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What veggies are in the Leanguini lemon Parmesan and cavatappi lemon Parmesan with shrimp?

Knowing what vegetables are used in popular restaurant dishes can help home cooks recreate those flavors. Both Olive Garden’s Leanguini lemon Parmesan and cavatappi lemon Parmesan with shrimp feature a lemon Parmesan cream sauce over pasta. By identifying the vegetable ingredients, home cooks can approximate these dishes. In this article, we’ll examine what vegetables are likely used in these two Olive Garden pasta dishes.

Examining the Leanguini Lemon Parmesan

Leanguini is a thin, flat pasta noodle similar to linguini. Olive Garden describes this dish as “Tossed with garlic, Parmesan, and citrus lemon sauce.” No vegetables are specifically mentioned in the menu description. However, by looking at typical ingredients in lemon Parmesan pasta dishes, we can make some educated guesses about what veggies are included.

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic are a classic flavor base for many pasta sauces. When cooked, they develop a sweet, aromatic flavor. Mincing and sautéing onions and garlic in olive oil is likely the first step in developing the sauce for Leanguini lemon Parmesan. The sweetness of the cooked onions balances the acidity of the lemon and cheese.


Parsley is a common ingredient used to add fresh herbal notes to pasta dishes. The curly leaf Italian variety has a peppery, grassy flavor. Chopped fresh parsley makes a classic garnish for pasta. Its bright green color also makes for an appealing visual contrast against the pale pasta.

Lemon Juice and Zest

As the name suggests, lemon is a primary flavor in the Leanguini lemon Parmesan. The menu describes a “citrus lemon sauce.” The acidity and citrus aroma of lemon come through in both the juice and zest. The zest in particular adds intense lemon oil and flavor without as much acidity as the juice.

Examining the Cavatappi Lemon Parmesan with Shrimp

Cavatappi is a tubular, corkscrew pasta that holds sauce nicely. The shrimp version of the lemon Parmesan dish likely contains similar vegetables as the Leanguini, along with shrimp and any accompanying seasonings.

Onions and Garlic

Just like with the Leanguini, onions and garlic almost certainly provide the aromatic base for the sauce. Cooked briefly in olive oil, the onions and garlic will develop a sweetness to balance the lemon. Without this foundational flavor layer, the sauce would seem unbalanced and harsh.


The freshness of parsley is a perfect complement to seafood dishes. As a garnish or ingredient mixed into the pasta, it adds a fresh herbal quality. Parsley’s versatility to pair with both lemon flavors and shrimp makes it an obvious choice for this dish.


Again, lemon juice and zest provide citrus flavor and fragrance to the Parmesan sauce. Lemon also pairs perfectly with seafood like shrimp. A squirt of lemon over shrimp is a ubiquitous menu item. The creaminess of the Parmesan sauce benefits from lemon’s acidity to cut through the richness.


In addition to onions and garlic, shallots are a likely ingredient in the shrimp version of the lemon Parmesan. Shallots are part of the onion family but have their own distinctive flavor. When cooked, shallots develop a mildly sweet and aromatic quality. Their flavor is more complex than regular onions.

Small amounts of sautéed shallots add layers of flavor. They give the sauce a more refined, gourmet sensibility. Shallots also enhance any seafood flavors present. Overall, shallots are another way the shrimp lemon Parmesan distinguishes itself from the regular version.

Other Potential Veggie Ingredients

In addition to the likely ingredients already discussed, some other vegetables could possibly be used in small amounts in the lemon Parmesan recipes:

  • Spinach – Wilted spinach adds color and nutrition. The lemon Parmesan flavors complement the spinach nicely.
  • Broccoli – Small broccoli florets add texture and color contrast.
  • Sundried tomatoes – The concentrated tomato flavor adds umami savoriness.
  • Artichokes – Artichoke hearts pair well with lemon flavors.
  • Asparagus – The bright green color and texture make for an attractive addition.

However, the menu descriptions don’t indicate any of these vegetables as significant ingredients. They are unlikely to be present in large quantities in the lemon Parmesan dishes.


By examining typical pasta recipe ingredients and construction, we can make logical guesses about what vegetables Olive Garden uses in their Leanguini lemon Parmesan and cavatappi lemon Parmesan with shrimp dishes.

Onions and garlic almost certainly provide the aromatic base for the sauce. Parsley likely adds fresh herb notes. Lemon juice and zest deliver bright, citrusy flavor. And for the shrimp version, shallots add savory, complex notes tailor-made for seafood.

While other vegetables like spinach or artichokes are possible minor ingredients, they are not prominently featured based on the menu descriptions. With the likely veggie ingredients identified, home cooks can now try their hand at creating lemon Parmesan pasta masterpieces in their own kitchens.

Nutrition Information

Here is some background nutrition information on the main vegetable ingredients discussed:


Onions are low in calories but provide fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and potassium. They contain the antioxidant quercetin.


Garlic is low calorie and contains manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fiber. It contains beneficial plant compounds like allicin.


Parsley is high in vitamin K and vitamin C. It contains antioxidants like luteolin and apigenin.


Lemons are low in calories and provide vitamin C, folate, potassium, and some fiber. They have antioxidant limonoids.


Shallots are low in calories and high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, and potassium. They contain sulfurous compounds with potential anticancer effects.

Vegetable Calories Key Nutrients Phytochemicals
Onions 45 per 1/2 cup Fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium Quercetin
Garlic 42 per 1 clove Manganese, vitamin C, vitamin B6 Allicin
Parsley 11 per 1/4 cup Vitamin K, vitamin C Luteolin, apigenin
Lemons 17 per 1/4 fruit Vitamin C, folate, potassium Limonoids
Shallots 40 per 1/4 cup Vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, potassium Organosulfur compounds

Benefits of These Veggies

The main vegetable ingredients in Olive Garden’s lemon Parmesan pastas provide the following health benefits:

  • Immune support from vitamin C
  • Heart health from potassium and reduced inflammation
  • Digestive health from fiber and prebiotics
  • Antioxidant and anticancer effects of polyphenols and other phytochemicals
  • Bone health from vitamin K

Enjoying these vegetables as part of delicious dishes like lemon Parmesan pasta is a tasty way to reap their nutritional perks. The vegetables provide the foundation of flavor and nutrition, while the Parmesan, lemon, and shrimp or chicken add richness, creaminess, and protein.

Cooking Tips

Here are some tips for cooking with the vegetables in lemon Parmesan pasta:


  • Saute chopped onions in olive oil over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add a pinch of salt to help draw out moisture and speed cooking.
  • Cook garlic at the same time, being careful not to burn.


  • Rinse and dry parsley well, even if using curly leaf which doesn’t require chopping.
  • Add minced parsley at the end for freshness.
  • Use Italian flat leaf parsley for the best flavor.


  • Zest the lemon first before juicing to get the most mileage from each fruit.
  • Add zest early to allow the oils to develop; add juice near the end.
  • Squeeze and strain out any seeds which can add bitterness.


  • Saute shallot slices lightly in olive oil to mellow sharpness.
  • Add them early with onions and garlic as a flavor base.
  • Use sparingly as little goes a long way.

With these veggie cooking tips and insights into likely ingredients, you can now wow your own dinner guests with restaurant-worthy lemon Parmesan pasta creations.