This Pasta al Limone is a super creamy, quick 15minute pasta recipe with a classic Italian flavor.

It’s a perfect weeknight dinner idea and a sure hit with kids and adults alike.

Ricotta pasta with lemon and thyme

Check out our Easy Pasta Recipes

Pasta al limone is a creamy lemon pasta recipe popular in Italy. This recipe is from my family cookbook.

My grandma used to make this dish with delicious ripe lemons from the Amalfi coast or Sorrento in the Campania region in Italy, mixing the fragrant lemon zest with fresh ricotta from the local farm.

The final dish is kind of a lighter Fettuccine Alfredo without garlic, butter, and heavy cream.

The protagonist of this recipe is the lemon flavor, which is given to the sauce by freshly grated lemon zest.

The sauce has ricotta and parmesan cheese and does not require cooking. All you have to do is cook the pasta al dente and toss it in the ricotta mixture.

Let’s see how!

rigatoni al limone with walnuts

Ingredients

pasta al limone ingredients

Pasta

You can use any pasta. We like to make this with rigatoni because they fill up with lemon ricotta sauce.

Other pasta types that work well are penne, fusilli, rotini, and conchiglie. Long pasta such as spaghetti, fettuccine, linguine, and bucatini is also excellent.

You can also use gluten-free pasta.

Ricotta

You can use regular whole milk ricotta or our dairy-free ricotta.

Parmesan

You can use grated parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano) or dairy-free cheese.

Lemon

Add grated lemon zest to the sauce, and save some for garnishing the pasta al limone.

If you like your pasta al limone extra lemony, you can add two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice to the ricotta (we don’t do that – we think the zest is enough).

Tip: Only zest the yellow peel of the lemon, the white pith can be bitter.

Nutmeg

Nutmeg is optional, but if you have it in your pantry, add a small amount to make the dish warmer and aromatic.

Walnuts

Crushed walnuts add crunch and nuttiness to the dish. Make sure they are toasted; if not, toast them for a couple of minutes on a nonstick pan.

Black pepper

You can make this recipe with either black pepper (freshly ground would be best) or a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Thyme

Thyme, lemon, and ricotta are a match made in heaven. Try to use fresh thyme leaves if you can. Alternatively, you can substitute fresh parsley or basil for thyme.

Avoid dried herbs for this recipe, as their flavor can overpower the lemon sauce.

Olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil adds richness and a mild fruity flavor to the pasta al limone.

Salt

Add more or less salt based on your taste and how aged and salty your parmesan cheese is.

Instructions

Cook the pasta

Boil the pasta al dente per package instructions in a large pot with plenty of salted boiling water.

While the pasta cooks, make the sauce.

Tip: you’ll need about 3 quarts (12 cups or 3 Liters) of water and 1 ½ tablespoon (21 grams) of salt for 12 ounces (340 grams) of pasta. 

cooking the pasta in boiling water

Make salsa al limone

To a mixing bowl, add ricotta, grated parmesan, olive oil, grated lemon zest, grated nutmeg, salt, and black pepper.

Tip: Only zest the yellow peel of the lemon, the white pith can be bitter.

ingredients for lemon sauce in a bowl

Add a ladleful of pasta cooking water and whisk well until the sauce is smooth and the ingredients well combined.

mixing cheese and lemon

Toss the pasta

When the pasta is al dente, reserve one cup of pasta water, drain it, and toss it into the ricotta mixture until it’s thoroughly coated.

If the sauce is too thick, stir in the more starchy pasta water.

rigatoni al limone

Serve immediately with grated lemon zest, freshly ground pepper, and fresh thyme (or basil) leaves.

rigatoni and ricotta with thyme

Optionally, you can add a few crushed walnuts on top. Make sure your walnuts are toasted; if not, toast them on a non-stick pan for a couple of minutes.

rigatoni al limone with walnuts

Variations

Lemon ricotta pasta with peas (or other veggies)

lemon ricotta pasta with peas

Ricotta and lemon are excellent with green peas. Cook frozen green peas with the pasta in the same pot. Drain and add pasta and peas to the ricotta sauce.

Check out our lemon ricotta pasta with peas.

If you want to try adding other veggies, here’s a list of what we recommend:

Roasted butternut squashRoast it in the oven, then toss it in with the pasta.
Roasted cauliflower floretsCook small florets in the oven, then toss them in with the pasta.
Sautéed asparagusSauté on the stovetop, then toss in with the pasta.
Roasted broccoli floretsToss in with the pasta.
Steamed artichokesSteam, then mash the artichokes with a fork and mix them with the ricotta sauce.
Roasted eggplant cubesToss them in with the pasta. Add basil leaves on top.
Roasted red peppersRoast them, peel them, chop them up, and toss them with the pasta.
Sautéed or roasted mushroomsSauté on a pan or roast in the oven, then toss with the pasta.
ArugulaToss it in with the pasta.
Cherry tomatoesHalved, seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper,and tossed with the pasta.
Roasted zucchiniBake in the oven, then toss them with the pasta.

Lemon ricotta pasta with spinach

spinach and ricotta pasta with fork

Spinach and ricotta are a classic Italian combination in many recipes, from gnocchi to ravioli.

In this variation of pasta al limone, we cook the spinach with the pasta; then we mix everything with the lemon ricotta sauce. It’s a delicious and easy way to add veggies to this creamy pasta.

Check out our lemon ricotta pasta recipe.

Simple lemon pasta

Lemon Pasta with parmesan

If you want something simpler, still with lemon flavor, try our simple lemon pasta with a sauce similar to our garlic and oil pasta.

If you like garlic and lemon together, you’ve got to try this one.

Check out our easy lemon pasta.

Serving suggestions

Mix with veggies for a vibrant and wholesome dinner idea:

Serve with a green salad such as:

Storage

Pasta al limone tends to dry up quickly; therefore, it’s best eaten shortly after you make it.

If you have some leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Ideally, keep some of the reserved pasta water too.

Reheat it on a skillet with a dash of reserved pasta water (or tap water) until the sauce turns creamy again.

More easy pasta recipes

If you’re looking for more easy pasta recipes ready within 20 minutes, take a peek at these pasta greatest hits:

More recipes with lemon

Got lemons leftover? No problem, try these savory and sweet lemon favorites chosen by our readers:

For many more pasta ideas, check out our pasta category page.

pasta al limone with fork

Pasta al Limone

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 1 vote
This Pasta al Limone is a super creamy, quick 15minute pasta recipe with a classic Italian flavor.
It's a perfect weeknight dinner idea and a sure hit with kids and adults alike.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 5 people
Course: Dinner, pasta
Cuisine: American Italian, Italian

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces rigatoni or other pasta
  • cups ricotta or dairy-free ricotta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese grated, or dairy-free cheese
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest or more to taste
  • teaspoon nutmeg grated
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or a few basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts toasted and chopped

Instructions 

COOK THE PASTA

  • Boil the pasta al dente per package instructions in a large pot with plenty of salted boiling water.
    While the pasta cooks, make the sauce.
    cooking the pasta in boiling water

MAKE SALSA AL LIMONE

  • To a mixing bowl, add ricottagrated parmesan,
    olive oilgrated lemon zestgrated nutmegsalt, and black pepper.
    Tip: Only zest the yellow peel of the lemon, the white pith can be bitter.
    ingredients for lemon sauce in a bowl
  • Add a ladleful of pasta cooking water and whisk well until the sauce is smooth and the ingredients well combined.
    mixing cheese and lemon

TOSS THE PASTA

  • When the pasta is al dente, reserve one cup of pasta water, drain it, and toss it into the ricotta mixture until it's thoroughly coated.
    If the sauce is too thick, stir in some starchy pasta water.
    rigatoni al limone
  • Serve immediately with grated lemon zest, freshly ground pepper, and fresh thyme (or basil) leaves.
    rigatoni and ricotta with thyme
  • Optionally, you can add a few crushed walnuts on top. 
    Make sure your walnuts are toasted; if not, toast them on a non-stick pan for a couple of minutes.
    rigatoni al limone with walnuts

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for one portion of pasta al limone out of five.
 
PASTA COOKING TIP
 
You’ll need 3 quarts (12 cups or 3 Liters) of water and 1 ½ tablespoons (21 grams) of salt to cook 12 ounces (340 grams) of pasta
 
ADD VEGGIES?
 
You can make this pasta dish by adding most veggies. Scroll up to the “variations” chapter to learn how.
 
DAIRY-FREE?
 
You can use our easy homemade soy ricotta and almond parmesan.

Nutrition

Calories: 528kcal, Carbohydrates: 57g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 22g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 58mg, Potassium: 295mg, Dietary Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 550IU, Vitamin B6: 0.2mg, Vitamin C: 1mg, Vitamin E: 1mg, Vitamin K: 3µg, Calcium: 363mg, Folate: 27µg, Iron: 1mg, Manganese: 1mg, Magnesium: 59mg, Zinc: 3mg
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Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

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5 from 1 vote (1 rating without comment)

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