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Ultra-quick lemon ricotta pasta with spinach

Ultra-Quick Lemon Ricotta Pasta With Spinach

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 4.5 from 2 reviews
  • Author: Emilie Raffa
  • Prep Time: 2
  • Cook Time: 15
  • Total Time: 17 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2
  • Category: Pasta Sauce
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian


This quick and easy lemon ricotta pasta recipe features less than 10 ingredients, and is ready in 15-20 minutes. It’s the perfect weeknight meal. Be sure to read my tips below for the ultimate pasta experience.

Notes & Tips:

    • For mild garlic flavor, use 1 clove (not 2). Or omit the garlic completely. Sometimes garlic can overpower the gentle flavor of the ricotta, especially if it’s not very fresh.

    • I’ve made this dish many times with (and without) lemon. Fresh lemon juice adds brightness and acidity to the recipe. However, omitting it makes for a more milky-sweet pasta dish. Both ways are good. See what you like best!

    • Reheat with caution. The penne pasta will soak up the ricotta sauce as it cools down, making the texture thicker. To reheat, do so in a pan with a splash of water to loosen the consistency.


  • 8 oz penne pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 12 garlic cloves, smashed (use 1 clove for delicate flavor; 2 cloves for strong flavor)
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup ground Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice, zest reserved (optional)
  • 34 oz fresh baby spinach
  • Salt & Pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with salt. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions; do not drain.
  2. Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a large 10-12 inch pan or braiser pot, warm the olive oil over low heat. Add the garlic clove(s) and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute. Do not brown. The goal is to gently infuse the olive oil with a mild garlic flavor. Turn off the heat.
  3. To the skillet: Add the ricotta, heavy cream, only 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice (if using). Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon to combine. Taste and season to perfection with salt and pepper. Discard the garlic.
  4. At this point, the pasta should be ready. Reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and set aside (you may or may not need it to loosen the sauce). Add the spinach to the pasta pot and give it a quick stir. It will wilt in 3 seconds. Finally, using a fine mesh strainer, scoop out the pasta and spinach and add it directly to the ricotta sauce. 
  5. Toss the pasta with the ricotta sauce until well coated. Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of the reserved pasta water.
  6. Portion the pasta onto plates. Garnish with lemon zest (optional) and serve right away.