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Delicious, tangy, and light, this easy Lemon Ricotta Pasta is the perfect main or side in 15 minutes or less! With creamy ricotta cheese, plenty of fresh lemon, and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, this spaghetti will be a hit with the whole family!

Top view pan with lemon and ricotta creamy pasta with basil garnishes.
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I love this simple ricotta pasta dish. My Lemon Ricotta Pasta is the best recipe to pull out when you don’t know what to cook for dinner! It’s so simple, yet super flavorful! You can eat it as a vegetarian main meal with some crusty bread, or you can serve it with a protein like some grilled chicken or baked salmon, or a simple side dish. You will love this pasta recipe.

Recipe Summary

  • Quick and easy: This is my go-to dish for dinner when we’re short on time, ideas, and resources. If you’ve got a box of spaghetti in the pantry, a lemon on the counter, and a few other simple ingredients, you’ve got what you need for this recipe!
  • Lightened-up: No heavy cream or butter needed! The starchy pasta cooking water acts as a thickener and when combined with the milk and parmesan it forms a silky sauce that tastes like it was made with cream and butter.
  • Versatile: Serve this as a light vegetarian main or pair it with an easy protein. I love it with this lemon chicken or this lemon garlic salmon. You can also enjoy it with a simple salad like this green beans and tomato salad.
  • So delicious: You will be obsessed with the wonderful taste of ricotta, lots of lemons, Parmesan cheese, and fresh basil! Yummy!
Closeup view of Lemon Ricotta Pasta.

Ingredients needed

You will need 8 simple ingredients (plus salt & pepper) to make it, many of which you probably have in your kitchen right now! Here’s everything you’ll need to make this ricotta pasta.

  • Pasta: While you can use any type of noodles, linguine noodles are traditional for lemon pasta recipes. You can use lentil or chickpea pasta too.
  • Olive oil: For cooking the garlic.
  • Garlic: Plenty of fresh garlic cloves sautéed in good-quality olive oil makes this pasta so savory and delicious.
  • Milk: You can use any milk of your choice. However, keep in mind that whole milk will make for a richer sauce.
  • Ricotta cheese: The star of the recipe! The fine texture melts right into the sauce, creating major creaminess and cheesiness. Use whole milk ricotta cheese for best results.
  • Lemon: You’ll need both lemon zest and lemon juice to give this recipe the perfect amount of tangy, bright lemon flavor.
  • Parmesan cheese: I love fresh Parmigiano Reggiano mixed into and shredded on top of this pasta.
  • Kosher salt and black pepper: To taste and enhance all of the flavors in this dish.
  • Basil: To garnish and add color and even more freshness!
Uncooked spaghetti, lemon, basil, olive oil, and bowls with milk, ricotta and parmesan cheese.

How to make it

Get ready for the easiest spaghetti meal ever! My Lemon ricotta pasta is straightforward to make and bursting with flavor. Here is how to bring it all together:

  1. Boil the linguine: Cook the pasta according to package directions, then reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain.
  2. Make the sauce: While the pasta cooks, take a large pan and preheat over low heat. Add the garlic and oil and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in the milk, ricotta, lemon zest and juice, and 1/4 of the parmesan. Add the reserved pasta water and stir well until creamy.
  1. Add pasta to sauce: As soon as the pasta is done, add it to the pan with the ricotta sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and freshly chopped basil; stir to coat with the creamy sauce.
  2. Serve: Enjoy while hot!

Tips ans Substitutes

  • Cooking pasta: It’s important to season the water with plenty of salt before adding in the pasta; otherwise this dish may taste under-seasoned. As a general rule of thumb, add 1 teaspoon of salt per 4 cups of water.
  • Pasta water: Don’t forget to reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water! Pasta cooking water is salty and starchy and is needed to make the sauce nice and thick. It also helps to bind the sauce to the pasta.
  • Shred your cheese: If you have the time, shred your parmesan cheese from a block of cheese. Pre-shredded, bagged cheeses contain anti-caking agents that prevent them from melting smoothly and they don’t have as much flavor.
  • Gluten-free lemon pasta: This recipe is easy to make gluten-free! Simply, use any of your favorite gluten-free pasta varieties.

Frequently asked questions

Why add lemon to pasta?

Fresh lemon will enhance the flavor without having to add many other ingredients. Lemon is acidic and gives the pasta a refreshing, light taste.

What can I add to pasta for flavor?

Noodles are like a blank canvas and there are a variety of different ingredients that you can add to it to give it more flavor. Consider ingredients like sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, garlic, lemon zest, butter, heavy cream, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, spices, red pepper flakes, olives or capers.

How to make lemon pasta taste rich?

For the best-tasting pasta, be sure to add plenty of salt to the water before cooking. Also, cook the pasta to al dente, which means it’ll have a bit of a bite to it. It’ll cook a bit more when you add it to the sauce and as it cools. And don’t rinse the cooked pasta. Rinsing with water in a colander strips it of its starch, which is what helps the sauce stick to the noodles.

top view of a pan filled with lemon ricotta pasta topped with fresh basil

Variations

  • Pasta: Other noodles that work well in this dish are angel hair, regular spaghetti, and fettuccini. If you’d like to use short noodles, try bowtie pasta, penne pasta, cavatappi, or elbow noodles.
  • Herbs: A good 2 ounces of fresh basil leaves add a lot of freshness and color, but feel free to sub with chopped Italian parsley for a more peppery bite.
  • Add a protein: This pasta is perfect topped with chicken or fish. Here are some great options to try: Easy Chicken Milanese, Parmesan Oven Roasted Chicken Breast, or Lemon Garlic Oven Roasted Whole Chicken.
  • Add spinach: For some veggie goodness, this would be great with some baby spinach leaves. You can cook them with sautéing garlic until wilted. You could even toss the finished dish with roasted broccoli, which would be delicious!

Serving suggestions

Here are a few side dishes that go great with this pasta!

Storage recommendations

Leftover pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat gently in the microwave, splashed with a bit of water or milk to keep it from drying out as you rewarm it. This recipe is not suitable for freezing.

Lemon Ricotta Pasta garnished with basil in a pan.

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Lemon Ricotta Pasta

By: Rena
Servings: 4 servings
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 15 minutes
top view pan with lemon and ricotta creamy pasta with parsley garnishes
Delicious, tangy, and light, this easy Lemon Ricotta Pasta is the perfect main or side in 15 minutes or less! With creamy ricotta cheese, plenty of fresh lemon, and a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, this spaghetti will be a hit with the whole family!

Ingredients

  • 12 oz linguine
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice of
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves, washed and chopped

Instructions

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions, then reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain.
  • While the pasta cooks, take a large pan and preheat over low heat. Add the garlic and oil and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in the milk, ricotta, lemon zest and juice, and 1/4 of the parmesan. Add the reserved pasta water and stir well until creamy.
  • As soon as the pasta is done, add it to the pan with the ricotta sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and freshly chopped basil; stir to coat with the creamy sauce.
  • Serve while hot and enjoy!

Notes

Leftover pasta can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat gently in the microwave, splashed with a bit of water or milk to keep it from drying out as you rewarm it. This recipe is not suitable for freezing.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 533kcalCarbohydrates: 72gProtein: 24gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 8gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 44mgSodium: 289mgPotassium: 410mgFiber: 4gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 1196IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 329mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Italian
Tried this recipe?Mention @healthyfitnessmeals or tag #healthyfitnessmeals!

Author

About Rena Awada

Hi, I’m Rena! I am here to help you prepare delicious, light, fresh meals that your whole family will love!

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