Looking for a hassle-free, quick, and satisfying dish to enjoy during those warm summer days? This 15-minute Easy Lemon Spaghetti captures the essence of summer on your plate. This quick and refreshing recipe combines al dente spaghetti with a velvety sauce (no cream added!) infused with zesty lemon, aromatic garlic, and Pecorino Romano cheese. It’s the perfect balance of simplicity and taste, making it an ideal choice for a light and flavorful summer lunch or dinner.
Why this recipe works
Easy Lemon Spaghetti stands out for its simplicity and the delicious flavors it brings to the table. With minimal ingredients and a quick 15-minute cooking time, this recipe is perfect for busy days or when you want a fuss-free meal. The magic lies in the process of emulsification, where the pasta cooking water, olive oil, cheese, and lemon juice come together to create a velvety sauce that perfectly coats the spaghetti. Additionally, this recipe’s versatility allows you to customize it with your favorite proteins or veggies.
What is Easy Lemon Spaghetti
Easy Lemon Spaghetti is a pasta dish that captures the essence of summer in every bite. It features al dente spaghetti tossed in a velvety sauce made with olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, and juice. The addition of Pecorino Romano cheese adds a pleasant salty tang, while fresh basil lends a touch of herbal freshness. The result is a light and refreshing pasta dish that can be enjoyed as a quick weeknight dinner or served as an elegant centerpiece at a dinner party.
Best ingredients for Lemon Spaghetti with Basil
- Spaghetti: Opt for high-quality spaghetti that will hold its shape when cooked. Aim for 8 ounces (225g) for the perfect pasta-to-sauce ratio.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Choose a good-quality extra virgin olive oil to infuse the dish with a fruity and peppery note.
- Garlic: Fresh garlic cloves add depth and aroma to the dish. Mince them finely for even distribution of flavor.
- Butter: Unsalted butter adds richness and a velvety texture to the sauce.
- Lemon: Select a plump and juicy lemon for maximum flavor. Both the zest and juice are essential for achieving the vibrant lemony taste.
- Pasta cooking water: The starchy pasta cooking water acts as the base for the sauce, helping to create a smooth and glossy texture.
- Pecorino Romano cheese: This sharp and salty cheese is a crucial component of the dish. Grated Pecorino Romano cheese adds complexity and enhances the overall flavor.
- Fresh basil: Fragrant basil leaves provide a burst of freshness and a hint of sweetness to complement the lemony profile.
How to make Easy Lemon Spaghetti
Please note: This is just an overview – the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1: Cook the spaghetti. Begin by cooking the spaghetti according to the package instructions in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Remember to reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water before draining the pasta.
Step 2: Sauté the garlic. In a large pan or skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and sauté for about 1-2 minutes until fragrant and slightly golden. Be careful not to burn it.
Step 3: Add the butter. Introduce the unsalted butter to the skillet and allow it to melt, creating a rich base for the sauce.
Step 4: Incorporate lemon zest and juice. Add the lemon zest and juice to the skillet, stirring well to combine the flavors.
Step 5: Create the sauce. Pour in the reserved pasta cooking water and grated Pecorino Romano cheese, stirring immediately until the cheese melts and creates a smooth and creamy sauce. Allow the mixture to come to a gentle boil, ensuring all the ingredients are well incorporated.
Step 6: Toss in the spaghetti and basil. Add the cooked spaghetti and the freshly chopped or torn basil leaves to the skillet. Gently toss the pasta in the sauce, ensuring every strand is well coated.
Step 7: Serve and enjoy. Transfer easy Lemon Spaghetti to serving plates or a large bowl. For an extra touch of flavor and presentation, sprinkle some additional Pecorino Romano cheese and lemon zest on top. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Storing and freezing tips
Easy Lemon Spaghetti is best enjoyed fresh and hot, straight from the stovetop. However, if you have leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Keep in mind that the texture of the pasta may become slightly softer upon reheating.
To freeze Lemon Spaghetti, allow the dish to cool completely before transferring it to freezer-safe containers or zip-top bags. Properly stored, it can be frozen for up to 1 month. When ready to enjoy, thaw the spaghetti in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it gently on the stovetop, adding a splash of water or olive oil if needed to revive the sauce.
Top tips for the best Lemon Spaghetti
- Cook the spaghetti al dente: To achieve the perfect texture, follow the package instructions and cook the spaghetti until it is just tender with a slight bite. This ensures that the pasta holds its shape and texture when tossed in the sauce.
- Reserve pasta cooking water: Remember to save some of the starchy pasta cooking water before draining the spaghetti. This water is essential for creating a silky and cohesive sauce that coats the pasta strands.
- Fresh lemon zest and juice: For the most vibrant lemon flavor, always use freshly grated lemon zest and juice. This will provide a zesty and aromatic profile that cannot be replicated by pre-packaged alternatives.
- Adjust seasoning gradually: The Pecorino Romano cheese adds a salty element to the dish, so be cautious when adding additional salt. Taste the sauce before adding more, and remember that the flavors will intensify as the sauce simmers.
- Don’t overcook the sauce: Once you’ve added the cooked spaghetti to the sauce, toss it quickly and remove it from the heat. Overcooking the sauce can lead to a loss of freshness and a mushy texture. The goal is to coat the pasta evenly without overcooking it.
- Experiment with variations: While this recipe is already bursting with flavor, feel free to customize it to your liking. You can add a pinch of red pepper flakes for a hint of heat or incorporate other herbs like parsley or thyme for added depth.
- Use high-quality ingredients: Since this recipe relies on simple flavors, using high-quality ingredients is key. Opt for fresh, locally sourced ingredients whenever possible to enhance the overall taste and elevate the dish.
Easy Lemon Spaghetti is a versatile dish that can be served as a standalone meal or accompanied by a variety of complementary ingredients. Here are a few serving suggestions to inspire you:
- Grilled chicken: Pair the Lemon Spaghetti with juicy grilled chicken breasts or thighs for a satisfying and protein-packed meal.
- Roasted vegetables: Serve the pasta alongside a colorful medley of roasted vegetables, such as zucchini, bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes, to add extra vibrancy and texture.
- Shrimp Scampi: Elevate the dish by topping it with succulent shrimp scampi. Sauté the shrimp in garlic and butter, then arrange them on top of the Lemon Spaghetti for an elegant presentation.
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Can I use a different type of pasta for this recipe?
While spaghetti works beautifully in this recipe, you can certainly experiment with other pasta shapes. Linguine or fettuccine would be great alternatives.
Can I substitute the Pecorino Romano cheese?
If you don’t have Pecorino Romano cheese on hand, you can substitute it with Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese. These cheeses offer a similar salty and nutty flavor profile that will complement the dish.
Can I make this Lemon Spaghetti vegan?
Absolutely! You can omit the addition of unsalted butter to make this lemon spaghetti recipe vegan.
Can I make this recipe gluten-free?
Yes, you can make this recipe gluten-free by using gluten-free spaghetti or any other gluten-free pasta alternative. Just ensure that all other ingredients used are also gluten-free.
Did you make it?
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