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This tangy, creamy Lemon Ricotta Pasta is light yet satisfying. It’s one of our favorite dishes for an evening when we’re eager to get dinner on the table.
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This Lemon Ricotta Pasta is a quick and easy weeknight dinner recipe. The rich and tangy sauce comes together while the pasta is cooking, so it’s a simple pasta dish that’s done in no time. It has so many things I love – fresh ingredients, tangy fresh lemon juice, creamy ricotta, fresh herbs, a little spice, and of course springy pasta cooked perfectly al dente. It’s a perfect simple summer supper all on its own, or paired with grilled chicken, salmon, steak, just about anything.
Ingredients in Lemon Ricotta Pasta
This light, fresh delicious pasta dish comes together with just a few simple ingredients:
- Pasta – I like to use short pasta, like penne or fusilli, for this recipe because it is easier to stir into the sauce. However, I have used longer noodles before and it tastes just as good! Boil the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package instructions, or until al dente. Then drain and toss with the other ingredients.
- Olive Oil – You can use other neutral oils like grape seed or avocado oil if needed. I like using extra virgin olive oil for its light flavor that doesn’t overpower the other flavors.
- Garlic – I always say fresh is best! Make sure to crush your cloves before mincing to maximize the flavor.
- Lemon Zest & Lemon Juice – Lemon zest is full of tangy, delicious lemon oil and adds so much flavor to the sauce.
- Red Pepper Flakes – I like to add a little spice to this dish, but you can omit if desired. A little goes a long way, so you can start with just a pinch.
- Ricotta Cheese – The star player of this sauce, ricotta is a protein-rich, creamy ricotta mixture. Use whole-milk ricotta for best results. You can find it in the dairy section of your grocery store near the cottage cheese and sour cream.
- Parmesan Cheese – The best parmesan cheese is fresh grated. The pre-grated stuff has a coating on it that will clump up your sauce and won’t give it the best creamy texture.
- Fresh Basil Leaves and Lemon Slices or Lemon Wedges – Basil and lemon on top just add that extra freshness and color on your plate.
- Optional: Fresh parsley for garnish.
Variations and Substitutions for Lemon Ricotta Pasta
If you want to change things up a bit with this Lemon Ricotta Pasta recipe, then I have a few suggestions!
- You could add greens like spinach or arugula.
- This pasta also goes great with asparagus and broccoli.
- I have also garnished bowls of this pasta with cherry tomatoes.
- While ricotta cheese is a very protein-heavy cheese, you could add more protein with chicken or shrimp.
Don’t skip the pasta water! A cup of starchy pasta water makes the lemon ricotta sauce so creamy and helps it cling to the pasta. Reserved pasta water is a great addition to almost any pasta sauce.
Ricotta is mild enough that it goes well with sweet or savory flavors. Try it with eggs, pesto or tomatoes. Or eat it with strawberries or bananas for a sweet treat.
You’ll get a mild, slightly nutty flavor from full fat fresh ricotta cheese. Melted down, it can be a thick and creamy sauce and seasoned up a million different ways.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. They should last a week. To reheat, you may need to add a splash of milk and then cover and microwave until heated through.
Ricotta will not melt into the sauce. This isn’t meant to be a smooth sauce, the ricotta will retain its signature clumps. It is still delicious!
READ MORE:35+ Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas
If you love lemon flavor in your savory dishes, like in this lemon ricotta pasta, then try some of our other delicious lemon-y recipes!
How to Make Lemon Ricotta Pasta
Lemon Ricotta Pasta
- 1 pound pasta noodles reserve 1 cup of water before draining pasta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- red pepper flakes to taste
- 15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- salt and black pepper to taste
- basil leaves for serving
- lemon slices for serving
- Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet. Add garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, and red pepper flakes. Saute until fragrant.
- Add the ricotta to the pan and whisk together until completely combined.
- Add the pasta water and parmesan cheese. Whisk until combined. Top with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add noodles and stir until coated.
- Serve with fresh basil leaves and lemon slices.
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