This easy One Pot Pasta with Ricotta and Lemon features a creamy ricotta and parmesan sauce flavored with garlic and lemon and it’s studded with tender sweet peas. Using mostly pantry staple ingredients, this flavorful family-pleasing dish can be on the table in under 30 minutes!
Pasta dishes are always a hit. They offer an easy meal solution happily pairing up with pantry staples and can be whipped up quickly. That’s exactly what this pasta with ricotta and lemon offers an it’s all done in one pot for minimal cleanup. It’s the ultimate weeknight meal.
Looking for more easy pasta meals? Then you’ll love Penne Pomodoro, Spinach Artichoke Pasta Bake, and Creamy Mushroom and Asparagus Pasta! Want some protein with your pasta? Try these Stuffed Shells With Meat Sauce or this Creamy Lemon White Wine Pasta with Blackened Salmon!
Key Ingredient Notes
Pasta – Cavatappi noodles, also called corkscrew pasta, are not just a fun pasta shape. They also grab sauce really well making them the perfect pasta for this creamy ricotta sauce.
Ricotta – Whole milk ricotta makes a yummy creamy sauce with minimal effort.
Parmesan – Freshly shredded parmesan adds a salty creaminess to the sauce.
Peas – Tender sweet peas add a touch of green to the dish. They also add a bit of sweetness to balance the creamy sauce.
Red Pepper Flakes – These are optional but they add a nice subtle heat to the dish. I like to serve them on the side so they can be added to each serving if wanted.
Step By Step Instructions
Note: Full list of ingredients, their amounts, and instructions can be found in the recipe card below.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring well-salted water to a boil.
Properly salted water for pasta should taste extra salty, almost as salty as seawater. This will typically take about 1/4 cup of kosher salt for a large pot of water. Seems like a lot, I know! But remember, most of that water will get drained away. The best way to know if you salted the water properly is to spoon a bit out, cool it down, and give it a taste!
Add the pasta and cook for the recommended time on the package directions.
When there are about 45 seconds left, scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water before adding the frozen peas to the pot with the pasta to finish cooking. Drain.
Add extra virgin olive oil to the pot you cooked the pasta in and allow it to warm up. This shouldn’t require any additional heat from the stovetop.
Add the garlic to the oil and allow it to cook for about 1 minute or until softened and cooked through.
Again, your pot should be hot enough still to cook the garlic without placing the pot back on the heat. However, if the pot has cooled and the garlic isn’t cooking, place the pot back over low heat.
Add the drained pasta and peas to the pot.
Add the ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice, lemon zest, 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water, salt, and pepper. Stir until everything is mixed together and the sauce is creamy. Add more pasta water if needed to achieve a creamy consistency.
Top with extra parmesan and red pepper flakes if you’d like. They can also be served on the side.
Serve warm and enjoy!
Tips & Tricks
- Make it a meal by serving the pasta with Pan Seared Chicken Thighs. A side salad and fresh homemade Crusty Dutch Oven Bread would also be great!
- Serve this dish family-style by placing the pot in the center of the table so that everyone can serve themselves. I also like to keep the red pepper flakes and extra parmesan at the table so everyone can customize to their liking.
- You can leave the peas out if you’d like. However, in my testing of this recipe, the consensus was that the peas perfectly balanced the other flavors and they were missed when not there.
Substitutions & Variations
- Use a different pasta shape. Penne, gemelli, and rotini would all work well.
- Switch the peas with another green like chopped broccoli florets or asparagus pieces.
Storage & Reheating
Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
If you have leftover pasta water, save it in a jar to be used when reheating.
The best way to reheat this pasta is to warm a bit of the pasta water, plain water, or even milk over medium heat on the stove. Then, add the pasta to the warm liquid and toss. Allow it to warm through for about 30 seconds then remove it from the heat and eat immediately.
I recommend avoiding reheating in the microwave for the best results as the ricotta may curdle.
Frequently Asked Questions
Most ricotta sold in stores is whole milk but if you find a low-fat version you can use it. However, the sauce will be less creamy.
You need to add more pasta water. Adding the pasta water is a balance. You need to add enough to make a creamy sauce but no so much that it becomes runny. Start with 1/2 cup and then add more until the sauce is creamy and not gritty.
No. If the ricotta has separated from the liquid simply give it a good stir to bring it all back together before adding it to the pasta.
The pasta water contains starch from the pasta which helps to make the sauce thicker and creamier. It also has the salt that was added. However, if you forgot to save some pasta water you can use regular water or even milk and then test if the dish needs more salt. The sauce may not get as thick but it will still taste great!
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One Pot Pasta with Ricotta and Lemon
- 16 ounces cavatappi pasta or other short rib pasta
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves thinly sliced half moons
- 1 cup whole milk ricotta liquid mixed in
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese plus more for topping
- zest from 1 lemon
- juice from 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for the pasta water
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- red pepper flakes optional
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, bring well-salted water to a boil.
- Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions. When there are about 45 seconds left, scoop out and reserve 1 cup of the pasta water then add the frozen peas to the pot with the pasta to finish cooking. Drain.
- To the pot you cooked the pasta in, add the olive oil. Once the oil is warm, add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute or until the garlic has softened and cooked through. Note: The pot should be hot enough from boiling the pasta but if it has cooled down too much place it over low heat to cook the garlic.
- Add the drained pasta and peas.
- Add 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water, ricotta, parmesan, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Toss until everything is well combined and the sauce has become creamy adding more pasta water if needed.
- Optional: Top with additional parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes. Serve immediately.
- Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- If you have leftover pasta water, save it in a jar to be used when reheating.
- The best way to reheat this pasta is to warm a bit of the pasta water, plain water, or milk over medium heat on the stove. Then, add the pasta to the warm liquid and toss. Allow it to warm through for about 30 seconds then remove it from the heat and eat immediately.
- I recommend avoiding reheating in the microwave for the best results as the ricotta may curdle.