This speedy recipe for lemon spinach pasta has it all! Pasta, veggies and a light cheese sauce make a satisfying comfort food supper.
why we love this recipe
Oh, this pasta! Lemon, garlic, parmesan cheese, with some baby spinach swirled in for a little veggie action…this is a year-round fave in my kitchen.
Oh, and did I mention it is ready in under 30 minutes? MORE LOVE.
You do have to also love lemons…
Because we are going to use both the juice and the peel for a sparkly lemon flavor that goes perfectly with the spicy garlic and the tangy Parmesan cheese.
It’s a vegetarian medley of flavor that is perfect for a busy weeknight or a lazy weekend supper. Let’s make it!
ingredients you need
ingredient notes and substitutions
- Spinach: I always go for baby spinach because it is just the right size and usually pre-washed, but regular spinach will also work just fine. Give it a good chop before cooking it.
- Pasta: We like a long pasta like spaghetti or linguine, but whatever pasta you have on hand will work. This recipe is all about the sauce!
- Lemons: Here’s my favorite lemon trick: if your lemon is on the hard side, pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds. Heating it will ensure you get every drop of juice!
Here’s how to make this recipe
STEP 1: Cook 12 ounces of long pasta according to package directions in a large pot of boiling salted water. Scoop out a cup of pasta water before you drain it. (Pasta water is magical and it’s going to help us with our yummy sauce!)
STEP 2: While the pasta is cooking, heat a half cup of olive oil and a couple cloves of chopped garlic in a heavy deep skillet over medium high heat. Stir in a pound of baby spinach and lemon zest from two lemons and toss until the spinach is wilted, about 2-3 minutes.
STEP 3: Add pasta to the skillet along with the juice from those two lemons and toss. Add in a ½ cup of Parmesan cheese and enough of the reserved pasta water to make a light sauce. Toss until everything is well combined, drizzling in more pasta water as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Divide pasta among warmed bowls, garnishing with more Parmesan and a grinding of pepper, and serve at once.
When pasta cooks, it releases starch into the water (that is what makes it a little cloudy. And since hopefully you have thoroughly salted your water, at the end of the pasta cooking time you have a starchy, salty water that is ABSOLUTELY PERFECT for making or loosening up a light pasta sauce. It’s truly magical!
Start with the zesting! There are all kinds of fancy lemon zesting tools out there, but I love my microplane zester – it does the job quickly and you can also use it for cheese. Simply drag the lemon over the zester and little chopped lemon peel pieces will come out the other side. As for juicing, you can get as fancy as having a citrus juicer that squishes the juice out and leaves the seeds, or you can simply squeeze that lemon juice into a prep bowl with your hands.
You can! I like a nice long pasta like linguine or spaghetti so I can get some twirling action in, but any pasta will work just fine with this recipe.
You can! When you add the pasta, stir in some cooked shredded chicken, some cooked shrimp or some cooked steak that has been cut into bite-sized pieces.
Pop your question in the Comments section below and I will answer pronto. Comments and ratings are welcome too!
want to round out your meal?
And for dessert, let’s have some upside down peach cake!
other easy pasta dishes we love to twirl
Looking for more pasta supper inspiration? Here is our complete collection of pasta recipes!
There’s just something about lemons + garlic + cheese + pasta that makes everything right with the world, don’t you think? Happy sigh.
could you leave us some stars?
If you try this recipe, we would love to hear how it came out for you! I’d be super grateful if you could leave a star rating (you pick how many stars! 🌟 ) and your thoughts in the Comments section. Your thoughts and advice will help both us and your fellow readers. 🥰