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Lemon Basil Butter Pasta

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All you need are 6 simple ingredients to make a vibrant batch of this lemon basil butter pasta in less than 30 minutes.

Lemon Basil Butter Pasta

Fresh basil is back in season and I vote we celebrate with this lemon basil butter pasta! ♡

Our family fell in love with Ali Slagle’s viral basil-butter pasta last fall, which is a deliciously basil-forward, nut-free, and buttery alternative to traditional basil pesto pasta. She had the brilliant idea to blitz blanched basil with butter in a food processor (which you should definitely double to have leftovers for later!), which is then melted into a batch of hot pasta for a quick and easy 3-ingredient meal. The creamy, salty, melted butter serves as the perfect saucy vehicle for the fragrant peppery flavor of fresh basil, and perfectly coats each strand of pasta. And while it’s easy to make the basil butter in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta, you can also prep the basil butter in advance if you’d like to make dinnertime an absolute breeze. Such a win!

That said, while Ali’s version keeps things simple with just basil, butter and pasta, we’ve come to love adding in a generous dose of lemon, black pepper and Parmesan to this pasta as well (a la this recipe), which adds a balance of bright, spicy, umami flavors to the basil butter that really makes this dish sing. And for any of you who want to go the extra mile and make a batch of brown butter to use here (totally optional, but WOW), I can vouch that the extra toasty, nutty flavor notes absolutely take this simple dish over the top.

Bottom line, I’m now convinced that this melting-basil-butter-into-hot-pasta method here is one that any herb-lover should add to their repertoire. So grab a big bunch of basil and let’s make some pasta!

Lemon basil butter pasta ingredients

Lemon Basil Butter Pasta

Here are a few quick notes about the lemon basil butter pasta ingredients that you will need to make this recipe:

  • Pasta: We love making this dish with bucatini or mezze rigatoni, but just about any pasta shape will work well here!
  • Basil: I recommend weighing the fresh basil to be sure that you use enough here! You’ll need at least 80 grams, which is about 3 cups of packed fresh basil (no stems).
  • Butter: It’s worth it to use good-quality butter in this recipe since it’s the base of our sauce. You can either use salted butter, or just add 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt to the recipe if you only have unsalted butter on hand.
  • Garlic: I love adding a large clove or two of garlic to the butter to make it extra garlicky.
  • Lemon: We will also add the zest and juice of 1 small lemon, which brightens up all of these flavors and adds a delicious citrusy zing to each bite.
  • Salt and pepper: I find that properly salting the pasta water adds enough salt to this recipe, but give it a taste afterwards and feel free to add more salt if needed. Then when it comes to black pepper, the more the merrier in my opinion when adding twists to the basil butter!
  • Parmesan: Finally, I highly recommend a generous sprinkling of freshly-grated Parm to each serving, which adds the perfect pop of salty umami flavor to each bite.

How to make basil butter pasta

Pasta Tips

Full instructions for how to make this dish are included in the recipe below, but here are a few additional tips to keep in mind:

  • Blanch the basil quickly. If you’re new to blanching basil, be ready to move quickly with the process so that the basil does not overcook! Have the bowl of ice water already prepped and ready to go, then be speedy when dunking the basil in the hot water so that it has minimal contact with the hot water.
  • Or…skip blanching the basil. That said, the main point of blanching the basil is to preserve its vibrant green color. If you don’t mind a darker shade of brownish-green, you can totally skip the blanching step and the flavor will still be the same.
  • Generously salt the pasta water. I can’t stress enough how important it is to properly salt the pasta water for this recipe! This is the only opportunity we have to season the pasta itself, which helps bring out the best of all of the flavors in this recipe.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta. As with any pasta recipe, this one is best served al dente. So give the pasta a taste test during the last few minutes of cooking (don’t trust the package’s timing instructions!) and strain it the second that reaches that perfectly chewy texture where it’s tender yet still firm with a bit of a “bite.”

Tossing pasta with basil butter

Recipe Variations

This recipe welcomes all kinds of improvising, so please feel free to customize and make it your own! For example, feel free to:

  • Brown the butter: Brown the butter in advance, then refrigerate it (or let it sit out) until it reaches room temperature and proceed with the recipe as directed.
  • Add cream: Add a splash of heavy cream to the sauce.
  • Add a protein: Add your favorite cooked protein, such as chicken, Italian sausage, shrimp, salmon or scallops.
  • Add veggies and/or greens: Add your favorite pasta-friendly veggies, such as asparagus, arugula, bell pepper, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, onion, spinach, tomatoes, or zucchini.
  • Add extra mix-ins: Add artichoke hearts, capers, olives, sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Make it spicy: Add a generous sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes to the basil butter.
  • Make it gluten-free: Use your favorite gluten-free pasta to make this recipe gluten-free.

Lemon basil butter pasta in pot made with bucatini

More Easy Pasta Recipes

Looking for more quick and easy pasta recipes to try? Here are a few of our favorites:

Lemon basil butter pasta in bowl

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Lemon Basil Butter Pasta

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 1 review
  • Author: Ali
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


All you need are 6 simple ingredients to make a vibrant batch of this lemon basil butter pasta in less than 30 minutes.


  • 3 cups packed (~80 grams) fresh basil leaves
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 small lemon, zested and juiced 
  • fine sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 pound uncooked pasta (I used bucatini)
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Blanch the basil (optional). Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil. Place the basil in a large fine-mesh strainer or colander. Submerge the strainer in the boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds, quickly pressing the basil down with a wooden spoon so that it all makes contact with the water. Then immediately remove and transfer the basil to a bowl of ice water and submerge it completely to halt the cooking process. Remove the basil and wring it dry with your hands, then transfer it to a food processor.
  2. Make the lemon basil butter. Add the butter, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice (about 2 tablespoons), a pinch of salt and some generous twists of black pepper to the food processor. Pulse until smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times if needed.
  3. Cook the pasta. Generously salt the boiling water. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Strain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  4. Toss. Add the lemon basil butter to the pasta and toss with tongs until evenly coated. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Serve. Serve immediately, garnished with lots of Parmesan cheese, and enjoy!


Recipe slightly adapted from The New York Times.

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3 comments on “Lemon Basil Butter Pasta”

  1. Mmmm. Look forward to trying this with the lemon basil I planted last week!! Thanks!

  2. Pretty. I made something like this last night using the Kinder Roasted Garlic Brown Butter spice jar from Sam’s.

    I kind of got in to “butter” flavorings when I was in (AS) as I had no refrigeration there.

    I wonder if there is something similar at Costco? It makes a very good Egg Drop Soup broth.

    I wish I had more fresh basil. I planted plenty but it seems to disappear.

  3. Oooo yum, your lemon basil butter pasta looks delicious! I love your bright, crisp photos and that the recipe is so simple to make.