With a short ingredient list, quick method that takes just about 20 minutes, and bright, fresh flavor, this creamy Lemon Ricotta Pasta is a favorite pasta dish to share with the kids. You can even add peas or spinach if you like!

Lemon ricotta in two bowls with sides.

Lemon Ricotta Pasta

I love varying the types of pasta sauce we have each week, and this fresh and lemony one is an easy option we can’t get enough of. With a simple stir-together sauce that’s seriously creamy, it’s a perfect vegetarian main dish or easy side.

You can stir baby spinach into this pasta to wilt, or stir in frozen peas to thaw and warm. Add some fresh tomatoes for flavor or enjoy it plain. It’s great so many ways!

(If you have leftover ricotta, you may also like my Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes, Ricotta Pie, and my Ricotta Cheesecake.)

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Ingredients You Need

Here’s a look at the ingredients you need to have on hand to make this easy pasta recipe.

Ingredients for lemon ricotta pasta.
  • Pasta: You can use any pasta shape you prefer here. We typically use this cheese sauce with fettuccine or linguine.
  • Ricotta cheese: Whole-milk ricotta cheese is sold near the cottage cheese and sour cream in grocery stores. It’s thick with very small curds and has a fresh flavor that pairs so well with lemon.
  • Parmesan cheese: Grated Parmesan adds flavor and saltiness to the pasta, which is delicious!
  • Butter (or olive oil): A little butter or olive oil helps ensure the mixture blends easily into the pasta noodles.
  • Lemon zest: Fresh lemon zest—I use a fine microplane to remove just the yellow zest of a washed lemon—adds a hit of fresh flavor that’s so delicious.
  • Minced fresh parsley, additional Parmesan cheese, and crushed red pepper, are optional for serving.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Below is an overview of how to make this recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the end of the post for the full amounts and timing.

how to make lemon ricotta pasta in grid of 2 images.
  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions, using a very large pot. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta. Return to the pot and stir in the butter.
  2. Meanwhile, add the ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, Parmesan cheese, and ¼ cup reserved pasta cooking water to the pasta. Stir well to make a creamy sauce. Add a little more of the reserved pasta water at a time if needed to make a smooth but thick sauce.
  3. Serve immediately, topped with optional toppings as you prefer.

How to Store

You can make the sauce ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Stir before serving to incorporate any liquid that’s separated (which naturally occurs with ricotta cheese).

To reheat leftover pasta with sauce, sprinkle with a little water and cover a heat-safe bowl or plate with wax paper or a damp paper towel. Warm in the microwave for 30-60 seconds or until warmed through. (The water helps loosen the pasta, which will firm up when cold.)

Lemon ricotta pasta in two bowls with cherry tomatoes.

Best Tips for Success

  • Ladle out some of the pasta water before you drain so you have it set aside and ready to use.
  • Use whichever type of pasta your family prefers.
  • If using gluten-free pasta, you can use stock or broth instead of pasta water to smooth out the sauce.
  • Stir in 5 ounces baby spinach to the warm pasta to wilt to easily add a veggie.

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Lemon ricotta in two bowls with sides.

Lemon Ricotta Pasta

With a short ingredient list, quick method that takes just about 20 minutes, and bright, fresh flavor, this creamy Lemon Ricotta Pasta is a favorite pasta dish to share with the kids. You can even add peas or spinach if you like!
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 12 minutes
Total Time 22 minutes
Cuisine Italian
Course Dinner
Calories 309kcal
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces pasta
  • ¼ cup pasta cooking water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or olive oil)
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon zest (from 1 medium lemon)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Minced fresh parsley, additional Parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper (optional)
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Instructions

  • Prepare pasta according to package directions, using a very large pot. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta. Return to the pot and stir in the butter.
  • Meanwhile, add the ricotta, lemon zest, salt, Parmesan cheese, and ¼ reserved pasta cooking water to the pasta. Stir well to make a creamy sauce.
  • Add a little more of the reserved pasta water at a time if needed to make a smooth but thick sauce.
  • (If you want a stronger lemon flavor, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.)
  • Serve immediately topped with optional toppings as you prefer.

Notes

  • You can make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Stir before serving to incorporate any liquid that’s separated (which naturally occurs with ricotta cheese).
  • To reheat leftover pasta with sauce, sprinkle with a little water and cover a heat-safe bowl or plate with wax paper or a damp paper towel. Warm in the microwave for 30-60 seconds or until warmed through. (The water helps loosen the pasta, which will firm up when cold.)
  • Ladle out some of the pasta water before you drain so you have it set aside and ready to use.
  • Use whichever type of pasta your family prefers.
  • If using gluten-free pasta, you can use stock or broth instead of pasta water to smooth out the sauce.
  • Stir in 5 ounces baby spinach to the warm pasta to wilt to easily add a veggie.

Nutrition

Calories: 309kcal, Carbohydrates: 48g, Protein: 14g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 17mg, Sodium: 359mg, Potassium: 348mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 532IU, Vitamin C: 53mg, Calcium: 132mg, Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was delicious! I didn’t have lemon zest so I used 2Tbsp lemon juice and it worked great. It was easy to make and 3 of 4 family members loved it (a great success in our house lol).

  2. 5 stars
    This was a great summertime (aka last minute) meal option. Had everything in the fridge and the one year old (and adults) all enjoyed it! Not too heavy with the lemon lightening things up!

  3. 5 stars
    I’m making this right now and I’m excited about it. I noticed in the ingredients lemon juice isn’t listed, but lemon juice is listed in the directions. In the ingredients it just has 2 tablespoons of lemon zest, which I’m thinking is maybe supposed to be the juice because that seems like a lot of lemon zest. Thanks!