Simple Lemon Arugula Spicy Penne, an easy penne pasta with fresh arugula and parmesan cheese in a simple garlic and chili infused oil. Ready in only 20 minutes!

penne, arugula, and lemon pasta on a white plate with a gold fork on a marble countertop with a green plant

Raise your hand if pasta is your comfort food of choice. Both of my hands are in the air because a delicious, decadent plate of pasta is my personal favorite meal when I'm craving something rich and hearty.

However, I truly believe that healthy dinners and pasta dinners don't have to be mutually exclusive. It is possible to have a bold and flavorful pasta recipes that is also filled with fresh seasonal vegetables and is — most importantly — easy to make.

That's why I'm sharing my go-to, ready in 20 minutes, vegetable-packed pasta recipe, this Simple Lemon Arugula Spicy Penne. Because you shouldn't have to decide between easy, healthy, and satisfying.

Are you ready to learn how to make this Simple Lemon Arugula Spicy Penne? Let's do it!

bowls of penne, arugula, chili flakes, olive oil, sea salt, and parmesan cheese on a white table with a green plant

How to make Simple Lemon Arugula Spicy Penne

This simple penne pasta with lemon and arugula is one of my favorite easy go-to pasta recipes that comes together in only 20 minutes, which makes it a great option for busy weeknights. Here’s what you’ll do:

  1. Cook the pasta in salted water until al dente, about 9 minutes, then drain and set aside. Make sure to reserve a 1/2 cup pasta water to use for later.
  2. While pasta is cooking, infuse the olive oil by heating it in a large pan and crisping the sliced garlic and adding the red chili flakes.
  3. When the pasta is done, put it all together: add the penne, arugula, cheese, and a pinch of salt to the pan with infused oil. Add a squeeze of lemon zest, a sprinkle of lemon, and a drizzle of the reserved pasta oil and mixed to combine.

That’s it! An easy, flavorful, and veggie-packed pasta that pairs perfectly it with a simple side salad. Healthy comfort food!

four photos showing how to make penne pasta including infusing olive oil, adding pasta to pot, adding vegetable toppings, and squeezing a lemon

Simple Lemon Arugula Spicy Penne: Tips, tricks, and tools

This pasta and vegetable recipe is an easy weeknight dinner recipe that comes together in under 20 minutes, but there are some tips and tricks for streamlining preparation.

  • Use any vegetables you have in season. Is spinach or asparagus in season? Swap out the arugula for the season's freshest vegetables.
  • Want to make it plant-based? This pasta is delicious even without the cheese, but if you're craving a vegan alternative try a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor.
  • Make enough for lunch the next day. Double up on this recipe to keep in the fridge for lunches all week, it's an easy pasta recipe that reheats well.
  • Boost the nutrition by choosing a vegetable-based pasta. Swap traditional pasta for a new veggie-based pasta alternative like chickpea, lentil, quinoa, or rice pasta. They're also gluten-free!
a plate of penne pasta with spinach and a slice of lemon on a white table with a bowl of parmesan cheese

We hope you love this Simple Lemon Arugula Spicy Penne, its:

  • a great choice for busy weeknights because it comes together in only 20 minutes.
  • an easy “clean out the fridge” recipe — just toss in those veggies that about to go bad!
  • a perfect option for meal prep because this pasta recipe keeps well in the refrigerator and reheats easily.
  • a healthier version of classic creamy pastas that packs in fresh vegetables and flavor with minimal ingredients.

Love this simple penne pasta recipe? Check out our other seasonal pasta recipes, like this Pasta with Clams in White Wine Garlic Sauce or Vegan Fusilli Pasta Salad.

Did you make this Simple Lemon Arugula Spicy Penne? Leave a comment below and rate the recipe to let us know how it turned out. Save this pasta recipe for later by pinning to your favorite pasta Pinterest board and make sure to tag me on Fork in the Road’s Instagram to show me your simple pasta creations!

Yield: 2 servings

Simple Lemon Arugula Spicy Penne

a plate of penne pasta with spinach and a slice of lemon on a white table with a bowl of parmesan cheese

Simple Lemon Arugula Spicy Penne, an easy penne pasta with fresh arugula and parmesan cheese in a simple garlic and chili infused oil. Ready in only 20 minutes!

Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes


  • 1 cup penne pasta
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 cup arugula
  • 1/2 cup parmesan or pecorino, grated + more for garnish
  • pinch of sea salt
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon


  1. Bring 6 cups of water with a pinch of salt to a boil, then add penne pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. When pasta is done, reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and then drain pasta and set aside.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. Add sliced garlic and cook until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add red chili flakes and let cook 1 minute to infuse oil, then remove pan from heat so garlic and oil do not burn.
  3. When pasta is done, add penne noodles to pan with garlic and chili flakes. Top with arugula, parmesan cheese, a pinch of sea salt, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon. Stir to combine, then drizzle a small amount of reserved pasta water and heat over low heat until the ingredients are well combined.
  4. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan and enjoy!


  • Notes: to make this recipe vegan, omit the cheese completely or substitute it with nutritional yeast or a vegan cheese alternative
  • Tools Needed: environmentally-friendly cookware (a large pot and pan)
  • Leftovers and Storage: store leftover pasta in glass storage containers in refrigerator for up to four days; reheat in pan over low heat

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

1 serving (about 1.5 cups pasta)

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 339Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 69mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 9g