So simple, creamy, and bursting with flavor, this 20-minute lemon garlic ricotta pasta with spinach is an effortless weeknight dinner.
Easy Lemon Ricotta Pasta
It’s the end of a long week, your fridge is looking bare, and you have zero desire to run to the store. I am right there with you!
It couldn't be easier to make. Just boil some pasta, make the creamy lemon ricotta sauce, combine and toss, and you're done!
The lemon + ricotta + garlic flavor combination is just out of this world!
And here is a master list of quick AND delicious weeknight dinners.
I am highlighting just the ones that need further explanation. The complete list is in the recipe card below.
- Pasta - Can use any pasta of choice. I've listed my favorites below.
- Ricotta - Be sure to use whole milk ricotta cheese for the desired creaminess, richness, and flavor (skim milk ricotta will be grainy and bland). It’s also a great way to add extra fat (for optimal brain development) to your child's diet.
- Parmesan - be sure to use freshly grated parmesan not the canned ones for best flavor.
- Spinach - can use both fresh or frozen (no need to thaw).
- Fresh lemon - Both the lemon juice and the zest truly brighten up the sauce AND help enhance the absorption of iron (a critical nutrient for babies) in the spinach.
- Fresh basil (optional)
Choosing the Best Pasta
While any shape will work with this sauce, I prefer the short pasta shapes with ridges or grooves, like fusili, rigatoni, or corkscrew, as they really soak up this creamy green sauce. Orzo would be delicious too!
You can use regular, whole wheat, or legume based pasta for extra protein.
- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Be sure to reserve 1 cup of the starchy pasta water, then drain the pasta.
- While the pasta cooks, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and stir for about a minute, until fragrant. Add spinach and cook until wilted, 5 minutes.
- Lower the heat to low and add ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice and zest and stir well. Stir in ½ cup of pasta water until smooth. Add cooked pasta and toss until well-coated. Add more reserved pasta water as needed.
Tips for Success
- Use room temperature ricotta. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to cooking. This will help lessen the chances of the sauce becoming grainy.
- Don't forget to reserve the pasta water! This is key to creating a smooth sauce.
Enjoy as is or with additional protein, such as:
Fresh herbs like basil or fresh arugula would be delicious too!
Start with small portions as seeing too much food can be overwhelming. It will also help reduce waste.
If your child doesn't like anything green or foods touching each other, you can separate the spinach from the pasta as you see here.
Pictured: with carrots and sardine (my son is not a fan so serving a tiny portion for exposure!)
This ricotta pasta tastes best immediately after cooking as the sauce thickens as it cools and becomes drier. However, you can transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
The sauce will separate, so when reheating on the stovetop, add a splash of milk or water.
I don't recommend freezing as the texture will become unpleasant once thawed. The good news is it's super easy to whip up so you can make it at any time ;).
More Creamy Pasta Recipes
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Lemon Garlic Ricotta Pasta with Spinach
- 8 ounces pasta
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 ounces baby spinach
- 1 cup ricotta (8.5 ounces), at room temperature
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water and drain pasta.
- While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and stir for about a minute, until fragrant. Add spinach and cook until wilted, 5 minutes.
- Lower the heat to low and add ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice and zest and stir well. Stir in ½ cup of pasta water until smooth. Add pasta and toss the pasta until well-coated. Add more pasta water as needed.
- Best to eat immediately, but can refrigerate for 3-4 days. The sauce will separate, so when reheating on the stovetop, add a splash of milk or water.