Lemon ricotta penne: bring summer into your kitchen

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If it wasn’t already clear, I love recipes with lemons. They are so refreshing, and they have a lot of healthy benefits. The one I’m sharing today is very simple, and contains a number of ingredients that scream “summer” from every pore. Here is my lemon ricotta penne recipe. 

There are many reasons to love it:

  • it’s ready in 20 minutes
  • it’s incredibly easy
  • has simple, fresh & inexpensive ingredients – two of which are known for their refreshing and antibacterial qualities
  • you can make it in just one pot, so you won’t have to clean much after eating. 
  • it’s deliciously creamy

Let’s not waste any time, and see how to make it right away.

fresh ricotta

Ingredients

Fresh lemons: you’ll use both their grated zest and their juice, so make sure to buy them fresh and (possibly) local. 

Ricotta cheese: from your favorite grocery shop. Just make sure it’s a good quality one. The fresher, the better.

Ridged penne pasta: I know this might sound as a cliché, but ridged penne is the only type of penne pasta you should buy for non-baked recipes. Thanks to their shape, they hold sauces much better than smooth penne. 

Finely grated parmesan cheese: for the ricotta mix, but keep a part to sprinkle it on the pasta when serving.

Mint leaves: many people like to add arugula leaves to this recipe. But although its a vegetable I love, I think this dish works better with freshly chopped mint leaves or, alternatively, parsley. 

Salted water: to boil the pasta.

You will need juice from just one lemon. So, unless you’re planning to make a fresh lemonade or some other dish afterwards, don’t make too much of it.

You can use the other peeled lemons for other recipes like our limoncello tiramisu, our homemade pesto, or this easy ricotta filling.

And at the very worst, you can cut them in half and put them in the dishwasher. It’ll help keeping it clean and smelling good, and it will make your kitchenware brighter without using extra products. 

Lemons, mint and ricotta pasta are all indelebly linked to Italian summer in my mind. Let’s see how to bring some of it to your table. 

Method

Step 1: Take a medium sized pot and fill it for 3/4 with water, and bring it to a boil. When it does, add a handful of coarse salt, and wait for it to dissolve. Then, toss in the penne pasta and cook it al dente.  

Step 2: Take about 1/3 cup of pasta cooking water, and set it astide. Then, drain the pasta, but do not rinse it. We need all the starch that it still has. 

Step 3: After the pot has been emptied of all the water, add the lemon zest and juice along with the ricotta and parmesan cheese. Pour in the pasta water that you set aside before, and stir well for another minute or 2, while cooking over low heat. 

The starch in the pasta water will bind with the dairy components of ricotta and parmesan cheese, acting as a thickening agent and creating a creamy sauce. 

some grated lemon zest still attached to the zester, with some lemons in the background

Step 4: Take the pot away from the heat, cover it with a lid, and let it rest for another 5 minutes. This will make sure that every excess cooking water evaporates, binds with the cream or is absorbed by the pasta, bringing the thickening process to its peak.

Step 5: Take away the lid, add the finely chopped mint leaves, stir one last time and serve. If you want it to look extra fancy, garnish the plates with some fresh basil leaves or other greens of your choice. 

Alternative method

There’s another method to make this lemon ricotta penne recipe even more creamier. But it requires more attention, and to use a saucepan along with the pot.

Basically, you can do as I showed in my lemon pasta recipe to use ALL the starch in the penne as a thickening agent. 

Boil the water in the pot, and in the meantime sautee the lemon zest and juice with olive oil or butter in a saucepan. Then when the water is boiling and salted, add the pasta directly to the saucepan with the zest, and pour in one or two ladles of water at a time, until it’s cooked al dente. 

Then, you can add the other ingredients and mix everything together.

This process requires you to stay near the stove all the time (while in the other case you can just set a timer and do other things in the meantime), but it will also give the penne pasta a more intense taste of lemons.

So, feel free to make experiments. I use both methods from time to time. Which one do you like more?

Print
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Easy Lemon Ricotta Penne


  • Author: Mortadella Head
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale

1 lemon (juice and grated zest)

8 oz ricotta

7 oz ridged penne pasta

4 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese

6 finely chopped mint leaves or, alternatively, 3 tbsp of parsley leaves.


Instructions

  1. Take a medium sized pot and fill it for 3/4 with water, and bring it to a boil. When it does, add a handful of coarse salt, and wait for it to dissolve. Then, toss in the penne pasta and cook it al dente.
  2. Take about 1/3 cup of pasta cooking water, and set it astide. Then, drain the pasta, but do not rinse it. We need all the starch that it still has.
  3. After the pot has been emptied of all the water, add the lemon zest and juice along with the ricotta and parmesan cheese. Pour in the pasta water that you set aside before, and stir well for another minute or 2, while cooking over low heat.
  4. Take the pot away from the heat, cover it with a lid, and let it rest for another 5 minutes. This will make sure that every excess cooking water evaporates, binds with the cream or is absorbed by the pasta, bringing the thickening process to its peak.
  5. Take away the lid, add the finely chopped mint leaves, stir one last time and serve. If you want it to look extra fancy, garnish the plates with some fresh basil leaves or other greens of your choice.

Notes

Alternatively, you can “risottare” the pasta like in our lemon pasta recipe. It will require a little more attention and 1 more saucepan, though.

  • Prep Time: 10
  • Cook Time: 10
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: Cooking
  • Cuisine: Italian

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