A creamy ricotta pesto pasta recipe that’s ready in the time it takes the pasta to cook. A quick, delicious, and easy weeknight meal made with just a few ingredients and minimal effort.
Some of the best recipes for a super-fast, everyday, uncomplicated weeknight dinner are something with pasta. This ricotta pesto pasta recipe is no exception. It’s bursting with fresh flavors, it will fill you up, it’s made with three main ingredients, and it’s ready in no time.
On top of that, it’s a very kid-friendly dish, any leftovers are easily transported in a lunch box, and they can be enjoyed at room temperature the next day.
Here are more ricotta pasta recipes to try: Easy Tomato and Ricotta Pasta, One Pot Pasta with Ricotta and Lemon, and Creamy Ricotta Mac and Cheese. And if you have some leftover pesto, try the Quick Tuna Pesto Pasta or the Creamy Pesto Gnocchi Recipe.
- Pasta: I used maccheroni but use whatever you have, either short shapes or long noodles like spaghetti or pappardelle. I also tried this pesto ricotta sauce on whole wheat noodles, and I loved it.
- Ricotta cheese is an Italian specialty made with the whey leftover from cheese-making. It’s slightly grainy, mild, and naturally low in fat. Please use whole milk ricotta.
- Pesto: I usually use homemade pesto and don’t really care what sort. I often make this pesto and ricotta pasta recipe with homemade wild garlic, lemon balm, or mint pistachio pesto, a staple in my freezer.
- Classic pesto (basil pesto alla Genovese) is an excellent choice. Make sure you buy a good-quality brand; if it costs 2-3 dollars more than the standard, it’s usually worth it.
- Otherwise, use your pesto of choice, whatever you like best.
- Heavy cream: As mentioned above, ricotta has a slightly grainy texture. Therefore, combining it with a bit of heavy cream makes the dish creamier and smoother.
- Lemon: Preferably from an organic lemon; you will need some of the zest. A bit of lemon makes much difference, adding fresh flavors and giving this dish character.
- Parmesan: Freshly grated Parmesan cheese from a wedge.
- Fresh basil leaves (or other fresh herbs): Optional for garnishing the dish.
- Peas: Add one cup of frozen peas to the noodles during the last 2 minutes of the cooking time.
- Spinach: Add a good handful of fresh baby spinach to the hot pasta. The residual heat with make it wilt slightly.
- Garlic: Add 1-2 grated garlic cloves to the pesto and ricotta sauce.
- Mushrooms: Cook about 9 oz (250 g) of sliced mushrooms in a bit of butter in a frying pan. Add them to the dish.
- Red chili flakes or a pinch of cayenne pepper to add a bit of heat.
- Protein: Cooked chicken pieces or shrimp.
- Lightly toasted pine nuts on top of the dish.
How to make pasta with ricotta and pesto sauce?
- Fill a large pot with hot water from the tab. Starting with hot water makes this recipe even faster. Once the water is boiling, add salt generously.
- Add the pasta and cook it according to the package directions until al dente (1).
- Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water (you will not need it all) and drain the rest.
- Make the sauce: While the macaroni is cooking, make the sauce. Mix ricotta, heavy cream, pesto, one teaspoon of lemon zest, and one tablespoon of lemon juice in a bowl; add fine sea salt and ground black pepper to taste (2).
- Combine: Return the cooked noodles to the empty pot. Add the ricotta mixture, about ¼ cup of the pasta water, and mix to combine. Taste and add more lemon juice, salt, and pepper as required. If you want to loosen the sauce a bit more, add another splash of cooking water.
- Serve immediately, sprinkled with Parmesan and garnished with a little basil.
- The pasta cooking time depends on the shape of the pasta you choose; you should always check the packet instructions.
- Reserve some of the cooking pasta water to add to the sauce. The starch in the water will help the sauce stick to the noodles and make the dish creamier.
- Ricotta has a slightly grainy texture. I had the best results with Galbani; I find it is a bit less grain than cheaper, no-name brands (this is not a sponsored post, just my experience).
- Ensure you use whole milk cheese; the skimmed version is even grainier and lacks flavor.
- You can improve the texture and make it smoother by adding heavy cream.
You can. However, keep in mind that using another milk product will change the flavor and character of the dish (it will still be delicious).
You can replace ricotta with cream cheese or mascarpone.
A bit of graininess is unavoidable with ricotta; it’s just how this cheese is. Mixing it with heavy cream makes it creamier.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
Reheat on the stovetop or microwave. When reheating, add a splash of milk to help loosen the sauce a bit.
The dish is not suitable for freezing.
Ricotta cheese is a versatile cheese with a soft, creamy texture and mild flavor. It pairs well with many different ingredients, from fruits and nuts to savory ingredients like tomatoes and spinach. A classic pairing is ricotta with fresh herbs like basil and oregano, which can be used in a variety of recipes. For a sweet treat, ricotta can be spread on toast and topped with fresh fruit, or baked in a tart or cheesecake. For a savory dish, ricotta can be used to make lasagna or stuffed shells. Ricotta is also delicious as a topping on pizza or stirred into pasta dishes. Paired with the right ingredients, ricotta cheese is sure to bring out the best in any dish. Check out our fast recipe Ricotta Mac and Cheese.
What to serve with it?
Fresh green salad with vinaigrette or yogurt dressing is always the best idea.
Otherwise, you can serve pesto ricotta pasta with sauteed or roasted vegetables like spinach, kale, green peas, green beans, or broccoli.
More Fast Pasta Recipes
Hearty Italian Sauces for Pasta
Give my quick recipes a try for your next family meal! Feel free to reach out if you need any assistance!
Easy Ricotta Pesto Pasta
- Large pasta pot
- Small bowl
- 1 lb pasta 450 g, Note 1
- 1 cup ricotta whole milk, 250 g, Note 2
- ½ cup heavy cream 125 ml
- 4 tablespoons pesto Note 3
- 1 lemon zest and juice, to taste, Note 4
- fine sea salt and ground black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons Parmesan freshly grated, to taste
- fresh basil leaves optional
- Cook pasta: Fill a large pot with hot water from the tab (to speed up the cooking process). Once the water is boiling, add salt generously. Cook pasta according to the packet’s instructions until al dente. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water (you will not need it all) and drain the rest.
- Lemon: Wash and zest the lemon; you will need about 1 teaspoon of lemon zest. Juice the lemon; you will need 1-2 tablespoons of the juice (or more to taste).
- Sauce: While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Mix 1 cup ricotta, ¼ cup heavy cream, 4 tablespoons pesto, one teaspoon of lemon zest, and one tablespoon of lemon juice in a bowl; add fine sea salt and ground black pepper to taste.
- Combine: Return the pasta to the pot. Add the sauce and about ¼ cup of the reserved pasta water. Mix to combine. Taste and add more lemon juice, salt, and pepper as required. If you want to loosen the sauce a bit more, add another splash of cooking water.
- Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan and garnished with torn fresh basil leaves.
- Any pasta shape you like. I used maccheroni/macaroni, but another short or long pasta is excellent. Whole wheat pasta works too.
- I had the best experience with Galbani (not sponsored, just experience).
- Your favorite homemade or bought pesto. Basil pesto is excellent; ensure you use a good brand.
- Lemon: It’s best to buy an organic, unwaxed lemon, as you will also need a bit of its zest. When making the sauce, start with one tablespoon of lemon juice, and add more to taste.