Lemon Spinach Garlic Pasta

Lemon Spinach Garlic Pasta

July 30, 2019   |  by Shannon   |   Recipes

I just love The Barefoot Contessa, Ms Ina Garten.  Do you?

Whether you’re a devotee of her cooking show, a casual fan, or her name just sounds familiar, I need to share with you a very important kitchen lesson I learned from Ina.

The Barefoot Contessa herself, Ms Ina Garten! I just love her! Do you dream about preparing a meal with Ina? I certainly do!

Always, always, ALWAYS use freshly squeezed lemon juice!

Before I discovered the wonder that is Ina Garten, I must admit, I thought people who bought lemons whenever lemon juice was called for in a recipe were just wasting time: why go through the trouble of storing lemons, cutting lemons, and juicing lemons for a few tablespoons of juice, when you could buy one of those handy little bottles of pre-squeezed lemon juice???!

I had no idea what I was missing out on until several years ago when I made one of Ina’s risotto recipes that required quite a bit of lemon juice, freshly squeezed of course.  Since Ina was really pushing the whole freshly-squeezed-lemon-juice-thing, I finally decided it was time to break down, buy an actual lemon, and juice it myself.

Ina is telling you that freshly squeezed lemon juice is FABULOUS!

It was a life-changing day.  And that is no overstatement!  Ever since making Ina’s risotto, I have never ever ever gone back to pre-squeezed lemon juice. I’m telling you, freshly squeezing the lemon juice yourself makes a world of difference!

And that’s what this recipe for my Lemon Spinach Garlic Pasta is all about: celebrating the beauty of fresh lemon juice!

This lemony, garlicy, buttery sauce is so decadent!  But don’t worry, since there are 6 cups of spinach in this recipe, you can feel a little better about indulging in this magnificent sauce!

Like my 30 Minute Pasta Pomodoro, this recipe comes together in 30 minutes, and the pasta finishes cooking in the sauce, which means this is a really flavorful pasta dish!

A few things before I get to the recipe:

I encourage you to settle for nothing less that freshly grated Parmesan.  Cheese is another ingredient that suffers so much in flavor and texture if you take a shortcut and buy a pre-grated bag.  Trust me on this one!  Try grating the cheese yourself just one time, and I promise you will never go back!

A cheese plane also works great here for the Parmesan if you want to go all-out fancy! I finally bought a cheese plane after visiting The Cheese Shop in Carmel, and I use this amazing kitchen tool nearly every day!  It will make the most beautiful Parmesan slivers for this recipe!  Here is my favorite. This affordable kitchen tool also makes the perfect cheese slices for sandwiches.

A good cheese plane will literally enhance the flavor of all cheeses--there is something about thin slices that just brings the flavor out! Click to view my favorite cheese plane on Amazon! [aff. link]

This dish can be made gluten free simply by using gluten free pasta.

This dish can be made vegan by using your favorite vegan butter, or additional olive oil in place of the butter in this recipe, and by omitting the Parmesan.

And finally, be sure to have all of your ingredients prepped before you even turn the stovetop on.  Timing is everything here, and you don’t want to find yourself in the position of needing an ingredient immediately and realizing that you haven’t chopped it yet!

Now go get some lemons, starting juicing and zesting, and make this delicious, summery pasta. (:

And since we're talking about The Barefoot Contessa, here's a picture of the original Barefoot Contessa, Ms Ava Gardner! (I couldn't resist.) If you're interested in viewing the movie that first coined the name, click on Ava's photo!

Lemon Spinach Garlic Pasta

Do you use freshly squeezed lemon juice in your cooking? Give this recipe a try, using fresh lemon juice and zest. I promise, you will never go back to the pre-bottled lemon juice again!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Print Recipe


For the sauce:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 6-7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ Tbsp lemon zest
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped

Everything else:

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 6-8 cups spinach, fresh
  • ½ cup Parmesan, freshly grated
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • ¾ cup pasta water, reserved


Start the sauce

  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, sea salt, and garlic powder.
  • Cook for about 2 minutes, until the garlic smells heavenly and sizzles. Stir the whole time to encourage the salt and garlic powder to dissolve.
  • Add the butter, lemon zest, and ¼ cup parsley. Keep on medium heat, and continue stirring as the butter melts. We want the butter and the oil to be infused with the flavors of the garlic, lemon, and parsley.
  • Once the butter has melted, continue to cook over medium heat for 1 more minute, then take off the heat, and stir in the lemon juice. Set aside.

Cook the pasta

  • Now start the pasta. Cook according to package instructions, but stop cooking once the pasta is about two-thirds of the way cooked. (For example, the pasta I used for this dish has a total cooking time of 12 minutes. So I cooked the pasta for 8 minutes, reserved ¾ cup of pasta water, then drained the pasta.)

Add the pasta and spinach to the sauce

  • Once the pasta is about two-thirds of the way cooked, reserve ¾ cup pasta water, drain the pasta, and add the pasta to the pot with the sauce, along with 2 cups of spinach.
  • Turn the heat on to medium, and with your kitchen tongs, begin tossing the pasta into the sauce and spinach. Set your timer to cook the pasta in the sauce for the remaining cooking time according to your pasta box. (For my pasta, that was 4 more minutes.)
  • As you toss the pasta in the sauce, add the reserved ¾ cup pasta water, followed by the remaining 4-6 cups spinach. Toss a few times, then add the remaining ¼ cup parsley and ¼ cup Parmesan. Just keep tossing while you wait for your timer to go off!
  • Once your timer goes off, taste the pasta. It should be cooked to al dente perfection. If not, keep the heat on and toss for another minute or two.

Plate and serve!

  • Once the pasta is done, sprinkle the remaining Parmesan over the top, garnish with more parsley if desired, and serve!
  • This pasta dish is great served with my Ciabatta Crisps and a side of Gardein or your favorite meat substitute.


This dish can be made gluten free simply by using gluten free pasta.
This dish can be made vegan by using your favorite vegan butter, or additional olive oil in place of the butter in this recipe, and by omitting the Parmesan.

I’m Shannon, thanks for visiting!  When I’m not on an adventure with my little girl, I’m developing plant-based recipes or watching a Classic Film!

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