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Lemon Ricotta Pasta

Lemon ricotta pasta is a quick, easy, and delicious weeknight meal overflowing with bright and fresh flavors. 

The creamy ricotta and Parmesan pair perfectly with the lemon, garlic, and spinach for a satisfying dish the whole family will love.

And while it’s incredible on its own, you can always bulk it out with juicy shrimp, grilled chicken, or – my personal favorite – pan-fried salmon.

Creamy lemon ricotta pasta, featuring zesty lemon zest and baby spinach in a white bowl.
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Why You’ll Love This Lemon Ricotta Pasta

Creamy and Comforting: The combination of ricotta and Parmesan cheese creates a smooth and luxurious sauce that envelops each piece of pasta, offering a satisfying and comforting texture.

Restaurant-Worthy Taste: The balance of rich ricotta, tangy lemon, and aromatic garlic gives this dish a gourmet feel.

Weeknight Savior: With its simple ingredients and quick preparation time, this dish is a lifesaver for busy weeknights when you need a satisfying meal on the table fast.

Ingredients

  • Pasta: The foundation of this creamy, dreamy dish. Choose your favorite shape and cook until perfectly al dente.
  • Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese: Creamy, rich, and oh-so-smooth, it creates a luscious sauce that coats every nook and cranny of the pasta. Be sure to drain it so you don’t end up with watery sauce.
  • Lemon Zest and Juice: A double dose of bright, zingy lemon flavor that wakes up the ricotta and makes your taste buds dance.
  • Parmesan Cheese: Salty, nutty, and packed with umami, Parmesan adds depth and complexity to the dish.
  • Shallot and Garlic: Pungent and aromatic, they have a subtle kick that perfectly complements the lemon and Parmesan.
  • Olive Oil and Butter: The foundation of the sauce, they cook the aromatics and help all the flavors meld harmoniously.
  • Salt and Black Pepper: The dynamic duo that enhances all the other flavors and brings the dish to life.
  • Red Pepper Flakes (optional): For those who like a little heat, a pinch of red pepper flakes adds a pleasant warmth that doesn’t overpower the other ingredients.
  • Baby Spinach: Tender and mild, baby spinach adds a pop of green and a healthy dose of nutrients to the pasta.
  • Fresh Basil Leaves: The perfect finishing touch, torn basil leaves add a fresh, herbal note that ties all the flavors together.
Top view of cooked baby spinach in a skillet with wooden spoon.
A pot of pasta noodles with tongs lifting a portion up

How to Make Lemon Ricotta Pasta

Picture this: it’s a weeknight, you’re craving something that’s both indulgent and light, and you don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. 

Enter this lemon ricotta pasta, a dish that checks all the right boxes.

Ready in just 15 minutes, it’s guaranteed to satisfy.

1. COOK: Cook the pasta in well-salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, then drain.

2. SAUTÉ: Cook the minced shallot, garlic, and spinach in butter and oil until the spinach is wilted.

3. MIX: Reduce the heat and add the ricotta, Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir until smooth.

4. ADJUST: Add the reserved pasta water, a little at a time, until the desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

5. TOSS: Add the cooked pasta and toss until evenly coated in the sauce.

6. SERVE: Serve hot with extra Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves. Enjoy!

Classic lemon ricotta pasta, garnished with grated parmesan and lemon zest.

Tips For the Best Lemon Ricotta Pasta

I’m officially in love with this super simple pasta dish! 

It’s the perfect combo of creamy, zesty, and a little spicy if you’re feeling adventurous. 

But if you’ve never made pasta sauce with ricotta before, check out these tips before you start.

  • Pasta options. Any type of pasta works with this dish, so go with whatever you prefer or have on hand. I like noodles or textured pasta because it holds onto the sauce well, but you do you.
  • Ricotta quality. I can’t stress this enough – use room-temperature whole milk ricotta for the most decadent flavor and creamiest texture. Avoid low-fat or fat-free ricotta, which can curdle in the pan.
  • Lemon flavor. For the brightest lemon flavor, only zest the very outer peel. If you hit the pith, you’ll get bitterness in the dish.
  • Blitz the sauce. Add everything to a blender (not the spinach) and pulse it until smooth. Then, cook in the pan with the spinach.
  • Add cream. If your ricotta looks a bit grainy (before cooking), mix it with heavy cream, then cook on low. It should smooth out in the pan.
  • Optional add-ins. This dish would be great with sautéed or grilled veggies like asparagus, peas, broccoli, zucchini, or cherry tomatoes. For a protein boost, add grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon, or Italian sausage.
  • Serving suggestions. Serve Lemon Ricotta Pasta with a light salad, garlic bread, extra Parmesan cheese, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and fresh basil on top.
Savory lemon ricotta pasta with baby spinach and lemon zest in a white bowl with a fork

How to Store

If you’re looking for a new go-to weeknight meal that feels special but is incredibly easy to make, this is it. Trust me, you’ll be licking your plate clean!

That said, here’s how to store leftovers – if you happen to have any.

To Store: Place cold leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2-3 days. 

To Reheat: Warm the pasta in a skillet over medium heat-low, adding a splash of water, milk, or cream to loosen the sauce. 

Note: Freezing is not recommended, as it can alter the texture of the pasta and sauce.

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More Creamy Pasta Dinners You Have to Try

Garlic Parmesan Chicken Pasta
Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Pasta
Creamy Mushroom Pasta
Buffalo Chicken Pasta

Lemon Ricotta Pasta

Course: Main CourseCuisine: Italian
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

10

minutes
Calories

633

kcal

Lemon ricotta pasta is a quick, easy, and delicious weeknight meal overflowing with bright and fresh flavors. Serve it as is or with chicken, shrimp, or salmon.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces pasta (spaghetti, linguine, penne, rigatoni, fusilli, etc.)

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 shallot, minced

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 3 cups baby spinach, washed and dried

  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese, well drained

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

  • Fresh basil leaves, torn, for garnish

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain.
  • While the pasta cooks, warm the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until the spinach is wilted.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the ricotta, 1/2 cup Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using). Stir until smooth.
  • Add the reserved pasta water, a little at a time, until the desired consistency is reached, then taste and adjust the seasonings as needed.
  • Add the cooked pasta and toss until evenly coated in the sauce. Serve hot with extra Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Use fresh, high-quality whole milk ricotta for the best flavor and texture. Avoid reduced fat versions.
  • Add other vegetables like peas, asparagus, or cherry tomatoes if desired.
  • The pasta is best enjoyed immediately, as the sauce will thicken as it cools. 

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author avatar
Kim - InsanelyGood
Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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