Lemon arugula pasta has become a favorite in our home because of its flavor, and simplicity. Peppery arugula is combined with pasta, lemon juice, lemon zest, grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and tossed together with garlic and oil. Topped with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and more lemon zest, this dish can be on your table in less than 30 minutes and couldn't be easier to make.
I love making meals with minimal ingredients, especially during the week when life can be more chaotic.
Simple pasta dishes, like aglio e olio, or cacio e pepe are some of my go-to's when I need to make something quick with the ingredients I already have on hand.
Pasta with lemon and arugula has been added to that list as well.
I usually have arugula on hand for a variety of reasons.
We will often use it in salads, like chickpea arugula salad with lemon and parmesan, or to serve with chicken Milanese.
Arugula is always there to be used in a pinch, as are lemons, cheese, garlic, and of course, pasta, making this dish something that can be thrown together without a trip to the store, and with minimal effort.
How to make it
- Slice 4 cloves of garlic. Juice and zest 1 lemon. You should have approximately 2 tablespoons of juice and 1 tablespoon of zest.
- Bring a large pot of salted (2 tablespoons kosher salt) water to boil and cook pasta to al dente. Meanwhile, heat a large pan to medium-low, wait for the pan to heat up for 2 minutes, then add a ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil and the sliced garlic to the pan.
- Sautee the garlic until it turns lightly golden as shown in pic 3 above. Add a ½ teaspoon (optional) of crushed red pepper to the pan and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Add a ladle of pasta water to the pan and turn heat to medium.
- Add the very al dente pasta to the pan and coat the pasta with garlic and oil.
- Add all of the arugula to the pan and toss to coat. Season with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Cook for 1 minute, turn the heat off and remove the pan from burner.
- Add the half cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and the lemon zest and juice.
- Toss to emulsify and if the pasta gets too dry add a couple of ounces of reserved pasta water to loosen everything up. Taste test and make any final adjustments to salt or crushed red pepper levels. Serve the pasta in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Pro Tip: Use a vegetable peeler to make easy shavings off the block of cheese.
What type of pasta should I use?
Lemon and arugula go well with a variety of different pasta shapes.
We used gemelli for this particular recipe, but you can really use any shape you'd like.
My favorite pasta shapes for lemon arugula pasta include linguine, rigatoni, and cavatappi.
A note about arugula
Have you ever bought fresh spinach, and found yourself wondering what happened to it after you've cooked it?
Much like spinach, arugula will reduce down significantly once exposed to heat, as evidenced in the pictures above.
Keep this in mind when making lemon arugula pasta, and if you'd like more arugula, feel free to add it.
You may want to consider keeping some on the side and adding it to individual bowls right as you're about to serve. This will allow for a variety of textures since some of the arugula will be less wilted than the rest.
If you like lemon arugula pasta, try these other simple pasta recipes
In addition to some of my go-to pasta dishes mentioned above, I have a few others that make their way into my kitchen on a frequent basis, especially in the warmer months.
- Spinach sun dried tomato pasta - Quick and easy recipe loaded with sun dried tomato flavor.
- Pasta with broccoli - Simple comforting pasta dish with garlic and broccoli.
- Roasted cherry tomato pasta - Roasted cherry tomato sauce with linguine and basil.
- Spaghetti alla Nerano, aka fried zucchini pasta - Fried zucchini pasta that is so delicious!
- Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil - Cherry tomatoes, basil, and garlic - super light and perfect for summer.
- Linguine al limone - 4 ingredient comforting lemon pasta recipe.
- Rigatoni primavera - Asparagus, broccolini, zucchini, yellow squash, and peas in a creamy pink white wine sauce.
If you’ve enjoyed this lemon arugula pasta recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.
Some people learn by watching. If you're that type of person, you can find most of our recipes on YouTube and our Facebook Page.
- 1 pound gemelli pasta substitute penne, rigatoni, etc.
- 4 cloves garlic sliced
- 8 ounces baby arugula
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or 1 lemon worth
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest or 1 lemon worth
- ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano grated, plus extra for shaving
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for finishing
- 1 cup reserved pasta water might not need all of it
- Bring a large pot of salted (2 tablespoons kosher salt) water to boil. Cook pasta to al dente. Reserve the pasta water.
- While waiting for pasta to cook, heat a large pan to medium-low heat. Wait 2 minutes for the pan to warm up then coat the pan with the extra virgin olive oil. Saute the garlic for 1-2 minutes, then add the red pepper flakes. Cook for 30 seconds longer.
- When the pasta is almost done cooking add a ladle of pasta water to the pan and turn heat to medium.
- Add the al dente pasta and the arugula to the pan and toss to coat. Season with a bit of salt and cook for 1 minute. Turn the heat off and set pan aside.
- Add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and grated cheese. Toss to emulsify. If the pasta is too dry add a bit more pasta water and toss once more.
- Taste test and make final adjustments to salt. Serve in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Use a vegetable peeler to easily shave the cheese. Enjoy!
- Arugula shrinks substantially after wilting. 8 ounces is a lot, but use more if you like.
- To add extra texture, leave some of the arugula uncooked, and serve on individual bowls upon plating.
- A vegetable peeler makes long shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano with ease.
- Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave.
Would be a great cold pasta salad too!!
Absolutely agree, Denise!
Made this for the second time, using spaghetti and spinach because that is what we had on hand. My wife loves it, which is a good thing, because so do I! Prepared in the 12" stainless pan to which you link. And now I know how to zest a lemon.... Thanks, Jim!
Hi Joseph, so happy you and your wife enjoyed this one!
We really liked this, but had trouble with the arugula and parmesan clumping together as I stirred them into the pasta. Any tips on how to avoid this problem?
Hi Allison, adding a bit of pasta water should help break up the clumps. Hope this helps!
What a simple meal that tastes so different. I love arugula but I could eat just the pasta with that hint of lemon all on its own.
Hi Pam, thanks for the comment and so happy you enjoyed this one as well!