This lemon ricotta pasta is packed with creamy and bright lemon flavor that's perfect for a summertime weeknight meal. It comes together in less than 30 minutes and made with fresh ingredients the whole family will love!
Let's be honest, weeknight dinners can be a struggle. You probably want something quick that requires minimal effort but also has delicious flavor. Enter creamy lemon ricotta pasta!
This dish is an easy dinner that's extremely versatile. It's as simple as cooking some pasta noodles and tossing them in a fresh ricotta and nutty parmesan cheese and then topping it off with fresh lemon juice and an array of spices. The combination of lemon and creamy ricotta is light and cozy and one everyone will love!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Pasta - Any type of pasta will work in this lemon pasta recipe. I used chickpea pasta noodles which are gluten free.
- Whole Milk Ricotta - You can also use skim milk ricotta cheese but the sauce won't be as creamy.
- Parmesan - This is melted into the ricotta and pasta to create a super creamy consistency to the sauce.
- Lemon - Fresh lemon is best as both the juice and zest are used in the recipe. Store bought lemon juice will work in a pinch but you may want to add a little more to get that lemony flavor.
- Red Pepper Flakes - Just a little to add a kick to the pasta sauce and trust me, it's amazing paired with the light ricotta and zesty lemon. Use sparingly and hold off on throwing it in the entire dish if making this for kids as well. Instead you can just sprinkle a few flakes on top of individual plates or after you have served the kids.
- Shrimp - This is the protein I used to bulk up the dish and is totally optional. You can use another type of protein like chicken breast or even scallops or omit the meat entirely to make this vegetarian. You can even throw in some spinach to bulk up the dish as well!
How To Make Lemony Ricotta Pasta
This lemon ricotta pasta recipe can be made in just one large skillet and a pot to prepare the pasta.
Step 1 : Cook the shrimp (optional). If using shrimp, or another protein, go ahead and cook it in a large skillet with some olive oil over medium heat. Turn off the element once the protein is done cooking.
Step 2 : Boil the pasta. While the protein is cooking, boil a pot of water and cook the pasta al dente according to the package directions. This means only cook the pasts until it's slightly firm, not soft. We want the pasta to have some structure so it doesn't break apart when we toss it in the sauce.
Step 3 : Toss everything together. If you cooked protein, you can use the same large skillet. Strain the pasta and reserve a cup of the pasta water (this is key as it's starchy water and will help blend the sauce together). Dump the cooked pasta into the skillet along with the whole milk ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and zest, and spices. Pour in the cup of the starchy pasta water and toss to mix the pasta noodles and protein into the cheese sauce until well coated.
How To Serve
This delicious pasta dish is best served fresh, right after it's been tossed together. Drizzle a splash of olive oil over top to garnish if desired. I also like to add some additional black pepper and chili flakes to each bowl of pasta when serving for some extra spice.
There are many ways to make this recipe your own and switch things up a bit. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:
- Switch up the protein with chicken or salmon instead of shrimp
- Add some fresh arugula when mixing in the sauce ingredients to add some greenery.
- Sauté some fresh veggies like mushrooms and/or brussels sprouts to toss into the pasta as well
How To Store
If you have leftovers, let the pasta cool down all the way before transferring it to an airtight container. Store the container in the fridge where it will keep for up to 3 days. When ready to enjoy, I recommend heating up the pasta in a skillet with a splash of milk or water to allow the cheese sauce to thin out again and provide the noodles with a little more moisture. You can also enjoy the pasta cold, like a pasta salad.
Frequently Asked Questions
Use gluten free pasta to make this dish completely gluten free. I like to use this chickpea pasta.
Yes, you can make this in one large pot. Cook the pasta according to directions, reserve a cup of the starchy water, and then strain. Place the pasta back in the pot and add in the ricotta cheese sauce ingredients and mix well. Toss in some protein if desired and enjoy!
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Lemon Ricotta Pasta
- 2 tablespoon olive oil - plus more to drizzle on top if desired
- 1 lb shrimp - or other type of protein (optional)
- 8 oz pasta - I used chickpea pasta but any kind will work
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- ⅓ cup parmesan cheese - grated
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice - approx. 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest - approx. 1 lemon
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasonings
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Chives - optional
- If cooking protein, go ahead and heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the shrimp until light pink.
- While the protein is cooking, boil a pot of water and cook the pasta al dente according to package directions. Make sure not to over cook the pasta, you want the noodles to be slightly firm. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water with a measuring cup before straining the pasta.
- Dump the cooked pasta into the same large skillet with the cooked protein. Add the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, black pepper, sea salt, Italian seasonings, and red pepper flakes on top and then pour in the reserved pasta water. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to toss everything together until the noodles are well coated in the cheese sauce.
- Serve the pasta while warm into individual bowls. Drizzle a little olive oil over top, if desired, and top with extra black pepper, red pepper flakes, and chopped chives if desired.