One Pot Lemon Ricotta Pasta is an extremely easy recipe with delicious flavor from creamy ricotta cheese, zesty lemon, sharp parmesan cheese, bold garlic, and spicy red pepper flakes. It's a great meatless weeknight dinner because it comes together in one pot and under 20 minutes!
KEY INGREDIENTS AND SUBSTITUTIONS:
- Pasta: I prefer short-cut ribbed/twisted pasta for this recipe to ensure the sauce sticks on and stays put – I used gemelli.
- Substitutions: You could also use rigatoni, mezze rigatoni, farfalle, fusilli, or others. You could also use gluten-free pasta if you want.
- Ricotta cheese: Whole milk ricotta cheese will produce the creamiest result, but you could also use low-fat or reduced fat. I would not recommend swapping the ricotta cheese for another kind of cheese - it is the star of the dish!
- Lemon: We'll use both lemon zest and lemon juice for this recipe. Using both of these is a great combination because the lemon zest provides a bright potent flavor and the lemon juice provides a great zingy acidity.
- Parmesan cheese: Freshly grated parmesan cheese not only helps make this dish creamy and cheesy, but also most certainly helps with the flavor. A delicious mildly salty addition. Freshly grated is best to ensure there are no preservatives preventing it from melting.
- Substitutions: You could sub pecorino romano cheese.
- Garlic: For this recipe since the sauce is essentially no-bake, we grate the garlic so that when it mixes with the warm pasta it cooks ever so slightly to remove some of that raw-ness and bring out the great flavor.
- Red pepper flakes: These are completely optional to add, but a little spice really brings this dish to life.
KITCHEN TOOLS YOU'LL NEED:
- Fine grater
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Large pot
- Mixing spoon
HOW TO MAKE ONE POT LEMON RICOTTA PASTA:
What's so great about this recipe is that in under 20 minutes, with barely and dishes to handle afterwards, you can have a delicious comforting meal that will satisfy you (and any picky eaters if you have them!).
- Cook pasta. Bring water to a boil in your pot with a large three-finger pinch of salt. Once it's boiling, add your pasta and cook until al-dente. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain it and set the pasta aside. Do not rinse the pasta.
- Make the sauce. To the same pot you just used to cook your pasta, add the ricotta cheese, lemon zest and juice, parmesan cheese, grated garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Mix until well combined.
- Mix all together. Add your pasta back into the pot with the sauce along with ½ cup of reserved pasta water. Mix until well combined, adding more reserved pasta water as needed to thin it out to your liking.
OTHER ADD-INS FOR THIS CREAMY RICOTTA DISH:
As a base this recipe really allows for a world of possibilities when it comes to potential add-ins. A few suggestions below!
- Leafy greens: spinach or arugula.
- When to add: add these in at the same time you add your pasta into the sauce to mix together. They should wilt just enough.
- Veggies: zucchini, asparagus, or peas.
- When to add: you'll want to cook these separately before adding to the dish, and then add when you are mixing together the sauce and pasta.
- Fresh herbs: parsley or basil.
- When to add: I would recommend sprinkling these on top lightly.
- Protein: shrimp, grilled chicken, or salmon.
- When to add: top the finished dish with any of these protein.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Follow these tips to make sure the dish comes out perfect!
- Cook your pasta until al-dente (usually one or two minutes less than box directions).
- Don't rinse your pasta – the starchiness that remains on the pasta will help bring the sauce together.
- Wash the lemons before zesting to make sure you remove any wax coating. This ensures you get the most flavor out of your zest.
- Don't over-zest the lemons, you don't want any of the white part because it's bitter.
- Zest your lemon before juicing it to make getting the zest off easier. If you juice it first, it'll be harder to grip with the structure squished.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH THIS DISH
There are so many great dishes you could serve alongside this vegetarian pasta dish. For example, this garlic bread would be amazing, so would this zucchini dish, or these blistered cherry tomatoes (which you could even just stir right in!).
Yes! The lemon zest provides a really potent lemon flavor, while the lemon juice is a bit more mild and brings a great acidity.
Honestly, no. But is it better? Yes. It's better because pre-grated cheese usually has preservatives, and therefore doesn't melt/combine as easily as freshly grated cheese.
Adding the pasta water helps the sauce emulsify and become ultra lush and creamy, ultimately bringing the sauce together and helping it thicken and wrap around the pasta.
You can simply add a dash of water and reheat in the microwave. It loses a bit of its creaminess, but is still delicious.
I would recommend making it right before you're going to eat it so the sauce is as creamy as possible. It loses a bit of that when re-heated.
Any heavy-bottomed pot would be great, just make sure it's large enough to boil water and cook the pasta. The sauce won't add more space. I really like to use my Le Creuset Round Wide Dutch Oven.
I would not, lemon is such a huge flavor profile for this dish that using any other citrus would completely change it.
OTHER VEGETARIAN PASTA DISHES TO TRY:
- Creamy Spring Vegetable Pasta
- Vegetarian Baked Ziti
- Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta
- Roasted Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese
One Pot Lemon Ricotta Pasta
- 1 lb gemelli or other short pasta
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 tbsp lemon juice from about 1-2 lemons
- 2 tsp lemon zest from about 1-2 lemons
- ¾ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tsp grated garlic from about 2-3 cloves
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
- ½-1 cup reserved pasta water
- Bring water to a boil in your pot with a large three-finger pinch of salt. Once it's boiling, add your pasta and cook until al-dente (usually about 1 - 2 minutes less than the instructions say, taste a noodle to test).
- Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain it and set the pasta aside. Do not rinse the pasta.
- To the same pot you just used to cook your pasta, add the ricotta cheese, lemon zest and juice, parmesan cheese, grated garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Mix until well combined.
- Add your pasta back into the pot with the sauce along with ½ cup of reserved pasta water. Mix until well combined, adding more reserved pasta water as needed to thin it out to your liking.