A delicious lemon butter pasta with asparagus, or any other vegetable you have in the fridge. A quick and simple pasta dish that can be a go to for busy weeknights. The buttery sauce is super garlicky and finished with fresh mint, toasted pine nuts and lemon zest. It's seriously SO good, you have to make this!
Hi! Ok so this is one for all my Southern Hemisphere followers where asparagus is piling high in our warming weather. Don't fear if you are in colder weather, you can substitute the asparagus for broccoli, green beans or anything you like! A few simple ingredients making one of my favorite pasta dishes.
This lemon butter garlic sauce is a fantastic base to work with, you can make it your own with any fresh ingredients you have. It's no secret butter sauces are my favorite (check out My Guide to the Best Butter Sauce For Pasta). It's a spin on Pasta al Limone. If you want a more decadent creamy sauce version, try my Easy Creamy Lemon Pasta Recipe.
Butter - I often call for unsalted butter but salted is fine here, it needs some seasoning.
Fresh garlic cloves - I use a lot of garlic in this dish, it makes the sauce SO tasty. Fresh cloves are always best.
Lemon - Again, fresh lemon juice is the only way and you'll need the zest as a topping too.
Asparagus - I like to chop it really unevenly, I think it looks really cool and makes it more interesting to eat. It doesn't get cooked long as I like it to retain it's crunch.
Pine nuts - Dry toast them in a fry pan until lightly golden brown all over.
Fresh mint - I think mint is the perfect fresh herb for this sauce.
Parmesan cheese - It's a non-negotiable to finish this dish with lots of freshly grated parmesan and black pepper.
Substitutions and variations
I love that this simple dish can be easily adapted to whatever you like and is in season.
- If asparagus isn't in season where you are then use broccoli, green beans, zucchini or anything else you like. Chop broccoli into quite small florets so they cook through in the butter.
- Instead of mint use any fresh herbs you like. Fresh parsley or basil would also be delicious. Toss through right at the end to retain freshness and colour.
- I like to add toasted nuts to pasta for crunch. If you don't like pine nuts then substitute for walnuts, pistachios - anything!
- Pasta! I have used a homemade potato gnocchi but you could use absolutely any pasta shape you like, fresh, dried or gluten-free pasta will all work. I like to undercook dried pasta by a minute so it can finish cooking IN the sauce and still be al dente.
How to make this delicious dish
The full ingredient list and method is in the recipe card below. It's such a minimal effort type of dish, it will become a staple I am sure!
ONE: While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, letting it gently sizzle for a minute.
TWO: Add the chopped asparagus and cool for a further 2 minutes.
THREE: Push the asparagus to the side and add the lemon juice and a splash of pasta water, whisking vigorously to emulsify.
FOUR: Add your cooked pasta straight in to the lemon sauce and let it gently bubble away for a minute on a medium-low heat.
FIVE: Take off the heat and add the fresh herbs and pine nuts in and toss.
SIX: Top with lemon zest for added lemon flavor, black pepper and parmesan cheese. Some red pepper flakes would also be a great addition.
Tips for a glossy butter pasta sauce
The secret to a well emulsified glossy sauce is being quite vigorous. When the lemon juice gets added into the butter you want to quickly whisk them together so they become one. I like to hold the pan with my left hand, shaking it back and forth while whisking with my right. Repeat with the starchy pasta water. Just keep shaking and whisking, don't be gentle!
A brown butter alternative
If you haven't had a read of my Guide to the Best Butter Sauce for Pasta then head on over. Butter sauces are my FAVE. A brown butter is such a great choice for any pasta, it's quick, easy and incredibly delicious. My 10 Minute Brown Butter for Pasta is a very handy recipe to have up your sleeve!
Emulsifying is when two or more liquid some together to form a sauce. In this case melted butter, lemon juice and pasta water are emulsified into a glossy cohesive sauce. I like to use a flat whisk to whisk them really well together.
Yes! the beauty of any kind of butter sauce is it's versatility. I have used a gnocchi but you can use anything you have in the cupboard.
You can store leftovers in an airtight container BUT the texture of the sauce will change a lot, it won't be thick it will go back to a thinner melted butter consistency. I highly recommend eating it all so there are no leftovers!
Want some other pasta dishes to try?
If you liked this easy lemon butter pasta sauce then check out my recipe section for other delicious pasta recipes. For something really similar try my Zucchini Butter Pasta. My new Creamy Saffron Pasta Sauce is pretty special and my Anchovy Butter Pasta is a must for anchovy lovers!
Made this recipe and loved it?
I would love love LOVE if you could leave me a review down below and let me know what you thought! I love to hear any changes or adaptions you have made too. Also if you put a photo on instagram, please tag me so I can see, it makes my day!Print