One Pot Pasta with Ricotta and Lemon

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.

So read on for all the detailed tips and tricks for this recipe. Or grab a big pot, hit that jump to recipe button, and let’s make a one pot ricotta and lemon pasta!

a bowl of cavatappi with a lemon ricotta sauce, two lemons, and small bowl of Parmesan.
Jump to:


ricotta, lemon, Parmesan, garlic, herbs and spices on a cutting board.

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’re looking for more lemon recipes, there’s all sorts of lemon flavor in this creamy lemon herb tahini dressing. Or bake it in in these lemon bars with graham cracker crust, lemon lavender cookies or blackberry lemon loaf cake, or in the lemon glaze for these Earl Grey scones.

Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.

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 for a lemon ricotta pasta with shrimp.

Recipe tips and tricks

There is a similar New York Times recipe written by Ali Slagle. But just like her cheesy white bean tomato bake, the NYT one-pot lemon and ricotta pasta 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.

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.

Cooking pasta

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.

close up of dry cavatappi.

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.

Return the pot to the stove, 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 lemon ricotta pasta 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 lemon ricotta sauce is too thick for your taste, add a bit of reserved pasta water, a tablespoon at a time.

Serve this lemon and ricotta 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:

plate of ricotta and lemon pasta with green beans.

Recipe FAQs

What pasta shape would work best in this recipe?

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?

Can I double this recipe to feed a larger family?

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!

Can you freeze leftovers?

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.

Can I make homemade ricotta?

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!

Check out other Ugly Duckling Bakery pasta recipes like:

There’s nothing better than a one-pot or one-pan meal. Try this apple bourbon pork tenderloin, one-pan gnocchi with asparagus and lemon, or one-pan chicken breasts.

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

5 from 2 votes
Category: Pasta
Cuisine: Unspecified
Prep Time: 18 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 33 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 675kcal
This one pot pasta with ricotta and lemon is a quick and easy pasta that's perfect for a weeknight. Add a green vegetable or side salad, and you've got a lemon ricotta pasta dinner in about 30 minutes!
Print Recipe
Save This Recipe!


Lemon ricotta pasta

  • 1 pound cavatappi or other short pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • ½ cup lemon juice from about 2 lemons, divided
  • 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


A recommended serving size is 2 ounces of dry pasta. The nutritional information for this lemon ricotta pasta is based on typical portion sizes of 4 ounces.
Salting the pasta water only after it comes to a boil prevents pitting of your pots.
Garlic burns quickly, so cook only for one minute before adding the other ingredients.
Please taste your ricotta and lemon pasta before serving and adjust the amount of lemon juice, ricotta, salt, and pasta water to your desired taste and desired consistency.


Calories: 675kcal | Carbohydrates: 91g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 291mg | Potassium: 447mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1161IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 381mg | Iron: 2mg
Love this recipe?Mention @Uglyducklingbakery or tag #uglyducklingbakery!

You’re an adventurous home cook looking for inspiration in your weeknight meals and weekend baking. Get that inspiration here:


  1. 5 stars
    This lemon ricotta pasta is so easy to make, I followed this recipe and added more lemon juice and it was really delicious

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.