Lemon Ricotta Pasta

$3.52 recipe / $0.88 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.38 from 16 votes
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Here’s a quickie recipe for those nights when you just need something fast and delicious. This Lemon Ricotta Pasta is super fast, light, and fresh, which makes it perfect for an easy weeknight dinner during the summer. The bright lemon flavor perfectly compliments the light and creamy ricotta, and the little pops of sweetness from the peas make every bite a little more interesting. Simple, fresh, and easy.

Originally posted 3-4-2011, updated 6-8-2022.

Overhead view of a bowl of lemon ricotta pasta with a fork and lemon wedges.

Do I Have to Use Fresh Lemon?

This is one of those recipes where you really do want to use a fresh lemon instead of bottled juice. The zest from the lemon adds a ton of bright, summery lemon flavor to the pasta without making the sauce too sour. We add just a little of the juice to balance the creaminess of the ricotta, but the zest is where you’re getting all that gorgeous sunny lemon flavor!

Not All Ricotta is Created Equal

I find there is quite a bit of variation in the quality of ricotta from brand to brand. Some are smooth, mild, and sweet like fresh milk, while others are bland and grainy. My preferred brand is Galbani, but they didn’t have any at the store when I went, so I got the generic Kroger brand. It was definitely a bit grainy, but the pasta was still quite delicious despite that!

Also, make sure to get whole milk ricotta. Low-fat ricotta just doesn’t hit the same in this recipe.

What Else Can I Add?

This simple pasta is a great jumping-off point for making a more elaborate pasta, if that’s what you’re in the mood for. Try adding some sliced chicken breast, fresh basil, or fresh spinach. Garlic butter shrimp would also go great with this pasta!

What to Serve with Lemon Ricotta Pasta

This pasta is so light and fresh that I suggest keeping any side dishes really simple, light, and fresh as well. I would go with a super simple side salad, or maybe some roasted asparagus and tomatoes.

Overhead view of lemon ricotta pasta in a skillet.

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Lemon Ricotta Pasta

4.38 from 16 votes
Lemon Ricotta Pasta is light, fresh, and quick to prepare, making it the perfect pasta for weeknight dinners in the summer.
Overhead view of a bowl of lemon ricotta pasta.
Servings 4
Prep 10 mins
Cook 20 mins
Total 30 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon ($0.89)
  • 8 oz. pasta* ($0.67)
  • 1 cup frozen peas ($0.50)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced ($0.08)
  • 1 Tbsp butter ($0.11)
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta ($1.60)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan ($0.36)
  • 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste) ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper (or to taste) ($0.02)
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper (or to taste) ($0.02)

Instructions 

  • Zest and juice the lemon. You'll need about ½ tsp zest and 1 Tbsp lemon juice.
  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes, or until tender). Before draining, reserve about 1 cup of the starchy water from the pot.
  • Place the frozen peas in the colander before draining the pasta so the pasta will thaw the peas as it drains.
  • Add the butter and minced garlic to a large skillet and sauté over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or just until the garlic is fragrant.
  • Add the drained pasta and peas, and about ½ cup of the starchy pasta cooking water to the skillet with the butter and garlic. Stir to combine, then turn off the heat.
  • Add the ricotta, Parmesan, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon lemon zest to the skillet. Stir until everything is well combined, the residual heat from the skillet and pasta have warmed the ricotta, and the ricotta has formed a creamy sauce. Add more of the warm reserved pasta water if needed.
  • Season the pasta with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste. Serve warm.

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Notes

*Use any short shape pasta.

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 400kcalCarbohydrates: 51gProtein: 18gFat: 14gSodium: 335mgFiber: 4g
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close up side view of lemon ricotta pasta in a bowl.

How to Make Lemon Ricotta Pasta – Step By Step Photos

A zested and juiced lemon on a cutting board.

Zest and juice one lemon. You’ll need about ½ tsp of zest and 1 Tbsp juice.

Boiled pasta in a pot, water being scooped out with a measuring cup.

Cook 8oz. pasta according to the package directions (boil for 7-10 minutes, or until tender). Reserve about 1 cup of the starchy pasta water before draining.

Peas and cooked pasta in a colander.

Add 1 cup of frozen peas to a colander, then pour the boiled pasta over top to thaw the peas as you drain the pasta.

Sautéed garlic in butter in a skillet.

Add 1 Tbsp butter and 1 clove garlic to a large skillet. Sauté over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or just until the garlic becomes very fragrant.

Pasta, peas, and pasta water added to the skillet.

Add the still-hot pasta and peas to the skillet along with about ½ cup of the hot reserved pasta water. Stir to combine, then turn off the heat.

Cheese and lemon added to pasta.

Add 1 cup whole milk ricotta, ¼ cup grated Parmesan, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, and ½ tsp lemon zest to the pasta. Stir until the ingredients are combined, the residual heat from the pasta and skillet have warmed the ricotta, and the ricotta has turned into a creamy sauce.

Salt, pepper, and red pepper added to the pasta.

Add more of the reserved pasta water if the mixture is too thick or too dry. Season the pasta with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste.

Finished lemon ricotta pasta in the skillet.

Enjoy the lemon ricotta pasta while still warm!

Overhead view of a bowl of lemon ricotta pasta.

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  1. This was absolutely fantastic! I really love the lemon zest to brighten the taste. Absolutely phenomenal. We served with crusty multigrain bread and it was fabulous.

  2. This was the first Budget Bytes recipe that’s really disappointed me. Hate to say it, but it was flavorless, even with the red pepper.

  3. TBH the most underrated budget bytes recipe. This one slaps IF you cook the pasta with some kind of bouillon instead of water, and reserve the starchy broth water. I literally make this all the time. I do wish the pasta water was added to the ingredients, and that putting the peas in the colander came before draining in the instructions– I’ve forgotten to do both multiple times.

  4. Just made this tonight. It was simple and delicious. Used GF Tinkyada noodles and didn’t add the red pepper flakes. Added a little more salt and parmesan at the end. Thank you!

  5. Another solid recipe I made w/ my 10 year old niece. There were plenty of left overs & when we reheated it I added in some extra broccoli onetime & artichoke hearts the next time. The lemon zest & fresh black pepper really shine through in this recipe. So good & so simple & I’ve got enough cheese to make it again! 🙌🏾