Lemon Ricotta Pasta

4.99 from 54 votes

Lemon Ricotta Pasta is a zesty, vegetarian, quick weeknight meal made with simple pantry staples and ready in just 20 minutes!

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I’m always in the mood for pasta, but I’m not always feeling something heavy or tomatoey. When that happens, I want something bright, simple, creamy, and comforting! I want this Lemon Ricotta Pasta. It’s ready in less than 30 minutes and has minimal ingredients—my kind of weeknight dinner!

Lemon ricotta pasta in a Dutch oven.
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For me, lemon and ricotta are a perfect match (see this cake and these pancakes). The zing of the lemon cuts through the richness of the ricotta. Unlike pastas with sauces that require hours of simmering, this easy lemon ricotta pasta is ready in just 20 minutes. Just tossing noodles with ricotta wouldn’t make it creamy though. Instead, this recipe does something genius (If I do say so myself!): the lemon ricotta pasta sauce is blended until smooth, then added to the noodles along with some of the starchy water the pasta cooked in. These two emulsify, creating a creamy sauce that clings to each noodle.

Recipe At a Glance

Cuisine Inspiration: American
Primary Cooking Method: Stovetop
Dietary Info: Vegetarian
Key Flavor: Lemon and ricotta
Skill Level: Easy


  • An any-day-of-the-week dinner: Because it’s so speedy, I’ll often make this Lemon Ricotta Pasta on a weeknight. However, it tastes like you spent longer on it, so I’ve made it on a weekend for a dinner party, too!
  • Kid-friendly: My kids love this creamy pasta. They’ll even ask for seconds!
  • Veggie-packed: This recipe has a whole container of spinach in it.
  • A main dish or side: I love pasta night at my house when we eat pasta and only pasta. But this Lemon Ricotta Pasta is also an excellent side, served with roast chicken, Air Fryer Chicken Parmesan, or garlicky shrimp.

Ingredients to Make Lemon Ricotta Pasta

Lemon ricotta pasta ingredients on a marble countertop.
  • Spaghetti: I always have spaghetti in my pantry.
  • Ricotta and parmesan: Ricotta makes the pasta sauce velvety, while parmesan adds saltiness.
  • Olive oil: This makes the sauce taste richer (and more delicious!).
  • Garlic: You need peeled, whole garlic gloves. Don’t bother chopping them up! The blender will do it for you.
  • Lemon: The zest and juice will go into the sauce.
  • Red pepper flakes: These add just a little heat. You can leave them out, though.
  • Baby spinach: These smaller, more tender leaves wilt quickly in the pasta.
  • Use any pasta shape. Linguine, bucatini, cavatappi, fusilli, penne: Whatever your favorite shape is, it’ll work in this recipe. You can also use gluten-free pasta.
  • Switch up the cheeses. You’ll want to use one creamy and one salty cheese, but you could swap out the ricotta for mascarpone and the parmesan for pecorino romano.
  • Add even more creaminess. To make the sauce more creamy, you can add some heavy cream in place of the reserved pasta water. 
  • Use a different vegetable. Instead of the spinach, add defrosted frozen peas, cooked broccoli, green beans, or chopped asparagus.

How to Make Lemon Ricotta Pasta

After blending the lemon ricotta pasta sauce and cooking the pasta, you’re basically 90% of the way finished with this easy recipe.

Lemon ricotta pasta sauce ingredients in a blender.
Step 1: Place all of the sauce ingredients in a blender.
Creamy lemon ricotta sauce in a blender.
Step 2: Blend until the sauce is very smooth.
Cooked spaghetti, lemon ricotta pasta sauce, and baby spinach in a pot.
Step 3: Add the lemon ricotta pasta sauce, reserved pasta water, and baby spinach to the pot with the cooked spaghetti.
Lemon ricotta pasta with spinach in a pot.
Step 4: Toss until the pasta is evenly coated and creamy and the spinach wilts.

Tips for Making the Best Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Spinach

  1. Zest the lemon properly. Zesting a lemon isn’t hard, but it takes a little know-how. I like to use a rasp-style grater and gently run it over the lemon’s skin. You don’t want to take off any of the underlying, bitter white pith. It could make the sauce taste off!
  2. Salt the pasta water. Salt penetrates the pasta while boiling, allowing it to get properly flavored. It’s much harder to flavor pasta after it’s been cooked, and you will most likely end up using way more salt than needed. Plus, we’re going to be using this salted pasta water in the lemon ricotta pasta sauce!
  3. Cook the pasta al dente. I highly recommend cooking the pasta al dente, so it has a nice bite to it even after it’s been tossed in the warm sauce. You don’t want it to become soggy after you toss it in the sauce for a couple of minutes. 
  4. Don’t rinse the pasta after cooking. You want to toss the hot pasta with the sauce without letting the pasta cool. I recommend draining it, then immediately adding it back to the pot and tossing it quickly and thoroughly with the sauce.
  5. Don’t try to use a food processor for the sauce. It won’t be able to blend the sauce, break down the garlic, or make it super creamy! Stick with a blender.
A bowl of lemon ricotta pasta with extra grated cheese on top.

What to Serve With Lemon Ricotta Pasta

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you store and reheat Lemon Ricotta Pasta?

This pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. I recommend reheating it in the microwave or in a pot with a little extra water added to help loosen the noodles and sauce.

My pasta sauce turned out to be too thick. What can I do to fix it?

If your sauce is too thick, add more of the reserved pasta water a little at a time until you reach your desired consistency. The starchy pasta water helps thin the sauce without making it watery. If you don’t have any more pasta water left, add a splash of milk.

The sauce is a little bland for my taste. How do I fix it?

If the sauce isn’t where you like it as far as taste goes, try adding a bit more salt, pepper, or Parmesan cheese. Sometimes, a little extra seasoning can make a big difference. You can also add a pinch more of the crushed red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.

I don’t have a way to blend the sauce. Do I have to?

While I highly recommend using some type of blender or food processor to combine the sauce, if you don’t have a blender, you can still make the sauce. Whisk the ricotta, Parmesan, olive oil, garlic (minced finely), lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes in a bowl until well combined. It won’t be as smooth, but it will still be delicious and creamy when mixed with the hot pasta and pasta water.

A fork twirling lemon ricotta pasta in a bowl.

If I had to describe this Lemon Ricotta Pasta in two words they would be elegant and easy. I love this recipe because it tastes and looks like it took way more effort. Honestly, I’ve started to keep this pasta’s ingredients in my fridge and pantry so I can make it whenever I need a 20-minute meal.

More Pasta Recipes:

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This recipe was originally published on October 16, 2019 and has recently been updated with photography, step-by-step process shots, and tips to better make the recipe. The recipe has slightly changed to use pasta of choice, fresh garlic instead of garlic paste, and spinach instead of kale. You can find the original recipe in the notes section of the recipe card.

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Lemon Ricotta Pasta

Lemon Ricotta Pasta is a zesty, vegetarian, quick weeknight meal made with simple pantry staples and ready in just 20 minutes!
5 from 54 votes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 431
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
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  • 1 pound spaghetti or pasta of choice
  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole-milk ricotta
  • ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan plus more for serving
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt plus more for pasta water
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (5-ounce) container baby spinach


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, drain and return the pasta to the pot, covered.
  • In a high speed blender, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Process for 1 to 2 minutes, or until very smooth.
  • Add the ricotta mixture, ½ cup of reserved pasta water and spinach to the cooked pasta. Set over low heat and cook until the pasta has absorbed some of the cream sauce and the baby spinach has wilted, about 2 minutes. Add more pasta water as needed until you reach your desired consistency.
  • Serve with more grated Parmesan, if desired.


Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 4-5 days in the fridge.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.
  • To make it gluten-free, you can use any gluten-free pasta of your choice.
  • To make the sauce more creamy, you can add some milk instead of some of the pasta water. 
  • Feel free to substitute the kale with spinach, or other vegetables like broccoli, peas or green beans.
Original recipe:
12 ounces cavatappi pasta or other kind
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Gourmet Garden Garlic Stir-In Paste
1 cup whole-milk ricotta 8 ounces
¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan plus more for serving
¼ cup lemon juice plus zest
8 ounces kale shredded
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Gourmet Garden Lightly Dried Basil for serving
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
  2. In the same pot, heat the olive oil at medium heat. Then add the garlic paste and cook until fragrant. Whisk in the ricotta, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper until well combined.
  3. Add ½ cup pasta water to the sauce and whisk until smooth. Add the pasta and the kale and continue to stir until the noodles are well coated and the kale softens. Add more pasta water as needed for a smooth sauce.
  4. Garnish with lemon slices and basil, if desired.


Calories: 431kcal, Carbohydrates: 48g, Protein: 18g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 29mg, Sodium: 447mg, Potassium: 377mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 4056IU, Vitamin C: 49mg, Calcium: 301mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Cuisine American
Course: Dinner, Entree, Pastas
4.99 from 54 votes (42 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. Cathy Little says:

    So delicious and so easy!!

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yay, so happy you liked it!

  2. stacy says:

    Made this for dinner tonight. It’s amazing! Super easy and so quick. We’ll definitely be making it again. Thank you so much for the sharing this recipe.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Yay, so happy you liked it! You’re welcome!!

  3. Mary says:

    Just finished making this recipe and I love it. I added shrimp to the portion I’m eating today and tomorrow I’ll add grilled chicken. This is the type of recipe that can be worked in many different ways. It can either be a main dish or a side dish. I love the lemon flavor in this dish and I even added a little bit of freshly ground nutmeg in the ricotta mixture because I wanted the nutty flavor added in it. But I tasted before I added the nutmeg and I still love the orginal flavor. I made it with angel hair pasta. I would give it a 10 star. Thanks for sharing your awesome recipes. I like them all. You never disappoint me.

    1. Yumna J. says:

      Aww, that is so sweet!! Thank you, Mary! This pasta totally works in a variety of ways, especially served with shrimp or grilled chicken. I’m going to have to try nutmeg in the ricotta too, that sounds so good!!

      1. Mary Tavera says:

        Something I learned from this recipe I made is that when I sat down to eat, I left the pot on my electric stove with the burner off but the burner I used to cook the pasta was still warm so tge sauce dried up so I realized that was a big mistake. All the ricotta was all crumbled. I’m going to try making more sauce to pour over the leftovers.

        1. Yumna J. says:

          Oh no, what a bummer! So sorry to hear that, I hope your second batch of sauce turns out just as amazing.

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