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One Pot Lemon Ricotta Spaghetti

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This one-pot lemon ricotta pasta with zucchini is everything you need for a delicious summer dinner: creamy sauce, tons of flavor from lemon zest and juice, and a great way to use up a glut of zucchini and fresh basil. Plus it’s made in one pot for easy cleanup, and uses just 5 ingredients, so it’s super easy to throw together on a weeknight after work. What more can you ask for? 

Close up image on lemon spaghetti on a white plate, with a glass of white wine and the pan of pasta in the background.

I’m So Excited About This One-Pot Spaghetti 

There’s nothing like a creamy, delicious pasta dish to make you feel like you’ve got it all together. 

But let’s be honest – there’s nothing worse than spending more time cleaning up after dinner than it took to eat it. That’s why I’ve been really into one pot pasta recipes lately.

This lemon ricotta pasta recipe is so easy, it’s almost ridiculous. It has a delightfully creamy sauce, tons of bright lemon flavor, and ready to go in just 25 minutes with practically no cleanup necessary. 

No juggling multiple pots on the stovetop.

No extra colander or strainer to wash up. (Which also means you don’t need to make room in the sink for it to drain.)

And it’s a great way to use up summer squash and fresh basil before they go bad in the fridge.

If your schedule is as hectic as mine is, then this lemony pasta will be right at home on your weeknight table. (It makes great leftovers, too!)

What you’ll love about this one pot pasta recipe


  • 30-Minute Recipe. One pot pastas are especially quick because you don’t need to wait for a huge pot of water to come to a boil. 
  • Only one pot to wash. The pasta cooks right in the sauce, so cleanup is a breeze!
  • 5 ingredient, vegetarian recipe. You’ll be shocked by how much flavor this simple recipe has!
Ingredients needed to make one pot pasta with lemon, ricotta, and zucchini.

Ingredients for Lemon Ricotta Pasta

This lemony spaghetti recipe is made with just a few simple ingredients, but they come together to be so much more.

I start by sautéing fresh zucchini, inspired by Stanley Tucci’s favorite Pasta alla Nerano. Then I take that  Southern Italian flavor up a few notches with tons of lemon zest and juice and milky ricotta cheese.

If Stanley Tucci and Giada De Laurentiis cooked a meal together, I imagine it would wind up very similar to this one. 

To make, it, you’ll need:

  • Neutral Oil. You’ll need a neutral oil to fry the zucchini in. I like to use avocado oil for this, because it has a high smoke point so there’s less risk of it burning. You can also use olive oil or vegetable oil.
  • Zucchini. 1-2 fresh zucchini, sliced thinly into half moons.
  • Lemon. You’ll use both the zest and the juice for a big side of lemon flavor. I always choose organic, unwaxed lemons when I plan to use their zest. You can also remove the wax from lemons easily by scrubbing it with a rough cloth or brush that’s been soaked in very hot water. 
  • Dry Spaghetti. Regular, High-Protein, or even Gluten-Free pasta will work in this recipe. Go with your favorite! 
  • Ricotta Cheese. Ricotta cheese is one of my absolute favorite things. Whole milk ricotta will give you the most luxurious, creamy sauce. You can use reduced fat, but it’s prone to separating so the sauce might not be as smooth if you do. 
  • Fresh Basil. It just pairs so well with lemon and cream!

One Pot Pasta Ratio

Once you know the right ratio, one pot pasta recipes are so easy to create! You just need to use twice as much liquid (in ounces) as you do pasta.

You can use water, broth, or even milk, depending on the flavor profile that you’re after. Be sure to season the cooking liquid well, but remember that you won’t be draining it so don’t go overboard with the salt. I use 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt in this recipe, which results in pasta that’s perfectly seasoned but not at all salty. 

Sauteeing zucchini.
Adding the pasta and cooking liquid.
Stirring in the ricotta cheese.
Topping it all off with fresh basil.

How to Make One Pot Pasta with Lemon and Spaghetti

Step 1: Prep your ingredients. Slice the zucchini into thin rounds or half moons. Zest and juice the lemon. Finely chop the basil. 

Step 2: Fry the zucchini. Taking a few minutes to fry the zucchini in oil before adding the rest of the ingredients intensifies it’s flavor. 

Step 3: Add the spaghetti, flavorings, and water. Bring everything to a simmer and let it cook until the pasta is al dente. It will take about 1 minute longer than the directions on the box say. 

Step 4: Finish by stirring in the ricotta cheese and fresh basil. Top it off with a generous dose of ground pepper and enjoy! 

Serving up a portion of lemon ricotta spaghetti.

Recipe Tips + Variations

  • Fresh lemon zest really makes a difference in this recipe. Remember to remove the zest from the lemon before juicing it! 
  •   Make sure not to boil the pasta for too long—you want it to still be firm enough to hold its shape when tossed with sauce! Remember it will continue to soften after you remove it from the heat.
  • If the sauce is too thick, stir in a tablespoon or two of water or both. 
  • Try using store-bough zucchini noodles instead of sliced zucchini to cut down on prep time.
  • Want more veggies? Stir in a cup of frozen peas or 3 cups of baby spinach along with the ricotta. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I store leftovers? 

Leftovers will keep well in an airtight container in the refrigarator for 4-5 days. Reheat them in the microwave or in a pan on the stove. If the sauce has thickened too much overnight, you can loosen it with a tablespoon of milk or water. 

What should I serve with this?

This lemon ricotta pasta is a full meal on its own, but if you can round it out with a green salad or top it with grilled chicken or shrimp.

Is there something I can use instead of ricotta?

Try a soft goat cheese, like chevre, or cream cheese. 

Can I make this recipe in an Instant Pot? 

Yes! You don’t even need to change any of the ingredient amounts. Just make sure the spaghetti is completely submerged in the water and cook under high pressure for 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally for 4 minutes, then carefully remove the cover and stir in the ricotta and basil.

How does one pot pasta work? What is this magic? 

When you boil pasta, it absorbs some of the water as it cooks. For one pot pasta, you use the exact right amount of liquid to rehydrate the pasta without leaving a ton of excess that needs to be drained. (It does feel a little magical!)

More easy pasta recipes

Overhead view of a plated portion of one pot lemon ricotta pasta with zucchini.
landscape image of a plate of lemon spaghetti.

One Pot Lemon Ricotta Pasta Recipe

A super simple one pot pasta recipe that highlights the flavors of summer, from fresh zucchini to zesty lemon and peppery basil. weeknight cooking doesn't get much easier than this!
5
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings
Calories 452 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ cup olive or avocado oil
  • 1 large zucchini thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon zest and juice
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces dry spaghetti
  • ¼ cup fresh basil chopped
  • black pepper

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
  • Add the water, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and spaghetti. Cook 9-10 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.
  • Turn off the heat and stir in the ricotta cheese until incorporated. Top with basil and season to taste with black pepper.

Video

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 452kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 15gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 31mgSodium: 360mgPotassium: 406mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 514IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 159mgIron: 1mg
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By on July 27th, 2022

About Lauren

Hi, I’m Lauren! I love to cook -- but even more importantly, I really like to eat! I have a demanding day job that keeps me busy, so time is precious. For me, it's all about finding ways to make delicious, restaurant-quality meals at home on a tight schedule.

I also write Healthy-Delicious.com and have authored 4 cookbooks (and counting!) all about making meals at home easier.

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