This one pot pasta with ricotta and lemon is for anyone looking for a simple weeknight meal. We all want more of those meals.
It’s a one-pot pasta that’s quick, easy, cheesy, and very lemony. And the one pot means less time spent cleaning up.
The last time I made this recipe, it took me exactly 33 minutes from starting to fill the pasta pot to lifting my fork to eat. And, truthfully, more than half of this time was spent waiting for the water to boil. The extra minute it takes to do small things like chop garlic is so very worth the extra flavor.
Ricotta is a soft, Italian cheese that can be made from the whey from a variety of animals. It’s commonly used in various pasta con ricotta recipes, in filled pastas like ravioli, and paired with lemon in lemon and ricotta cakes and pancakes.
If you have more time, this recipe is a great excuse to make homemade ricotta. Ricotta is a simple cheese to make – the hardest part is finding milk that isn’t ultra-pasteurized!
Tips and tricks
This one pot pasta with ricotta and lemon mostly uses ingredients that you likely already have in your refrigerator and pantry. The ricotta might be a more specific purchase for you. But maybe you have leftover ricotta after you’ve made my one pan vegetarian eggplant lasagna.
Tip from the wise quacker: for a pound of pasta, use at least four quarts of water and one and a half to two tablespoons of salt. Adding salt after the water comes to a full boil raises the boiling temperature a bit and, more importantly, protects your pot from salt’s corrosive tendencies.
Making the lemon ricotta pasta
While your water is boiling and pasta is cooking, chop the garlic and herbs, zest and juice your lemons, and grate the Parmesan. When the pasta is just al dente, save a cup of pasta water and drain the pasta and rest of the pasta water.
In the same pot, heat the oil and cook your garlic and red pepper flakes for just a minute until fragrant. Don’t burn the garlic, or it will become bitter.
Add the ricotta, a quarter cup of Parmesan, lemon zest, quarter cup of lemon juice, and chopped herbs. Stir together until smooth, then add the pasta back to the pot, and stir to coat.
This is where you have to taste your pasta dish and make it your own. If you like it really lemony like I do, add up to another quarter cup of lemon juice, a little bit at a time. If the lemon is too strong, add a bit more ricotta. If the sauce is too thick for your taste, add a bit of reserved pasta water, a tablespoon at a time.
Serve this pasta immediately with a grind of fresh black pepper and additional Parmesan. You can even warm your pasta bowls, if you’re feeling indulgent. Like many pasta dishes, this is a pasta recipe best served warm.
What to serve with this one pot pasta with lemon and ricotta
This pasta recipe could be a main course pasta, or you could serve it as a side. Make it with something simple, like these cast iron chicken breasts or another roast meat.
In the 30 minutes this pasta is cooking, you could make a steamed green vegetable like green beans or broccoli. Or spend a bit more time with these fried patty pan squash patties, if it’s summer squash season.
Salad is always a great option. I find I’m much more likely to make a salad if I have triple-washed greens already in the fridge. Wash and chop tomatoes and a few other vegetables. Many salad dressings keep well, so make a big batch of my maple Dijon vinaigrette or this creamy pesto dressing once a week or so. You’ve got salad!
If you’re looking for wine recommendations, a chardonnay that’s light on oak would be classic. Myself, I might choose a Pinot Grigio.
Variations and substitutions
- Cook peas or another green vegetable with the garlic.
- Stir in baby spinach or arugula when you add the ricotta and lemon. The residual heat will wilt the leaves enough.
- Stir in cooked chicken or shrimp.
Any short pasta would work for the creamy ricotta and lemon sauce. Think penne or fusilli or cavatappi. Or this recipe would be a great place to use cascatelli, the new pasta shape developed by Dan Pashman of the Sporkful podcast. Have you tried it yet?
Absolutely. Double away. Just make sure that your pasta pot is big enough to hold enough water. And don’t forget to salt the water!
Leftovers won’t reheat particularly well and won’t freeze without changing the consistency of the ricotta. I’d recommend only making what you intend to eat.
Love lemon? How about this one pot gnocchi with asparagus and lemon, some lemon herb tahini sauce, my blackberry lemon bread, these lemon lavender cookies, Earl Grey scones with lemon glaze, or a cocktail with lemon juice like this Elderflower Collins.
One Pot Pasta with Ricotta and Lemon
- 1 pound cavatappi or other short pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- ½ cup lemon juice from about 2 lemons, divided
- 1½ cup ricotta cheese divided
- ½ cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan plus more for serving
- ½ cup chopped parsley or basil or combination of both
- salt and pepper to taste
- Set a large pot with at least 4 quarts of water on the stove top on high. When boiling, add at least 1½ tablespoons of salt.
- When the water returns to a boil, cook the pasta according to directions until al dente. Reserve a cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.1 pound cavatappi or other short pasta
- Return the pot to the stove top and add the olive oil over medium-low heat.1 tablespoon olive oil
- When the olive oil is hot, add the minced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for one minute.3 cloves garlic, minced, ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Add the lemon zest, ¼ cup of lemon juice, 1 cup of the ricotta, the ½ cup of grated Parmesan, and the chopped herbs and stir until smooth. Add the pasta back to the pot and stir to coat. Remove from heat.1 tablespoon lemon zest, ½ cup lemon juice, 1½ cup ricotta cheese, ½ cup (2 ounces) grated Parmesan, ½ cup chopped parsley or basil or combination of both
- Taste and add some of the remaining lemon juice if you would like it more lemony. On the other hand, if it is too lemony for your taste, add some of the remaining ricotta for balance.
- Add some of the reserved pasta water as desired to thin.
- Serve immediately, topped with freshly ground black pepper and with additional Parmesan.salt and pepper to taste
Serve this as a main course with a side of green vegetables and salad. Or serve smaller portions as a side for roast chicken. Variations
- Cook peas, zucchini, or another vegetable with the garlic.
- Stir in baby spinach or arugula with the ricotta and lemon.
This one-pot pasta with ricotta and lemon was originally posted on June 10, 2021. It was last updated November 28, 2022.
If you make this one pot lemon ricotta pasta recipe, please don’t forget to leave a comment. Pretty please.
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