EASY LEMON RICOTTA PASTA & SPINACH

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I love this zesty lemon ricotta pasta with spinach, it makes a delish weeknight meal ready in less than 15 minutes. Simple, fresh ingredients, delicious flavor, and minimal effort.

This no-cook sauce is one of my go-to recipes from when I was at uni and can be made in no time. Mix creamy ricotta, parmesan cheese, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, and refreshing lemon. Your pasta sauce is ready.

Easy peasy, economical, perfect for your carb cravings and so good.

Creamy lemon ricotta pasta with spinach on a white plate.

If you’re a big fan of lemons like me, you’ll love how their juice and zest transform a simple dish into something that tastes pure sunshine. And what about the creamy ricotta? I love it, especially when I used to buy fresh ricotta from the cheese counter in Italy (ahhh distant memories!)

To make this easy pasta dish healthier and more filling, don’t forget to add your greens. You could swap spinach for other delicious vegetables, or even protein like grilled chicken or salmon.  The sky is the limit!

Watch how to make it

What ingredients you need

  • Pasta
  • Ricotta
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Baby spinach
  • Lemon
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Salt and pepper

The ingredients for this lemon ricotta pasta are arranged on a white marble table.

  • Combine ricotta, parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper
  • Mix well, taste and make sure you’re happy with the seasoning
  • Meanwhile, cook your pasta until al dente

Ricotta, lemon zest, olive oil and parmesan are mixed with a spoon on a glass bowl.

  • Reserve some pasta cooking water
  • Add spinach to the pot and cook for 1 minute
  • Drain pasta and spinach and return to the pot
  • Add the ricotta sauce, the cooking water, and stir well
  • Serve with a drizzle of olive oil,  freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and lemon wedges (optional)
  • Enjoy… Buon appetito! 

Lemon ricotta pasta with spinach and lemon wedges on a white background.

Recipe notes & tips

If you fancy fresh and creamy spaghetti ready in no time, inexpensive, and kids approved, this recipe is for you!

Plus, if you go for whole grain pasta you’ll get more natural fiber and micronutrients than white pasta. Whole-grain is the healthier option also when it comes to a bowl of spaghetti, and makes you feel fuller longer which is a great bonus. We love it and we consume it nearly on a regular basis.

HOW TO ADD SPINACH TO PASTA?

Blanched (quickly boiled) spinach works fine in this recipe, and cooking spinach and pasta all in one pot saves time and washing up.  However, make sure not to overcook it, which will result in the loss of nutrients, flavor, and green color.

A fork is lifting some creamy lemon ricotta pasta noodles.Recipe updated: originally posted in July 2019, I’ve tweaked the post adding more notes and new pictures.

SUBSTITUTIONS

What about adding a twist? This terrific recipe is so versatile, feel free to add more vegetables or even protein of your choice. Here are a few variations that taste delicious along with the lemon and ricotta combo.
Add them to the pot when you stir in the ricotta mixture. 

  • Sauteed or grilled vegetables: asparagus, peas, zucchini, artichokes
  • Arugula, basil, chives
  • Cherry tomatoes or chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • Grilled chicken
  • Grilled or smoked salmon

MORE EASY PASTA DISHES READY IN 15 MINUTES OR LESS?

If you make this vibrant lemon ricotta pasta with spinach, leave a comment, rate it, or tag a photo #theclevermeal on Instagram.
I would love to hear from you!

Creamy lemon ricotta pasta with spinach on a white plate.
Print Recipe
4.87 from 171 votes

Lemon ricotta pasta & spinach

This light and zesty lemon ricotta pasta with spinach makes a delish weeknight meal ready in less than 15 minutes. Simple, fresh ingredients, delicious flavor, and minimal effort.
Prep Time13 minutes
Course: pasta
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Lemon ricotta pasta
Servings: 3
Calories: 538kcal
Author: Katia

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb (8oz/220 grams) pasta (spaghetti, linguine, penne, fusilli...)
  • 1 cup (9oz/250 grams) whole-milk ricotta
  • 8 oz (230 grams) fresh baby spinach, washed
  • 1/3 cup (35 grams) grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
  • 3 lemon wedges, to serve (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1 garlic clove, grated or pressed
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Meanwhile, make the ricotta sauce.
  • In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, olive oil, parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon zest and juice. Season with 1/4 tsp of salt and a good pinch of pepper.
  • Stir until well combined, taste and make sure you're happy with the seasoning.
  • In the last minute of the pasta's cooking time, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then and add spinach to the pot. Stir well and push the leaves down to submerge them in water.
  • After 1 minute, drain and return pasta and spinach to the same pot.
  • Add the ricotta sauce and part of the reserved cooking water. Stir well to evenly coat the pasta in the sauce, add more cooking water as needed, you want a smooth and creamy texture.
  • Serve immediately and garnish with grated or shaved Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and lemon wedges if desired (for extra freshly squeezed juice, but I leave it optional). Plus, I love adding a good pinch of red pepper flakes, you might give it a go. Enjoy!

Video

Notes

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 spaghetti nice and moist. If you think the reserved water is not enough, you might add a few Tbsps of milk.
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, conchiglie work fine. Mini pasta shapes like orzo or even elbow macaroni don’t work well in the recipe.
NOTE: Nutritional values are estimates only.

Nutrition

Calories: 538kcal | Carbohydrates: 64g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 53mg | Sodium: 314mg | Potassium: 743mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 7661IU | Vitamin C: 41mg | Calcium: 403mg | Iron: 4mg
I love this zesty lemon ricotta pasta with spinach, it makes a delish weeknight meal ready in less than 15 minutes. Simple, fresh ingredients, delicious flavor, and minimal effort. #pastarecipes #spaghetti #easyrecipes #quickmeals

475 Comments

  1. Can I blend the spinach then add it to the sauce? I want to make this for my kids who are usually Fussy eaters. I’m thinking maybe if I blend the spinach they won’t be bothered by full leaves

    1. HI Wanda! That’s not the best twist for this pasta recipe, but if that makes your kids happy to eat it, it’s worth trying.
      To sneak more greens in their diet, you might check out my https://theclevermeal.com/spinach-pesto/. My son loves this pesto with pasta, especially when I add some fresh ricotta or cream cheese. : )

  2. 5 stars
    I liked this. I think it’s a good side dish for bigger eaters or if having guests over, bbq etc….i think next time I will double the sauce, add more pasta but not a lot, omit the water, add mushrooms and some artichoke hearts chopped small. Thanks for this, great flavor!

    1. That’s great! Thanks so much for sharing, Sheila. x

  3. 5 stars
    I made this today and my husband loved it. I added some sun dried tomatoes and I had the wrong size package of spinach so I added some arugula. I will be making this again, for sure. Thanks for this fast, easy, delicious recipe.

    1. Wonderful, you’re very welcome, Linda! I’m so happy it was delicious. : )

    2. 5 stars
      I never comment on things and I’m an novice at cooking but when I tell you I follow this recipe and have made it twice successfully this recipe is excellent. I will keep this for nights when I’m not sure what to make and don’t have the extra time. Will definitely keep this in my rotation for meals and it tastes amazing! thanks!!

    3. Awesome, you’ve made my day! Thanks so much for sharing, Zaneta. : )

  4. 5 stars
    I made this as per the recipe, as I could tell it would be good. I don’t like when people completely change a recipe (write your own) but in this case liked some of the comments, regarding additions. Sauteed mushrooms works for me. Anything like blackened chicken or steamed salmon filet. Lots of things I love (sundried tomatoes etc) and I am a pretty good cook, just never that sure what combinations might work, but this recipe works for me just as it is!

    1. What a lovely feedback! Thanks so much, Dale. x

  5. 5 stars
    Hi! Made this and loved it. Looking for something similar with gnocchi. The gnocchi wouldn’t catch the sauce the same. Any ideas? Thank you. It’s for a friend who just had surgery and loves gnocchi!

    1. Hi Melissa! Are you looking for a pasta sauce suitable for gnocchi? Check out my gorgonzola pasta recipe on the website. Gorgonzola gnocchi is a popular Italian combination and you can adjust the texture easily by adding a touch of cream or milk if needed. x

  6. My sauce didn’t get creamy AT ALL! Ended up with chunks of the ricotta. Will try again and add no pasta water possibly. Only added 1/4 C. When adding sauce was I supposed to continue on low heat or no heat?

    1. Hi Suzanne, not sure why you ended up with chunks of the ricotta. You’re supposed to mix the ricotta with other ingredients until well combined, that should be enough to make your ricotta smooth. Sometimes ricotta gets grainy, but that depends on its quality – that’s nothing to do with the recipe itself.
      I recommend using some pasta water to thinner the sauce, then stir everyting without heat. x

  7. 5 stars
    I just made this. We absolutely loved it!!!!!!!! I served with shrimp scampi and Texas Toast

    1. Brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing, Stella. ; )

  8. 5 stars
    We liked it! Next time we will use more garlic and a touch of Red pepper. We use part skim ricotta to make it Heart Healthy.

    1. That’s great to hear! Thanks so much for sharing, Fran. x

  9. 5 stars
    We tried it for the first time and loved it. My favorite part is that organic food consumers can find everything at the market and their garden.

    1. Wonderful! Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Joni! : )

  10. 4 stars
    Had a bit of trouble with this, also couldn’t get the sauce to come together so it was fairly grainy. Used beautiful fresh ricotta so it was probably just me being bad at cooking. A bit more detail in the instruction would have helped maybe. Good flavours so willing to try again.

    1. Hi, and thanks for your feedback. Ricotta can turn grainy sometimes, but the recipe is quite straightforward; no extra steps or more instructions are needed.
      I am glad you like the flavor, and I think it will be great next time. : )

  11. 4 stars
    Nice flavours in this recipe. I added some pan roasted cherry tomatoes and cremini mushrooms along with the spinach. My ricotta curdled and the sauce didn’t pull together so it turned out a mix of runny and grainy. Others seem to have had good results with this, though, and it did taste good, so maybe I’ll have to try again.

    1. Absolutely, give it another go, Marie.
      Just make sure the your ricotta tastes nice and has a creamy texture. x

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