Foodie, Recipes

Lemon Ricotta Pasta With Arugula

This Lemon Ricotta Pasta is the perfect vegetarian spring pasta dish that is bright and flavourful and is made with ricotta, lemon juice, parmesan cheese and pasta water. It’s done in 20 min or less and is so easy to make – a favourite for a quick and easy weeknight meal. Simple, fresh ingredients, delicious flavours, and minimal effort. You cannot beat that if you are looking for a zesty, lemony and creamy pasta.

What is in Lemon Ricotta Pasta

The ingredients are pretty much in the name of this simple and tasty pasta dish.

  • PASTA – you can use any short, large or long pasta shapes that work well to capture the creamy ricotta. I love spaghetti, but penne, fusilli, and rigatoni. Very small pasta shapes like orzo or even elbow macaroni don’t work as well in the recipe. To make it gluten-free, you can use any gluten-free pasta of your choice.
  • RICOTTA – Make sure to use a good quality one that you love the taste of and also make sure it’s full fat. The whole sauce is based on it so definitely use one you love. The higher fat content the richer the sauce.
  • LEMON  – Freshly squeezed is always best and nothing beats that fresh zest. You can add more lemon juice and zest according to taste. I like to make mine as stated in the recipe below and serve it with extra wedges on the side.
  • PARMESAN CHEESE – Parmesan cheese is the most common cheese for this recipe but you can substitute it with Pecorino as well. Freshly grated from a block is always best instead of the pre grated stuff you can get in a bottle as it will incorporate into the sauce better and it also tastes better too.
  • ARUGULA – I love the peppery taste of arugula against the creamy lemony flavours in this pasta but feel free to substitute the arugula with kale, spinach, or other vegetables like broccoli, peas or green beans. Veggies like that will have to be either blanched or pan fried before adding them in to the pasta though.

Servings: 4-6

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 12-15 mins


  • 1 lb short pasta, like penne or rigatoni (I used Mezzi rigatoni)
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • ¼ cup lemon juice from 1 to 2 lemons plus extra lemon wedges for serving
  • 2 cups of arugula
  • Chili flakes for serving
  • Olive oil for serving
  • Thinly sliced or torn basil leaves for serving (optional)


  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente, reserving 1 cup of cooking water. Drain pasta and set aside.
  2. Make the sauce in the same pot: add the ricotta, parmesan, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper to taste and stir until well combined.
  3. Stir or whisk in ½ cup of pasta water until smooth.
  4. Add the pasta and stir vigorously until the noodles are well coated adding more pasta water to loosen up the sauce as needed for a smooth sauce.
  5. Stir in the arugula.
  6. Serve immediately and top with remaining  sauce from pan and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with extra parmesan, red-pepper flakes and torn basil, if using and extra lemon wedges on the side.

Recipe Notes

  • This pasta and sauce gets thicker as it sits so it’s VERY important to serve right after it’s made. To make the sauce more creamy, you can add some milk or cream instead of some of the pasta water. 
  • Cooking water: add pasta water gradually, you might not need all of it. You don’t want to water down the flavor, but only make the pasta nice and moist. If you think the reserved water is not enough, you might add a few Tbsps of milk or cream
  • Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last about 4-5 days in the fridge. You can reheat on stovetop or microwave adding a little water, broth  or cream to loosen up the sauce but this dish is BETTER eaten the SAME DAY as it will never be as creamy as it was when first cooked.

Adapted from Cooking NY Times