Lemon Garlic Pasta

This is more than just a Lemon Garlic Pasta recipe…it’s topped with crispy, garlicky brown butter bread crumbs. A version of this dish has been on my “to make” list for some time. It was inspired by a date night out at Lyn 65. I ordered a simple pasta dish, and we also shared their fried chicken. As I ate the fried chicken, the crispy bits fell onto my pasta, and it was so delicious to eat the crispy chicken breading over the pasta!

This lemon garlic pasta can be made with any pasta shape you like, long or short! The key is to under-cook the pasta, even under al dente. The pasta will finish cooking while it is tossed in the sauce. The sauce is simply butter, olive oil, and pasta water. Then we add in flavors like garlic, fresh lemon zest and juice, and a couple creamy cheeses. The fresh lemon really comes through up front, followed by garlic and nutty parmesan, so good!

Make sure you keep the pasta water after cooking. I don’t even drain the pasta in a traditional colander. Just transfer the pasta using tongs or a slotted spoon from water into sauce. You’ll likely use additional reserved pasta water as you toss the pasta together.

Brown Butter Breadcrumbs

For the brown butter breadcrumbs you just need some torn bread pieces, preferably a heartier bread like ciabatta, French, or sourdough. I used some leftover slices from my freezer from some bruschetta. Tear it up into chunks, and pulse in a food processor until you get crumbs, but some texture is still left.

If you want a more in-depth tutorial on brown butter, check out my post, How to Make Brown Butter. Because we are making such a small amount in this recipe, it happens very quickly, and really just needs monitoring and stirring, then add in bread crumbs, and allow to toast. These can be made ahead of time and stored in an air tight container.

I just love the rich flavor and crispy texture of the bread crumbs with the fresh and vibrant lemon pasta, it’s a great flavor combo! We’ve enjoyed this re-heated as well, just add additional liquid when re-heating, but best served immediately.

A great transitional pasta dish as we go from winter to spring. Add in some spring asparagus or peas to this Lemon Garlic Pasta for some colorful seasonal veggies! Another favorite spring comfort food dish, White Wine Risotto with Peas and Asparagus. Give it a try!

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Lemon Garlic Pasta

A simple and flavorful pasta dish with crispy brown butter bread crumbs. Use any pasta shape you like!

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 6
Author Laura Doerr


  • 1 lb pasta any variety
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 shallot minced
  • 2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley minced
  • Red pepper flakes optional for heat

For the brown butter bread crumbs

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2-3 slices sourdough, French baguette, any stale bread
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt


For the brown butter bread crumbs

  1. Tear bread into pieces. Place in a food processor and pulse until you get medium ground bread crumbs. Some larger chunks are OK too. Set aside.

  2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over med-low heat. Once melted, butter will bubble, foam, and become brown in color with little brown specs at the bottom of the pan. Once the butter is browned, stir in bread crumbs and garlic salt. Stir to coat, and continue to stir over med-low heat until breadcrumbs are toasted and crispy. Remove from heat, and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.

For the pasta

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a generous amount of kosher salt. Cook pasta about 2 minutes UNDER al dente from package instructions. Pasta will finish cooking in the sauce. Do not drain, you'll use some pasta water, and transfer pasta right into sauce from boiling water.

  2. In a large skillet, melt butter with olive oil, garlic, and shallot over medium heat, cook for about 2 minutes. Add about 1 cup of pasta water (from almost done pasta so you get the starchy water). Using a tongs or slotted spoon, transfer pasta into the butter sauce.

  3. Stir in grated cheese, cream cheese, and juice and zest of 1 lemon. Stir until cheese is melted. Add additional pasta water as needed for moisture. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes if you want a little heat.

  4. Serve each portion with toasted brown butter bread crumbs and fresh parsley.

Recipe Notes

This recipe works great with any pasta type. For long pasta, spaghetti, linguine, fettuccini, or bucatini are great varieties. For short pasta, penne, rigatoni, fusilli, mafalda, or bowtie. Whatever is your fav!

Grilled chicken or shrimp would be delicious add-ins to this recipe, as well as spring vegetables like peas or asparagus. 

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