Bright, Light & Lemony 30-Minute Pasta with Grilled Chicken

Where there’s lemon, you’ll find me.

Vertical overhead image of two white ceramic dishes of spaghetti topped with sliced grilled poultry, with forks and an herb garnish, with a small bowl of grated cheese and a lemon, on a gray background, printed with orange and white text at the bottom and near the middle of the frame.

Do you like lemon as a flavor?

For me, it’s a must in my daily world. Whether it’s a wedge squeezed over a salad, or a pasta dish like this one, I need my daily hit of citrus and acid.

Vertical image of a white bowl of spaghetti with chicken and herbs, with a fork, with a white serving dish of more of the entree in the background beside a small glass dish of grated cheese, with two lemons, on a gray surface.

There’s something about lemon that just brightens up everything. I love the tang, how it puckers your lips, and how it practically goes with everything. Oh, and that applies to both sweet and savory things.

Vertical image of a white bowl of spaghetti with grilled poultry and herbs, on a gray background with a fork, a serving bowl filled with the dish, a small glass bowl of grated cheese, and a lemon, on a dark gray surface.

This is the dinner that you’ll want to snag if you are craving that bright, citrusy flavor and want a hearty pasta dish that you can put on the table in just 30 minutes.

I swear, when I say this is a simple recipe, I really mean it. There aren’t too many ingredients, and most of them I’m guessing you already have in your house at this very moment.

Overhead vertical image of a white ceramic bowl and a matching serving dish of spaghetti with sliced grilled chicken and herbs, on a gray surface topped partially with a white and gray cloth, with a small glass bowl of grated cheese, a fork, and two lemons.

The chicken is grilled, so you get a little bit of smoky flavor, but you don’t have to worry about going through the steps of marinating it.

Next, you make spaghetti, which is obviously pretty darn easy and something you’ve probably done many times before.

Vertical overhead image of a white bowl and larger white serving bowl of pasta with grilled poultry and herbs, with a fork, next to a small dish of grated cheese and two lemons, on a gray surface topped with a gray and white cloth.

The real magic comes into play with the sauce.

You start by cooking up some garlic and herbs (you can use either dried or fresh here, which is a fantastic option to have when you don’t want to go to the store). Then you add some lemon juice and let that simmer so the flavors can meld together on the stove.

The sauce goes into a bowl with the cooked spaghetti and grilled chicken that’s been cut into strips. Give it all a toss with some fresh lemon zest, and you’re ready to eat.

Vertical image of a fork holding a bite of spaghetti up to the camera, with more in a white bowl and a serving dish in the background, alongside a small glass dish of grated cheese and two lemons, on a white and gray cloth on top of a dark gray surface.

Serve it in big bowls, and don’t forget the grated parmesan on top for a little cheesy touch.

The flavor of the lemon really pops, without being too overwhelming and blowing out the rest of the flavors in the dish.

My husband actually tends to hate anything with a strong lemon flavor (crazy, I know). However, this dish is one that he actually loves.

The first time I made it, he ate the whole bowlful and ended up wanting seconds… So that’s saying something about just how tasty and natural the lemon flavor in this dish is!

You can definitely taste the lemon, but the way it melds with the chicken, pasta, and herbs makes it an uplifting experience for your palate.

Horizontal image of a white bowl of spaghetti with sliced grilled poultry and chopped herbs on top, with a white ceramic serving bowl containing more of the dish in the background, next to a small glass dish of grated cheese, on a white and gray folded cloth with two whole lemons and scattered herbs, on a gray surface.

I highly recommend using fresh fruit juice for this recipe. I’ve had a lot of experience buying lemon juice in a bottle, and while it can come in handy for certain recipes, this is not one of them.

You want that fresh lemon flavor, and it really won’t overpower the herbs and chicken in the dish. It keeps the dish nice and light, and you will feel like you could eat it any night of the week.

Overhead horizontal image of a white bowl and white serving dish of spaghetti with grilled poultry and minced herbs, on a gray surface with a folded white and gray cloth, a fork, and two yelow citrus fruits.

Plus, the leftovers are just as tasty the next day when you reheat them. That’s why I always squirrel some away, so my husband won’t eat it all in one sitting – sometimes it’s important to make sure you have some left over for the cook to enjoy again the next day, after all.

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Overhead closely cropped horizontal image of a bowl of spaghetti with chicken, with two lemons on a white and gray cloth, on top of a dark gray surface.

30-Minute Lemony Pasta with Grilled Chicken

  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Grilled poultry with a light and bright sauce makes this lemony pasta with chicken a surefire win for dinner. It’s a simple but elegant 30-minute meal.


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approx. 22.5 lbs.)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 ounces spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh basil, or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan, for serving


  1. Preheat grill or grill pan.
  2. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper on all sides. Grill over medium-high heat until no longer pink inside, about 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove from grill and cover with aluminum foil. Set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.
  4. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, parsley, and basil to the pan and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Pour lemon juice into skillet, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 3 minutes.
  5. Pour lemon and oil mixture into a large serving bowl. Drain the pasta, then add it to the serving bowl. Toss well, until pasta is coated.
  6. Slice chicken into strips, add to the bowl, and toss again. Sprinkle with lemon zest.  Serve immediately, with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Grilling, Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Pasta

Keywords: grilled chicken, lemon, pasta

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Mince Garlic, Juice and Zest Lemon, And Measure Remaining Ingredients

Peel and mince 2 cloves of garlic.

Zest enough lemon until you have ½ teaspoon total.

Juice enough lemons until you have ½ cup of fresh juice. I used 4 medium-sized fruits to get this amount. Be sure to remove and discard any seeds.

Overhead horizontal image of two round glass bowls of minced herbs and grated parmesan cheese, a small square dish of minced garlic, four lemons, a black plate of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and a pile of uncooked spaghetti, on a mottled dark gray surface.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed on the ingredients list.

If you are using fresh herbs, remove the stems and chop the leaves finely.

Preheat your grill or grill pan to medium-high heat.

Step 2 – Grill Chicken

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper.

Horizontal overhead image of a small black plate filled with four boneless, skinless chicken breasts that have been sprinkled with salt and pepper, on a mottled gray background.

Place it on the grill and cook until it’s well done and no longer pink inside. This will take about 4 to 5 minute per side.

Horizontal image of four chicken breasts cooking on a grill.

Remove the chicken from the grill and place it on a cutting board or platter, covered with aluminum foil. Set aside.

Step 3 – Cook Pasta

While the chicken is grilling, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

Step 4 – Make Sauce

While the pasta is cooking, you can make the sauce. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a small skillet.

Horizontal overhead image of a nonstick saucepan filled about halfway with a lemon and herb sauce, on a gray surface.

Once it’s hot, add the garlic, parsley, and basil. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in the lemon juice and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 3 minutes.

Horizontal overhead image of a saucepan filled with olive oil, garlic, herbs, and lemon juice, on a mottled gray surface.

Pour the sauce into a large serving bowl.

Step 5 – Finish Dish

Drain the pasta in a colander. Add it to the serving bowl, and toss it with the sauce until the pasta is coated well.

Horizontal overhead image of a metal bowl of spaghetti tossed with lemon sauce and grilled chicken, on a gray surface.

After allowing the grilled poultry to rest for at least 10 minutes, slice it into strips. Add these to the bowl just before serving and toss to combine.

Sprinkle the lemon zest on top. Serve immediately, garnished with grated parmesan cheese.

Don’t Forget to Get in Your Vegetables

Do you happen to have some leftover vegetables from a previous meal sitting in your refrigerator? This is a great time to use them.

You can use chopped up asparagus, brussels sprouts, peppers, and even sauteed kale or spinach.

Really, it’s all about adding some freshness to the dish with whatever seasonal, nutritious vegetables you like, and this is a great way to use up some leftovers. Simply reheat and mix into the pasta when you are tossing it with the grilled chicken.

Overhead closely cropped horizontal image of a bowl of spaghetti with chicken, with two lemons on a white and gray cloth, on top of a dark gray surface.

For more pasta dishes to try this week, take a look at these Foodal favorites next:

Do you love the flavor of citrus in sweet or savory dishes? Tell us in the comments below. And once you try the recipe, be sure to rate it as well!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on May 22, 2011. Last updated April 25, 2020.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

1 thought on “Bright, Light & Lemony 30-Minute Pasta with Grilled Chicken”

  1. I used an electric grill (a George Foreman knockoff) and it turned out great! This is a good weeknight meal to change things up a bit.


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