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 155 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

437 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    wow this recipe exceeded my expectations! if you follow it perfectly the ratio makes the sauce taste heavenly! Will be coming back to this! thank you!!

    1. Awesome! I’m so happy it was great, thanks so much for sharing, Zaneta! : )
      Have a lovely weekend. x

  2. 5 stars
    Can’t wait to make this for friends on Friday. I too got arugula and will sauté some shrimp and chicken to put out as options to put on the pasta. Thanks for posting.

    1. You’re welcome, Judith! Have a great weekend. x

  3. 5 stars
    This was quick, easy, and delicious. Unfortunately I curdled the heck out of the ricotta. I wanted the sauce warmed, and I’m not sure if I need to forego heating the sauce with the pasta or maybe stir in the lemon juice just before serving. I used smoked Gouda instead of Parmesan because that’s what I had on hand, and I enjoyed the flavor.

    1. Hey Denni! I think the heating might cause the curdling, but I’m so glad it turned out delicious and you enjoyed it! : )
      Thanks so much for sharing, and have a great week. x

  4. Anne Marie says:

    5 stars
    I was looking for a recipe to use up some extra ricotta cheese I had in the fridge, and found this. I followed the recipe exactly, except sprinkled some fresh basil and toasted pine nuts on top. So Delicious! I will definitely be making this again. Might double the spinach next time just to squeeze in a bit more veggies. Thanks for publishing!!

    1. Looooove your feedback, Anne Marie… thanks so much for sharing! : )
      And happy 2023! xx

    2. Lisa Austin says:

      5 stars
      I did the same thing! I also had some grape tomatoes I cooked a bit and added, and some shrimp. It was delicious!

    3. Awesome, I love those add-ins and I’m so happy it turned out delicious.
      Thanks so much for sharing, Lisa. : )

  5. 5 stars
    Really delicious! This is going into the recipe binder to use for meatless Mondays — or whenever, actually. Nor having enough spinach on hand, I subsituted some arugula, and it worked well. Garnished wtih some cherry tomatoes. Didn’t add olive oil as I don’t think it needs it.
    I served it with a well-chilled Sancerre, but any lemony sauvignon blanc would work well (just not the grapefruit style from Marlbourough, New Zealand).

    1. That’s great, Ruth! I’m very pleased to read your feedback, thanks so much for sharing! : )

  6. 5 stars
    Just lovely! Next time I will use a higher quality ricotta for a smoother texture. We were looking for something to replace the lemon ricotta ravioli that Costco seems to have discontinued, and this definitely fit the bill. The spinach adds some extra tasty goodness and we served it with some garlic shrimp just because. Definitely a do-again! Thanks for sharing your recipe.

    1. You’re very welcome, Susan! I’m so glad you loved it.
      Thanks for your feedback, and happy holidays! xx

    2. Can you use cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese?

    3. Uhm I’m afraid the end result won’t be the same, Carolyn. Ricotta has a smoother texture and the flavor is less acidic than cottage cheese. x

  7. 4 stars
    The sourness of the lemon overpowered the ricotta. The ricotta surprisingly doesn’t add much creaminess. It tastes like eating plain cottage cheese with a squeezed lemon, which is refreshing but not a good coating for pasta.

    1. Thank you for your feedback, Bill.
      I hope you didn’t skip parmesan cheese and olive oil which improve the final texture.
      But sometimes it’s just the ricotta cheese, it’s gritty and flavorless, low quality, and that doesn’t help!

    2. Kelley McGuire says:

      You can also add heavy cream to achieve the texture you want.

  8. 5 stars
    This is amazing! Fresh and bright. I sautéed a few shrimp that I tossed in Cajun seasoning. Chopped some green onion and pickled jalapeno and added the onion and jalapeño to the ricotta mixture. Blended everything together minus the shrimp and part of the green onions. Plated it topped with shrimp, parmesan and green onion along with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Really enjoyed this recipe. Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. You’re so welcome, Brenda! I love it with shrimps, that sounds delicious.
      Thanks for taking the time to share. : )

  9. 5 stars
    Delicious. Just wondering, can I warm it up for next day?

    1. Glad you liked it and thanks for sharing, Jenny! : )
      Yes, store it in the refrigerator, then you can reheat it adding a touch of milk or water, but make sure you warm it quickly to prevent overcooking. x

  10. Just curious why recipe does not print. It is a mystery why some bloggers block the recipes and they give the option to print .

    1. Good question, Carol. I thought the printable option was working, I’ll be looking into it asap.
      Thank you! x

  11. Can portions of this be frozen?

    1. hey Naomi, it’s not freezer-friendly I’m afraid. x

    2. Can I use frozen baby spinach? Thanks!

    3. Hi! Yes, you can, but thaw your frozen spinach first. x

    4. 5 stars
      I used baby peas!! And added complete seasoning!! Excellent!!!!!

    5. That’s great! Thanks so much for sharing, Virginia. : )

  12. The recipe looks amazing and I want to try it soon, but we don’t have any parmesan in the house and don’t want to buy a big chunk just for this recipe. Any suggestions for substituting for the parmesan? Is it ok to leave out entirely?

    1. HI Kara! The savory Parmesan cheese adds depth of flavor and makes the sauce richer. But you can leave it out if you wish, the end result will be lighter and maybe less interesting, but it’s worth trying! : )

    2. 5 stars
      This recipe is so delicious and so easy to make. I had ricotta that I didn’t know what to do with, and now this recipe has become a staple in our house! The punch of lemon is fantastic, and my 10 month old daughter loves the dish too.

    3. That’s brilliant, I’m so happy you guys love this ricotta pasta, including the little one. : )
      I appreciate your sharing, Nikki, thank you! x

    4. Hi Kara. I shredded some smoked Gouda. It’s often available in smallish wedges.

  13. 5 stars
    So easy and delicious! I used a whisk and it turned out so creamy! I didn’t have spinach, but arugula worked just as well! I just added it in at the end and mixed. Goes very well with a side of broccoli. Save the water!! Very important and had to add a little when I reheated.

    1. Great! I’m so happy you it turned out delicious, Carly!
      Thanks so much for sharing your lovely feedback with us. Cheers xx

  14. Allison C says:

    4 stars
    Amazing and easy! Perfect with veggies or chicken. Nice by itself for a meal too.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your fantastic feedback, Allison : )
      I’m so happy you loved it! xx

  15. 5 stars
    I made this with gluten free Penne …. oh my goodness. delicious!!!!
    i noticed thought that when i increase the servings the metric measurements don’t change.

    i also made it with like 5 garlic cloves and chilli flakes! sooo yumm. thanks for an amazing veggie weeknight din!

    1. That’s great, thanks so much for sharing your feedback, Jan! : )
      (ps. I’ll be checking the recipe card and see why didn’t work).
      Cheers xx

    2. Jacqueline says:

      5 stars
      It was very good but I noticed it curdled a little bit. Any tips to prevent this?

    3. Thanks so much for sharing your feedback, Jacqueline. : )
      Sometimes you get the curdled texture because of the lemon juice or because of the heat. Make sure you use whole milk ricotta (the higher fat content helps when you add the lemon juice) and avoid to heat the ricotta sauce. Cheers. x

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