Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Arugula


Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Arugula is a light and refreshing dish that perfectly balances creamy ricotta, tangy lemon, and peppery arugula. This pasta dish is quick and easy to prepare, making it ideal for a weeknight dinner or a casual lunch. The combination of whole milk ricotta and finely grated Parmesan creates a rich, velvety sauce that clings to every piece of pasta, while the fresh lemon juice and zest add a bright, citrusy flavor. The arugula brings a fresh, slightly bitter note that complements the creaminess of the sauce beautifully. Serve this pasta with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of chili flakes, and extra lemon wedges for a delightful meal that’s both simple and sophisticated.


  • 1 lb Mezzi rigatoni or any other short pasta
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus extra for serving
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons), plus extra wedges for serving
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Chili flakes, for serving
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, for serving
  • Thinly sliced or torn basil leaves, for serving (optional)


Step 1: Cook the Pasta

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions until al dente. Before draining, reserve about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and set aside.

Step 2: Prepare the Sauce

In the same pot or a large skillet, combine the ricotta cheese, finely grated Parmesan cheese, freshly grated lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, salt, and black pepper. Mix until well combined.

Step 3: Incorporate Pasta Water

Gradually stir in about 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water, whisking until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy. Adjust the consistency with more pasta water if necessary.

Step 4: Combine Pasta and Sauce

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce. Toss vigorously to ensure the pasta is thoroughly coated with the creamy lemon ricotta sauce. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more of the reserved pasta water until you reach your desired consistency.

Step 5: Add Arugula

Gently fold in the fresh arugula until it’s wilted slightly from the heat of the pasta.

Step 6: Serve

Transfer the pasta to serving bowls. Drizzle some olive oil over the top and sprinkle with extra Parmesan cheese, chili flakes, and basil leaves if using. Serve with extra lemon wedges on the side for an additional burst of freshness.

Cooking Note

  • Pasta: Any short pasta like penne, fusilli, or orecchiette can be used in place of Mezzi rigatoni.
  • Ricotta: For an even creamier texture, you can use fresh ricotta.
  • Lemon: Adjust the amount of lemon juice and zest to your taste preference. Fresh lemons provide the best flavor.

Serving Suggestions

Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Arugula pairs well with:

  • Salad: A simple green salad with a light vinaigrette complements the creamy pasta.
  • Bread: Serve with a slice of crusty baguette or garlic bread to soak up the delicious sauce.
  • Wine: Pair with a crisp white wine like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio.


  1. Prep Ahead: Grate the Parmesan and zest the lemon before you start cooking to streamline the process.
  2. Pasta Water: The reserved pasta water is key to achieving a smooth, creamy sauce, so don’t forget to save it before draining the pasta.
  3. Adjust Seasoning: Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, adding more salt, pepper, or lemon juice to suit your preference.

Prep Time

  • 5 minutes

Cooking Time

  • 12-15 minutes

Total Time

  • 17-20 minutes

Nutritional Information (Per Serving)

  • Calories: Approximately 450 kcal
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Sodium: 500 milligrams


Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Arugula is a dish that beautifully exemplifies the elegance and simplicity of Italian cuisine. It is a harmonious blend of creamy ricotta, zesty lemon, and peppery arugula, all brought together with perfectly cooked pasta. This recipe not only highlights the importance of using fresh, high-quality ingredients but also demonstrates how they can be transformed into a gourmet meal with minimal effort.

The creaminess of the ricotta, combined with the sharp, nutty flavor of Parmesan, creates a luxurious sauce that clings to every piece of pasta. The freshly grated lemon zest and juice provide a bright, citrusy note that cuts through the richness of the cheese, making each bite refreshing and light. The arugula adds a peppery, slightly bitter contrast that balances the dish perfectly, providing a burst of green that is both visually appealing and nutritious.

What makes this dish particularly special is its versatility and ease of preparation. It can be made quickly on a busy weeknight, yet it is sophisticated enough to serve at a dinner party. The simplicity of the recipe allows the flavors of each ingredient to shine through, creating a dish that is greater than the sum of its parts. This pasta is not only a feast for the palate but also a joy to prepare, reminding us that delicious, satisfying meals do not have to be complicated or time-consuming.

Serving Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Arugula with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of chili flakes, and a few fresh basil leaves elevates it further, adding layers of flavor and texture. The extra lemon wedges on the side allow each diner to adjust the level of citrus to their liking, making the dish customizable to individual tastes.

Moreover, this pasta dish is a wonderful way to incorporate fresh, seasonal ingredients into your diet. Arugula, often in abundance during spring and summer, adds not only flavor but also a host of vitamins and minerals. The combination of pasta, cheese, and fresh greens makes this meal both comforting and nourishing, perfect for any time of the year.

Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Arugula is also an excellent example of how you can adapt recipes to suit dietary preferences or available ingredients. For instance, you can easily make it gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta or enhance its nutritional profile by choosing whole-grain options. The flexibility of this recipe ensures it can be enjoyed by a wide range of people, regardless of dietary needs.

In conclusion, Lemon Ricotta Pasta with Arugula is a dish that celebrates the beauty of simplicity and the joy of cooking with fresh ingredients. It offers a delightful combination of creamy, tangy, and peppery flavors that will leave a lasting impression on anyone who tastes it. Whether you are cooking for yourself, your family, or guests, this pasta dish is sure to become a favorite, cherished for its ease of preparation and its delicious, satisfying taste. Enjoy the process of creating this wonderful meal, and relish in the pleasure of each flavorful bite.

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