This one pot pasta with ricotta and lemon is for anyone looking for a simple weeknight meal. It’s a one-pot pasta that’s quick, easy, cheesy, and very lemony. And one pot meals means less time spent cleaning up.
The last time I made this lemon ricotta pasta recipe, it took 33 minutes from filling the pasta pot to the first bite. About half of that time is waiting for the water to boil.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Quick to make and easy to clean-up
- Creamy and tangy flavor
- Adaptable to different dietary needs and preferences
There is a similar New York Times recipe written by Ali Slagle. But just like her cheesy white bean tomato bake, the NYT one-pasta pasta with lemon and ricotta is stripped down. While we all appreciate minimalist recipes, the flavor you get from small things like chopping garlic is so worth the extra minute.
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 another ricotta pasta like my one pan vegetarian eggplant lasagna.
Ricotta is a soft, Italian cheese that can be made from the whey from a variety of animal milks. It’s commonly used in various pasta recipes with ricotta, in filled pastas like ravioli, and paired with lemon in lemon and ricotta cakes and pancakes.
If you have more time, this lemon ricotta pasta 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!
Variations and substitutions
- Cook another green vegetable with the garlic or cook some peas with your pasta like in this cavatappi alfredo recipe.
- Stir in baby spinach or arugula when you add the ricotta and lemon. The residual heat will wilt the leaves to soften them.
- Make a pan-roasted chicken breast or lightly cooked shrimp.
Recipe tips and tricks
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. Unlike revenge, this is a dish 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:
- Simple cast iron chicken breasts or another roast meat.
- 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.
- My Peach Burrata Caprese or another salad with a maple Dijon vinaigrette or this creamy pesto dressing.
- Pasta e ceci or roasted broccoli soup.
- To drink, a chardonnay that’s light on oak would be classic, though I might choose a Pinot Grigio. Or I might choose a light gin cocktail like this rose syrup French 75 or an Elderflower collins.
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.
Check out other Ugly Duckling Bakery pasta recipes like:
Or maybe you love lemon. There’s all sorts of lemon flavor in this creamy lemon herb tahini dressing, my lemon lavender cookies or blackberry lemon loaf cake, or in the lemon glaze for these Earl Grey scones.
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.
One Pot Pasta with Ricotta and Lemon
Lemon ricotta pasta
- 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 the sauce.
- Serve immediately, topped with freshly ground black pepper and with additional Parmesan.salt and pepper to taste
This one-pot pasta with ricotta and lemon was originally posted on June 10, 2021. It was last updated April 7, 2023.
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