding several rolled up basil leaves.

Make thin, widthwise cuts into the rolled up basil.

Basil cut in strips on a white cutting board.

Repeat with the rest of the basil leaves, then set aside for later.

Next you’ll begin cooking the pasta according to the instructions on the package. While the pasta is cooking, add the finely chopped garlic and olive oil to a large pan on the stove set to medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic is sizzling and fragrant, then turn the heat off.

Chopped garlic and olive oil in a metal pan.

When the pasta is almost finished cooking, remove 1/4 cup of the cooking water and reserve it.

When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and add it to the pan with the olive oil and garlic. Add the lemon juice and zest, basil, salt, and reserved pasta water.

Ingredients for a pasta dish in a metal pot.

Mix well.

Pasta in a large metal pot.

Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and a sprig of fresh basil, if desired, then serve.

Optional additions

To add a bit of spice to this pasta, sprinkle on a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes. Or add some roasted vegetables or a handful of toasted pine nuts to bulk up this meal.

What to serve with this

This simple baked asparagus with balsamic vinegar is a delicious side dish to serve with this pasta. Or serve them with these roasted peppers. They’re quick and easy to make.

Storage

Store this lemon basil pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. Then reheat it in a pot on the stove or in the microwave before serving.

A bowl filled with pasta garnished with a sprig of basil.

More dinner recipes to try

Lemon Basil Pasta

This lemon basil pasta is an easy, delicious, budget-friendly dinner or lunch recipe. It's perfect for entertaining but works equally well for a casual weeknight meal.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 278.5kcal

Equipment

  • Microplane zester or regular grater

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 3/4 pounds pasta (approximately 340 grams)
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves (tightly packed)
  • 1/4 cup reserved cooking water from the pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • Optional: garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and a sprig of fresh basil

Instructions

  • Remove the zest from the lemon using a microplane zester or regular grater, then add it to a bowl.
  • Squeeze the lemon juice into the bowl with the zest.
  • Chop the basil (use the chiffonade method to create thin strands, or just roughly chop it).
  • Begin cooking the pasta according to the instructions on the package.
  • While the pasta is cooking, add the finely chopped garlic and olive oil to a large pan on the stove set to medium heat.
  • Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic is sizzling and fragrant, then turn the heat off.
  • When the pasta is almost finished cooking, remove 1/4 cup of the cooking water and reserve it.
  • When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it and add it to the pan with the olive oil and garlic.
  • Add the lemon juice and zest, basil, salt, and reserved pasta water, then mix well.
  • Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper and a sprig of fresh basil, if desired, then serve.

Notes

  • Store this lemon basil pasta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
  • Optional additions include crushed red pepper flakes, roasted vegetables, or a handful of toasted pine nuts.

Nutrition

Calories: 278.5kcal | Carbohydrates: 44.2g | Protein: 7.7g | Fat: 7.9g | Saturated Fat: 1.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5.2g | Sodium: 294.7mg | Potassium: 157.3mg | Fiber: 2.4g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 74.3IU | Vitamin C: 9.9mg | Calcium: 20.1mg | Iron: 0.9mg