This Brown Butter Lemon Pasta recipe is easy to make with 5 ingredients in less than 30 minutes and tastes absolutely divine. Feel free to add in any proteins or veggies that you would like too!
Every time that I post about my husband making this brown butter lemon pasta for us on Instagram, my inbox instantly fills up with a hundred requests for the recipe. I have to tell you, though, that one of my favorite things about this recipe up until this point is that I haven’t known how to make it! Barclay always takes charge of the kitchen on our lemon pasta date nights and shoos me away to go relax before dinner’s ready anytime that I try and help. (Yep, dream husband.) But, this pasta is so delicious and so many of you have asked about it that I insisted on hovering next to him in the kitchen the last time that he made us a batch so that I could jot down the ingredient amounts (he never measures) to share the recipe with you all.
You guys are going to love this one. ♡
The recipe itself calls for just 5 simple ingredients — pasta, butter, lemon, Parmesan and black pepper — but the magic of this recipe is in how each of these ingredients are cooked to bring out the best of their flavors and create the most luxuriously rich and glossy brown butter lemon pepper sauce. It’s a quick and easy recipe to follow and comes together quickly in just 25 minutes, making it perfect for busy weeknights or any special occasion when you don’t want to spend much time in the kitchen. Barclay usually serves with our favorite green side salad and some sort of veggie that he roasts up in the oven while the pasta cooks too. But of course, you’re also welcome to pair this lemon pasta with a protein that sounds good (I would recommend salmon, shrimp or chicken) or add in any other extra ingredients that sound good.
Bottom line, I look forward to this pasta every time that he makes it and am certain it’s going to become a new favorite in your home too. Let’s make some pasta!
Brown Butter Lemon Pasta | 1-Minute Video
Brown Butter Lemon Pasta Ingredients:
Since the ingredient list for this recipe is so short, I really recommend investing in quality ingredients (especially a block of aged Parmesan and some good-quality pasta). Here is a quick overview of the ingredients you will need…
Pasta: I’m really partial to a thicker pasta that will offer a good bite for this recipe. We typically alternate back and forth between rigatoni and bucatini with this recipe, but really, any pasta will do here.
Butter: We wrote the recipe below using salted butter, but if you only have unsalted on hand, just add an extra 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the butter sauce.
Lemon: Both the zest and the juice — we will simmer the lemon zest in the brown butter and then add in the lemon juice to the sauce just before adding in the pasta.
Parmesan: As always when making a cheesy pasta sauce, it’s important to use Parmesan that has been freshly grated so that it will melt well into the sauce. We also always grate some extra Parmesan atop each serving dish, which I highly recommend.
Sea salt: The only time that we salt this recipe is by generously salting the pasta water — which both soaks into the pasta itself, and also salts the pasta sauce once the starchy pasta water is later added to the brown butter. If the finished dish still needs extra salt, you can always add in an extra pinch while you are tossing the hot pasta. And as always when cooking pasta, I recommend using sea salt (instead of table salt).
Freshly-cracked black pepper: Finally, to bring out the best flavor of freshly-cracked black pepper, Barclay always simmers it in the brown butter sauce. And then we also can never resist adding a few twists to our serving bowls besides diving in.
Ingredient amounts are listed in the recipe box below.
How To Make This Pasta:
This recipe is all about multi-tasking once it’s time to begin cooking the pasta and browning the butter. So I recommend measuring all of your ingredients while the pasta water heats so that they are ready to go and you can fully concentrate on the sauce while cooking. Also, be sure that the sauté pan you are using for the brown butter sauce is large enough to fit all of that pasta!
Here is a quick overview of the cooking process, with a few important tips included too:
Cook the pasta. Just to reiterate — it is very important that you generously salt the pasta water for this recipe! That salty pasta water is the only that you have to salt the pasta itself, plus it will also serve double duty in this recipe by salting the sauce when we add a ladle-full of the pasta water to the brown butter. So bring a stockpot of water to a boil, salt it generously, then add the pasta and cook until it is about 2 minutes shy of al dente.
Brown the butter. Now, time for some multitasking! Around the same time that you add the pasta to the boiling water, begin cooking the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. The butter will begin to simmer, then foam (at this point, add in the lemon zest and a few twists of black pepper), and then eventually the solids will separate and begin to turn golden and release a delicious nutty aroma. Keep a very close eye on the butter and stir it pretty constantly, as it can accidentally burn quickly. Then once it’s ready to go…
Add the remaining sauce ingredients. Using a heat-safe measuring cup, scoop out 1 cup of the starchy pasta water from the stockpot and immediately, carefully pour it into the brown butter mixture. Stir and simmer the mixture for a few minutes until it has reduced and thickened a bit. Whisk in the grated Parmesan and lemon juice until combined.
Finish the pasta. Then once the pasta is 2-ish minutes shy of al dente, use a strainer to transfer the pasta directly to the brown butter sauce. And toss it for 2 minutes or so, until the pasta is al dente and the sauce is glossy and coats the pasta evenly. (If the sauce seems too dry, just add in some more starchy pasta water to thin it out.)
Serve. Serve immediately, garnished with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan and cracked black pepper if desired, and enjoy!
Possible Recipe Variations:
As I mentioned above, this recipe stands well on its own or could be customized with any number of add-ins or variations that you might want to try. For example, feel free to…
Add a protein: Chicken, shrimp, salmon, or scallops would all be some delicious proteins that you could add to this pasta or serve alongside it.
Add veggies: You could also sauté or roast some of your favorite veggies to add in, such as asparagus, broccoli, mushrooms, or tomatoes.
Add herbs: This would also be amazing with some fresh sage leaves fried in the brown butter, or some thinly-sliced fresh basil stirred in, or whatever other herbs might sound good.
Add crushed red pepper flakes: In my opinion, you can never go wrong with adding a small pinch of crushed red pepper flakes to simmer in pasta sauce. (Or if you would really like to taste the heat, add in a few pinches.)
Add white wine: This brown butter sauce would also be delicious with a generous swirl of dry white wine added in.
Use less butter: We have also made this recipe using 1/3 or 1/4 cup of butter, and while it’s definitely not as rich, it is still delicious and is a great option if you would like to make this sauce a bit healthier.
Make it gluten-free: And of course, if you would like to make this recipe gluten-free, just use your favorite certified gluten-free pasta.
More Favorite Pasta Recipes:
Here are a few of my other favorite pasta recipes if you are looking for some good ones to try! ♡
Cook the pasta. Heat a large stockpot of generously-salted water until boiling. Add the pasta (at the same time you being browning the butter, see below) and cook until 2 minutes shy of al dente.
Brown the butter. At the same time* that you add the pasta to the boiling water, begin cooking the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Continue cooking until the butter has melted and begins to foam, stirring frequently to ensure that the butter cooks evenly. Add in the lemon zest and a few twists of black pepper and continue cooking the butter, stirring frequently, until it starts to turn golden brown and smells toasty. (Keep a very close eye on the butter so that it does not burn; it can go from golden to burnt very quickly!)
Add the remaining sauce ingredients. Using a heat-safe measuring cup, scoop out 1 cup of the starchy pasta water from the stockpot and immediately pour it into the brown butter mixture. (Be careful and pour slowly because it will bubble.) Let the mixture simmer and reduce for a few minutes until it has thickened slightly, stirring occasionally. Add in the grated Parmesan and lemon juice and whisk until combined.
Finish the pasta. Once the pasta is 2 minutes shy of al dente, use a strainer to transfer the pasta directly to the brown butter sauce. Then toss it with the sauce, stirring gently and constantly, until the pasta is al dente and the sauce is thick and glossy and coats the pasta evenly. (If the sauce seems too dry, just add in an extra 1/4 cup at a time of the remaining starchy pasta water as needed.) Taste and season with extra salt, if needed.
Serve. Serve immediately, garnished with an extra sprinkle of Parmesan and cracked black pepper if desired, and enjoy!
Butter: If you are using unsalted butter, you will need to add about 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt to the butter.
Timing: I wrote this recipe based on the time that my stove takes to brown butter and the time that it takes rigatoni to cook, but those times may vary based on your stove and the type of pasta that you choose. If the pasta finishes early, go ahead and drain the pasta (being sure to reserve some of the starchy pasta water before draining, in case it is needed later) until the brown butter sauce is ready to go. Or if the sauce finishes early, just remove it from the heat for a few minutes until the pasta is ready to go.
This recipe sounds delicious! I’ve tried many of the recipes on here and they always turn out wonderful!
Do you think there might be a way to make this without the cheese? I can tolerate butter but not cheese.
Sure, you could completely omit the cheese if you prefer. Enjoy!
Tell Barclay that at first Michael had a little cow over the butter…… but then he tasted it AND had seconds. We put mushrooms in it. Fantastic!
What’s an ounce of Parmesan in cups? Around 1/3?
It depends on the kind of grater that you use, but in general 1 ounce is around 1/2 cup. :) Enjoy!
Made this tonight and very delicious. Used sage and parsley from garden in sauce and doubled the cheese.
Thanks so much ?
Wow, amazing taste. I’m eating this delicious pasta as I write. Thank you for a wonderful recipe.
As always, a fabulous recipe. Easy to follow and so tasty! I used Trader Joe’s Lemon Pepper Pappardelle Pasta and it was delicious.
This is fabulous. I brown butter often, but don’t think I’ve done it for a simple pasta, but it makes perfect sense. Not sure I’d even need the lemon!
I’ve made other lemon pastas before and my kids always turned their noses up at it. But they loved this one (as did I)! It’s going into our regular rotation.
Fast, simple, and we both loved it. Did double the cheese.
OMG! I wish this was healthier because I would have it ALL the time!! This will definitely be our new favorite indulgence meal!! Served it with baked lemon herb chicken and broccoli for some added protein and veggies.
Question- do you normally use the juice of the entire lemon, or only part of it?
For me, there was way too much lemon in the sauce and I did not like how it turned out. Also the sauce would not thicken so I added a little flour to it. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t to my taste. I had it alongside some asparagus and that helped, so I think if I add broccoli to my leftovers tomorrow it will be a little better. I still wouldn’t recommend this dish though.
So quick, easy and delicious!! Especially when it’s the weekend and you don’t feel like cooking (:
Love this! I am a huge lemon anything fan, and this was amazing!
Restaurant quality YUM! Made as directed and served with arugula salad. Will definitely make again!
Following the recipe the lemon flavor was a bit to strong for me. But I’ll try again, maybe less zest, maybe less juice. I’m think I can find an acceptable balance.
I added sautéd shrimp to this delicious dish and finished with Parmesan and parsley. BAM! Fabulous
Hoping to make this tonight!
Can I use a different cheese (we only have gruyere right now)?
I’ve made this as written many times and have always loved it. Tonight I made it vegan with Miyokos *butter* and Violife parmesan *cheese* and it was just as incredible.
MY DAUGHTER IN LAW MADE THE MEXICAN BREAKFAST FOR MOTHERS DAY IT WAS OUTSTANDING.
A dish the whole family was raving about. I normally botch brown butter recipes but this seemed to provide enough details for me to do it correctly. WOW! The parmesan and cracked pepper at the end is a must too.
We’ve made this recipe at least 20 times. Seriously so good and easy and delicious!!