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Creamy Lemon Garlic Pasta

by Lorena

Creamy lemon garlic pasta is a simple and flavorful dish that’s perfect for busy weeknights or lazy weekends. The combination of tangy lemon and pungent garlic adds depth to the dish, while the pasta provides a comforting and satisfying base. Here’s everything you need to know about making lemon garlic pasta.

The Flavour Profile of Lemon Garlic Pasta

Creamy lemon garlic pasta is all about the balance of flavours. The bright acidity of the lemon juice pairs perfectly with the savoury garlic, creating a deliciously tangy sauce that complements the richness of the pasta. Additionally, the addition of chives adds a touch of freshness to the dish. The creamy bit comes from cream and also grated parmesan cheese. Both ingredients help thicken and make the sauce extra silky.

Two served dishes of creamy garlic lemon pasta, topped with extra parmesan cheese, lemon zest and chives.

Ingredients for Lemon Garlic Pasta

To make creamy lemon garlic pasta, you’ll need:

  • Pasta: Any type of pasta will work, you can use long pasta like fettuccine or short pasta like me and go for rigatoni.
  • Lemon: Use fresh lemon zest juice to get the best flavour.
  • Garlic: Use fresh garlic cloves and mince them finely. I like to use a microplane grater to get an almost purée texture.
  • Butter: Butter adds that silky texture to the sauce and of course that delicious buttery flavour.
  • Olive oil: High-quality olive oil will add depth to the dish. It will also prevent the butter from burning while cooking the garlic.
  • Pasta water: Water from the cooking pasta has starch in it from the flour in the pasta. It’s a magic ingredient that helps bring everything together as it evaporates.
  • Cream: This creamy lemon garlic pasta needs cream for the “creamy” part. Delicious and perfect for a cozy night.
  • Parmesan Cheese: The final ingredient to thicken and add that lovely savoury flavour. Always try to go for freshly grated so that it melts properly.
  • Chives: I chose chives as my final addition to the dish but it could also be parsley or dill. The important thing is that it’s fresh and delicious.

How to Make Lemon Garlic Pasta

Making lemon garlic pasta is a simple and straightforward process. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions minus 2 minutes. It will finish cooking in the sauce.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat up some butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and lemon zest and sauté until fragrant and golden brown.
  3. Add fresh lemon juice and let it boil down until almost no liquid is left.
  4. Add the pasta water, cream, pasta and parmesan cheese and mix until it thickens. Finish with chopped chives.
  5. Serve the pasta hot, topped with grated Parmesan cheese, more lemon zest and chives.

Tips for Making Perfect Lemon Garlic Pasta

  • Be careful not to overcook the pasta. Al dente pasta has a slightly firm texture and will hold up better when tossed with the sauce. Remember to remove it from the water 2 minutes before the packaging instructions so that it finishes cooking in the sauce.
  • Use high-quality and fresh ingredients, especially Parmesan cheese. This ingredient adds a lot of flavour to the dish, so it’s worth splurging a little.
  • Adjust the amount of garlic and lemon juice to your taste preferences. If you love garlic, add more. If you prefer a milder sauce, use less.
  • Don’t skip the fresh herbs. They add a touch of freshness to the dish and help balance the flavours.

Serving Suggestions

Once the sauce is cooked to perfection, it’s time to serve! One option is to top the pasta with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, lemon zest and chopped fresh chives and call it a day. Another option is to add some protein such as grilled chicken or shrimp for a more filling meal. You can also serve it as a side dish with roasted or grilled vegetables for a balanced meal.

Some extra notes before you begin

To make the perfect creamy lemon garlic pasta, there are a few key steps you can follow. First, make sure to use fresh ingredients, especially lemon zest and juice. This will ensure that you get the bright, citrusy flavour you’re looking for. Also, be mindful of the timing of the recipe. Everything happens really quickly, so if you feel you’re slow, it’s good to have all the ingredients ready to go before you start. Finally, be mindful of the salt content in the parmesan, as it can greatly affect the overall flavour of the dish. Season after you add the cheese so you’re sure to not over-season. With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to make delicious creamy lemon garlic pasta every time.

Creamy Lemon Garlic Pasta Recipe

This easy and quick-to-make creamy lemon garlic pasta is a lifesaver. You can make it for a weeknight dinner or a quick lunch. It's also extremely delicious and makes for a lovely meal.
4 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: creamy, garlic, lemon, pasta
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 people
Author: Lorena Salinas from Cravings Journal


  • 250 g dry pasta I used rigatoni
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves finely grated, minced or puréed
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 200 ml pasta water
  • 200 ml whipping cream
  • 50 g parmesan cheese finely grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chives chopped


  • Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add a generous amount of salt and add the pasta. While it's cooking, we'll make the sauce. Cook it for the amount of time instructed minus 2 minutes.
  • Preheat a large skillet to medium heat. Add the butter, oil, garlic and lemon zest and cook until slightly golden.
  • Add the lemon juice and let it boil down until only a bit of liquid is left.
  • Add the pasta water, the cream, the cooked pasta and the parmesan cheese.
  • Stir constantly while it cooks and thickens.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and finish with fresh chives.
  • Serve with extra parmesan cheese, lemon zest and chives.
Tried this recipe?Mention @CravingsJournal or tag #RecipeCJ!
Closeup of creamy garlic lemon pasta, topped with extra parmesan cheese, lemon zest and chives
Side view of creamy garlic lemon pasta, topped with extra parmesan cheese, lemon zest and chives

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