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Lemon Parsley Pasta – Easy Side Dish

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$2.81 recipe / $0.70 serving

I’ve been alllll about the easy side dishes lately and this Lemon Parsley Pasta is one of the best! It only takes a few ingredients to really transform plain pasta into something totally scrumptious. And that scrumptious, lemony, garlicky, Parmesan-y goodness makes a great side to just about anything. Or just add some chicken or shrimp and make it your main dish! YUM.

Originally posted 9-3-2009, updated 3-16-2021.

Close up of a fork twirling some of the lemon parsley pasta on a platter with sliced lemons as garnish

What Kind of Pasta is Best?

While you can technically use any pasta shape for this (what pasta isn’t good with Parmesan and garlic??), I really like thin spaghetti or angel hair. The fine pasta creates tons of surface area for the lemon and Parmesan to adhere, so you get tons of flavor in every bite!

Do I Need Fresh Lemon?

Yes, you absolutely want to use fresh lemon for this Lemon Parsley Pasta. This recipe takes advantage of the lemon zest, which provides a lot of lemon flavor without adding a ton of acidity like the juice. This recipe is the perfect candidate for using up any frozen lemons you might have stashed in the freezer (see my tutorial on how to freeze lemons).

What to Serve with Lemon Parsley Pasta

I served my lemon parsley pasta with something new this week (recipe coming in a couple of days), but there are so many other things it would go great with. It would make a great bed for Garlic Butter Shrimp, Garlic Marinated Chicken, Garlic Butter Baked Cod, or even these Sheet Pan Greek Chicken and Vegetables. And because the pasta has so much flavor, you can always add a simple green side, like Oven Roasted Broccoli.

Overhead view of lemon parsley pasta on an oval serving dish with lemon slices as garnishes

Lemon Parsley Pasta

Lemon Parsley Pasta is bright, garlicky, and full of rich Parmesan flavor. It makes a great side dish or bed for chicken or fish. 

Total Cost: $2.81 recipe / $0.70 serving

Servings: 4

  • 8 oz. thin spaghetti ($0.50)
  • 1 fresh lemon ($0.89)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley ($0.70)
  • 1/8 tsp freshly cracked black pepper ($0.02)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil ($0.16)
  • 2 Tbsp butter ($0.14)
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan ($0.22)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once boiling, add the pasta and boil until tender (about 7-8 minutes). Drain the pasta in a colander.

  • While the pasta is cooking, zest the lemon (you’ll need about 1 Tbsp). Chop the parsley and combine it with the Parmesan, lemon zest, and pepper in a bowl. Set the bowl aside.

  • While the pasta is draining, add the olive oil and minced garlic to the pot used to cook the pasta. Sauté the garlic in the oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or just until it becomes fragrant.

  • Remove the pot from the heat and add the drained pasta and butter to the pot with the garlic. Toss the pasta until the residual heat has melted the butter and the pasta is coated in garlic and butter.

  • Add the parsley Parmesan mixture to the pot and toss to coat again. Squeeze about 1 Tbsp of the lemon juice over the pasta and season with salt (about ¼ tsp). Toss to combine, then taste, and adjust the salt, pepper, or Parmesan to your liking. Serve warm.

See how we calculate recipe costs here.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 309.98kcalCarbohydrates: 44.45gProtein: 8.55gFat: 10.85gSodium: 276.35mgFiber: 2.28g

Nutritional values are estimates only. See our full nutrition disclaimer here.


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Close up side view of lemon parsley pasta on a platter with lemon slices

How to Make Lemon Parsley Pasta – Step by Step Photos

Thin spaghetti coming out of the box

Begin cooking the pasta first because most of the other prep can be done while the pasta is cooking. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add 8 oz. thin spaghetti and continue to boil until the pasta is tender (about 7-8 minutes). Drain the pasta in a colander.

Chopped parsley, lemon zest, Parmesan, and pepper in a bowl

While the pasta is cooking, zest the lemon (you’ll need about 1 Tbsp zest) and chop about ½ cup fresh parsley. Add the parsley and lemon zest to a bowl, along with 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan and ⅛ tsp fresh cracked pepper. Stir to combine.

Garlic sautéing in a pot with oil

Once you’ve drained the pasta, add two cloves minced garlic and 1 Tbsp olive oil to the pot used to cook the pasta. Sauté the garlic over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.

Drained pasta and butter added back to the pot.

Turn the heat off and add the drained pasta back to the pot (it should still be hot) along with 2 Tbsp butter. Toss the pasta and allow the residual heat to melt the butter. Toss until the pasta is coated in the melted butter.

parsley and parmesan mixture being poured into the pot

Add the parsley and Parmesan mixture to the pasta and toss to coat again. The pasta should be very warm at this point but not hot enough to melt the Parmesan. You want the Parmesan to sort of coat the pasta instead of melting in.

Lemon being squeezed into the pasta in the pot

Squeeze about 1 Tbsp lemon juice over the pasta and season with about ¼ tsp salt. Toss to coat one final time. Give the pasta a taste and adjust the salt, pepper, or Parmesan to your liking.

Overhead view of an oval platter full of lemon parsley pasta with lemon slices as garnish

Serve warm! (I sliced up the remaining lemon and used it as garnish, but that’s just me being extra fancy.)

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