Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

August 29, 2018

When I cook dinner, I very often focus on the meat as the star of the show – a stuffed chicken breast, a pork tenderloin with lots of flavors, a well cooked piece of beef. I’ll rely on a box of rice or couscous, or the perennial favorite – potatoes – to round out the meal. But sometimes, it’s nice to have a side that’s fancy, and let someone else (like Target for example) bread your chicken cutlet for you.

So it was that I had this recipe printed out and stuck to my cork board in the kitchen, waiting for the night to try it. Its attractions included 1) Lemon 2) Parm 3) It looked easy. And it totally was.

And I was really intrigued by the directions to just stick a metal bowl right in the pasta water to heat up the ricotta and make the sauce. (Or in my case, your daughter wanted to help and the pasta was cooked before you were ready to make the sauce so you scooped it out and left the water boiling and used that. But think I could use this method a million times in the future. Also had to hurry and used bad kitchen lighting. But doesn’t her sunshine face make up for it?)

The sauce comes together in a snap, and with the lemon, parm, salt and pepper and basil, it has so much flavor. My kids loved it, and it made a lot so they also loved the leftovers the next day (it totally got better with age.) The recipe encourages you to make your own ricotta, and if you have the time it is worth it. We were in between homework and soccer and did not have the time, but ONE DAY I will make this with fresh ricotta. (This recipe for fresh ricotta is my favorite.)

And, once you’ve stirred together this sauce, you’re pretty much done.

You just stir, add some more salt, olive oil or lemon zest to taste if you want, and top with a load of fresh basil.

Now that I know about this technique of stirring ricotta in the hot water to make a sauce, my creative juices are flowing. Porcini and pancetta? Sun dried tomatoes and olives? Let’s see where the future takes us.

Happy Eating! xoxo Katie

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

Serves 6


1 pound dried short pasta, such as gemelli, fusilli, penne, or rotini

1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese, preferably freshly made

1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon

Juice of 1 large lemon

1/2 teaspoon

kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon

freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

Good-quality olive oil, for serving


Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until al dente. Meanwhile, prepare the sauce.

Place the ricotta, Pecorino or Parmesan, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper in a large heatproof bowl and stir to combine. When there are about 2 minutes remaining in the pasta’s cooking time, place the bowl over the pot and slowly stir the ricotta mixture. You should see it loosening as it warms.

When the pasta is al dente, drain it well. Add it to the bowl of ricotta and mix well to evenly coat the pasta in the sauce. Add the basil and red pepper flakes, if using, toss, and serve immediately. Drizzle olive oil over each serving.

This recipe originally appeared on TheKitchn.com

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  • Reply
    August 31, 2018 at 11:31 am

    I always chuckle when a recipe calls for “good quality” olive oil. Do people use anything less than a good quality anything when cooking? When I see this, I have to wonder if there are recipes that call for the “just okay” quality olive oil, or “let’s use the rancid olive oil this time”.

    • Reply
      September 4, 2018 at 4:31 pm

      Haha, so funny, and true – most cooks will always have ‘good quality’ olive oil. There are some
      super foodies who buy very expensive olive oil for dipping and salad dressings, and I think they
      mean to say ‘don’t use the good stuff!’ kind of like when your cooking with wine. But those people know not to
      heat the expensive stuff so it goes without saying.

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