Need a quick weeknight dinner perfect for a hot summer night? This zesty lemon ricotta pasta is the perfect recipe. Featuring ripe cherry tomatoes and fresh basil in a creamy garlic lemon ricotta sauce, it’s comforting yet light at the same time.
I love a good summer pasta and this recipe epitomizes exactly that. With ripe and juicy cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, it’s everything to love about late summer and pretty much the opposite of this Brussels sprouts pasta which is my winter go-to.
The star of this pasta though is by far the creamy lemon ricotta sauce that coats it all.
Lemon juice and zest keep things bright and zingy while the ricotta balances everything out with its smooth and indulgent texture and taste.
When fall rolls around, I love using it in these butternut squash noodles but in August, let’s keep the tomatoes and basil front and center, shall we?
If you’re looking for a weeknight meal that’s ready in under 30 minutes with just a few ingredients, this lemon ricotta pasta is for you!
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE RICOTTA LEMON PASTA
- linguine (or pasta of choice – use gluten-free if necessary)
- juice and zest of a lemon
- extra virgin olive oil
- red pepper flakes
- cherry tomatoes
- fresh basil
- salt & pepper
WHAT KIND OF RICOTTA IS BEST?
Not all ricotta is the same or created equal!
Like I advocate for most ingredients, choose quality when it comes to selecting the ricotta for this recipe as it’s really the star ingredient.
I like brands that use simple ingredients without any fillers, additives or other junk in theirs and if possible, certified organic.
Make sure to always read the label on dairy products, you’d be surprised at the crap that gets added in there! There are also brands that make lactose free ricotta if that’s helpful for those you’re feeding.
Good quality ricotta is smooth and creamy with a subtle sweet flavor not grainy or bitter like some cheaper store brands can be. If you can find it freshly made at your store or deli, even better!
It’s also important to go with whole milk ricotta for this pasta recipe (just like when making this pumpkin ricotta dessert dip) not the part-skim varieties.
HOW TO MAKE PASTA WITH A LEMON RICOTTA SAUCE
Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the linguine (or other pasta) and cook until al dente (usually a minute or two under package directions).
While the water comes to a boil, make the no-cook lemon ricotta sauce.
Add the ricotta to a medium bowl along with the olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice. Whisk until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
Once the pasta is done cooking, drain then return to the pot. Pour the ricotta sauce on top and add the cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.
Toss until all the ingredients are combined and the pasta is evenly coated in the ricotta sauce.
Serve and enjoy!
FRESH LEMON AS A KEY INGREDIENT
While you may be tempted to skip the zest or worse yet, use bottled lemon juice, fresh is really key in this recipe.
With so few ingredients, it’s important every one of them is fresh for the best taste!
The zest is key as it imparts so much bright and zingy lemon flavor without turning the pasta sour from using too much juice.
Zest can be such a shining ingredient in simple dishes (like in these whipped lemon burrata shrimp crostini) and that’s definitely the case with this pasta.
HOW TO CUSTOMIZE THIS RICOTTA AND LEMON PASTA
If you want to make this outside of summer and fresh basil isn’t as easy to grab, try using baby spinach in its place.
There’s no need to cook the spinach, it will wilt when added to the pot with the hot pasta keeping things simple and easy.
This recipe is also a great jumping off point to add your favorite protein on top.
Some sliced grilled chicken or even air fryer frozen chicken breasts would be a nice addition to create a more filling meal.
Shrimp, scallops, salmon and steak are also good additional protein ideas.
Or, just enjoy it like this as a simple light vegetarian meal. Broccoli pasta is another great light vegetarian recipe like this one for an easy weeknight meal.
STORING AND REHEATING
The pasta is really best when eaten immediately as the sauce stays nice and creamy.
However, if you think you’ll end up with leftovers, here’s a simple trick so you don’t end up with dry pasta once reheated: save some of the pasta water when cooking.
To store the leftovers, place in an air-tight glass container. Transfer the leftovers to a bowl and add in 2-3 tablespoons of the pasta water before reheating in a microwave or sauce pot on the stove.
Stir the pasta once warmed and the pasta water will reconstitute the ricotta sauce to its glorious original creamy texture.
Ricotta tends to dry out with heat and refrigeration but this easy tip will liven it right back up! This tip will also work for other pasta dishes like bucatini cacio e pepe. It’s a great one to have in your back pocket for leftover pasta dishes.
Leftover pasta will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
MORE RICOTTA RECIPES TO TRY:
Lemon Ricotta Pasta
- 1 pound linguine, use gluten-free if desired
- 15 ounces ricotta, *see note
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- small bunch fresh basil leaves, about 1 loosely packed cup, chopped
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add linguine and cook according to package directions until al dente.
- While water boils and pasta cooks, make the ricotta sauce by combining the ricotta, lemon juice, zest, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and olive oil in a medium bowl. Whisk until creamy and smooth.
- When pasta is done cooking, drain and transfer back into the cooking pot.
- Add the cherry tomatoes, basil and ricotta sauce. Toss together until well combined and the pasta is fully coated in the sauce.
- Season with more salt and pepper to taste then serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.