If your go-to weeknight dinner is a simple vegetarian pasta, then you, my friend, are 100% in the right place.
We love easy pasta recipes around here. And even more so, we love ones that are quick to make, bursting with flavor, and creamy and cheesy, just like this Fresh Lemon and Ricotta Cheese Pasta. So pour yourself a glass, turn up the tunes, and let the kitchen dancing begin!
With just a few simple ingredients this bright, zesty, creamy pasta will be ready to devour. Please be sure to see the full recipe card below for amounts and instructions.
- Ricotta Cheese – whole milk ricotta will create the most luxurious sauce.
- Fresh Lemon – you’ll use both the lemon zest and the juice for the most flavor. I highly recommend organic lemons for this recipe if you can find them. So much of the flavor comes from the zest so having the highest quality is important. Look for unwaxed, too, or be sure to wash them well.
- Garlic – a clove or two adds a hint of aromatic flavor.
- Parmesan Cheese – grated parmesan or finely, freshly shredded will blend into the sauce the best. Be sure to get a specifically vegetarian brand of parmesan if needed.
- Pasta – a pasta shape that will hold the sauce works wonders. In the photographs, I’ve used bucatini (mostly because I love it – like in romesco pasta). I often make it with fusilli or rotini for those corkscrews, but penne, farfalle, or spaghetti will work too.
Of course, we’ll add some salt, freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes, too.
How to Make Lemon Ricotta Pasta
First things first: boil the pasta. Get that salted water started on the stove first thing because it will take the longest.
While waiting for the pasta to boil, prepare the ricotta sauce. This is as simple as combining the ricotta with fresh lemon zest, lemon juice, parmesan cheese, and seasoning. Taste test and add additional salt and pepper as needed. You will want to make sure there is enough salt to flavor the ricotta.
Also, be sure to use the best garlic press ever to mince the garlic in preparation for sauteeing.
Cook the pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Dip a measuring cup in and grab some pasta water before you drain the pasta!
Don’t forget the pasta water again! Set your strainer out and place a measuring cup inside of it, that way, you’ll have the reminder to grab some before you drain the pasta. Alternatively, place the strainer on top of a large bowl to catch the pasta water.
With the pasta drained, add butter to the pot to melt, and saute the garlic for a minute or two until fragrant and tender. Add the ricotta mixture and about a half cup of the reserved pasta water, stirring to combine. Toss with the noodles, adding additional pasta water as needed to create a velvety, luxurious sauce that coats each and every noodle.
You will definitely want to serve this pasta immediately for the best results! I highly recommend adding fresh basil too; it compliments both the lemon and ricotta and adds such a balanced freshness. No basil? Try finely chopped parsley.
A few more ideas for pasta pairings:
- Add some greens…whether it’s tossing in spinach, arugula, or kale into the pasta or serving it alongside roasted broccolini, they all pair well with this pasta dish!
- Garnish with toasted breadcrumbs for a wonderfully contrasted texture!
- Pair it with your favorite greens salad, or simply toss lettuce with a light white balsamic vinaigrette.
Leftover Tips for Ricotta Pasta
This pasta is best served fresh because the lemon ricotta sauce soaks quite a bit into the pasta once it’s chilled, which can result in a dried-out pasta when reheating.
If you do store leftovers, place them in an airtight container. If you still have pasta water leftover, pour some into the container. It will help reconstitute the sauce once reheated. Otherwise, add a little milk or even water or vegetable stock when reheating. This works best on the stove, but in a pinch, you can use the microwave.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Get the Recipe Fresh Lemon and Ricotta Cheese Pasta
- 16 ounces spaghetti, fusilli, or bucatini noodles
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- 15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 Tablespoons lemon zest
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¾-1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ⅛-¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- Basil, for serving
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, just shy of al dente. Be sure to set out a measuring cup or a bowl under your strainer; you will need at least 1 cup of pasta water reserved.16 ounces spaghetti, fusilli, or bucatini noodles
- In a mixing bowl, combine ricotta cheese, lemon zest and juice, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. "Press" the ricotta against the bowl with a spatula to remove any lumps for a smoother sauce. Taste test and add salt as needed.15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese, 2 Tablespoons lemon zest, 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice, ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese, ¾-1 teaspoon fine sea salt, ⅛-¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, Pinch red pepper flakes
- Drain the pasta (remember to reserve pasta water!), but do not rinse. Place the pot back on a medium-low heat burner and melt the butter in the pan. Add garlic; saute for around 2 minutes until softened and slightly caramelized.2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, 1-2 cloves garlic
- Add the ricotta cheese mixture to the pan and whisk to combine with butter and garlic. Pour in approximately 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water to begin. Add the pasta back to the pot and stir to combine, adding more pasta water as needed to create a smooth, luxurious sauce. I usually add around 3/4 cup.1 cup reserved pasta water
- Serve with fresh basil (truly, a game changer!) or chopped fresh parsley. Enjoy immediately.
- I highly recommend organic lemons! You’ll need about 2 medium lemons for this recipe. Please do not use bottled lemon juice.
- Strict vegetarians should look for a brand of parmesan cheese specifically labeled as such, or made with microbial enzymes.