Pesto Ricotta Pasta Salad

$5.57 recipe / $0.93 serving

The other day I was really craving a cold pasta salad and while I love my Summer Vegetable Pasta Salad, it required too much chopping for the amount of time that I had available. So, I pulled inspiration from one of my favorite recipes, Roasted Vegetable French Bread Pizzas and made a simple sauce by combining ricotta cheese and pesto, tossed that with some cooked pasta, frozen peas, and a few thin slices of red onion. It was like instant pasta salad gratification! Seriously, it was SO fast.

I love using pesto as a magic ingredient. It’s like a one stop shop for flavor. No need to add garlic, herbs, salt, or oil, because it already has all of those covered! Don’t have any inexpensive pesto at your local grocery? Make a yummy (and inexpensive) parsley pesto, like the one in this recipe for Parsley Pesto Potatoes.

This recipe also let me use up some more of the frozen peas in my freezer, so that was a plus. Some other things you could toss in there if you have them on hand: cherry tomatoes, salad shrimp, rotisserie chicken, sun dried tomatoes, shredded mozzarella, blanched asparagus, or fresh baby spinach.

Pesto Ricotta Pasta Salad

Pesto Ricotta Pasta Salad

3.9 from 7 reviews
Pesto Ricotta Pasta Salad
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $5.57
Cost Per Serving: $0.93
Serves: 6 (1 cup each)
  • 12 oz. bow tie pasta $1.25
  • 1 cup ricotta (full fat) $1.07
  • ½ cup pesto (any variety) $1.88
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest (optional) $0.38
  • Freshly cracked pepper (10-15 cranks of a mill) $0.05
  • ½ small red onion (optional) $0.46
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed $0.48
  1. Boil the pasta according to the package directions. Allow the pasta to cool until no longer hot (5-10 minutes).
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, pesto, zest from about ½ of a lemon (1 tsp), and some freshly cracked pepper. Stir until combined. Thinly slice the red onion and allow the peas to thaw.
  3. Combine the cooked and cooled pasta, pesto ricotta sauce, onion, and peas in a large bowl. Stir until everything is evenly combined and coated in the sauce. Serve immediately.

Pesto Ricotta Pasta Salad


Step by Step Photos

Bow Tie PastaStart by cooking 12 oz. of pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes). Let the pasta drain and cool. It can still be warm when you assemble the salad, just avoid assembly while it’s still piping hot. I used bow tie pasta, but you could use whatever shape you prefer.

Pesto Ricotta SauceTo make the pesto ricotta sauce, combine 1 cup ricotta (full fat is best), 1/2 cup pesto, the zest from about 1/2 a lemon (or about 1 tsp), and some freshly cracked pepper. I used basil pesto, but I think just about any pesto would work here.

PestoBTW, I usually use this brand of pesto because it’s super inexpensive (usually around $3.50 or so for an 8oz. jar). If you can’t find this brand or an equally inexpensive brand, try making some parsley pesto instead. 

Pesto Ricotta SauceStir the sauce ingredients together until they are well combined.

Assemble Pasta SaladOnce the pasta is relatively cool, combine it with the pesto ricotta sauce, 1 cup of frozen peas (thawed or mostly thawed), and 1/2 of a red onion (thinly sliced).

Pesto Ricotta Pasta SaladStir it all up and you’re done! 

Pesto Ricotta Pasta SaladFlavor made easy, thanks to pesto.

Pesto Ricotta Pasta


  1. Jade Hybiscus says:

    Thank you for posting the entire recipe AHEAD of the detailed photographs. Sometimes we need to get right to the important info, and I see on some sites, they NEVER post a full recipe that is efficiently useful. You are blessed for this.

  2. anomino says:

    I just did it and sorry to say but taste like shit.

  3. Liz A. says:

    I’m going to make a big batch of this and have lunch to bring to work all week! I might add some shredded chicken for a little protein and to stretch it a little further.

  4. Erika says:

    I love this dish! I made it warm and added in heirloom tomatoes and it gave it that added punch. :)

  5. Omg, nom.

  6. christen says:

    I just made this – and it’s delicious!! I tried it still warm, and it is so good. I added a little garlic & skipped the lemon, because I don’t have a zester. Yum, this is great! Thanks for another great one. I might make it again tomorrow.

  7. Olivia says:

    I made this the other day for dinner with some grilled chicken breast. It was a little plain, to be honest. Any suggestions for snazzing it up? I thought maybe lemon juice would brighten it, but would that curdle the ricotta?

    • Yes, I think that would add some extra zing. :) And no, it won’t hurt the ricotta. As a matter of fact, lemon juice is often used to make ricotta (it’s milk that has already been curdled then strained).

      • You were right! I made it again, this time with lemon juice. It was delicious! Thank you for the recipe — I will probably be making this until October (summer lasts a loooong time in AZ).

  8. Great dish – I made a couple of revisions – I did not have ricotta so I added cottage cheese (pulled idea from a baked ziti recipe I make regularly) and it worked well. I added chicken, tomatoes & asperagus and it became our one-dish dinner. Lemon zest was a great addition. Thanks! It was very yummy!

  9. Kristen says:

    Wow, not bad! This gave me a great opportunity to use up some leftover red onion and ricotta before going on vacation. I added some sliced black olives, per Laurel’s recommendation (yum). I also added about 8 ounces of salad shrimp. They fit in beautifully. Plus it took almost no time to make! Thanks Beth :)

  10. Jenn says:

    This looks absolutely amazing. Definitely adding it to the list of recipes to make this week. I love this site!!

  11. Laurel says:

    I just made this and it turned out really yummy! Perfect for a hot, humid day. I put in sliced black olives which was a nice addition. I thought the lemon zest made it
    especially tasty. Thanks for another great recipe…

  12. Michelle says:

    I never thought to add ricotta to a pasta salad. Looks good though. I’m excited to try it.

  13. I made a greek inspired pesto pasta ( the other day and didn’t even think to add in ricotta. Great idea!

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