Brown Butter Lemon Pasta Recipe

Brown Butter Lemon Pasta

  • Author: Ali
  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 25 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x


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!




  1. 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.
  2. 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!)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.