20-Minute Ricotta Pesto Pasta

4 servings
20 min

By Marley Goldin on January 13, 2023 5 from 2 votes This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy. This Ricotta Pesto Pasta blends fresh, bold flavors with creamy, but not-too-rich ricotta to bring you a succulent dish in just 20 minutes.

Bowl of Ricotta Pesto Pasta with a fork

Looking for a super flavorful and creamy pasta dish? This Ricotta Pesto Pasta is bursting with flavor from the ultra-creamy, but not-so-heavy sauce.

Between the nuttiness from pine nuts, herbaceous notes from basil, peppery flavor from the arugula and zesty tang from the lemon, the only thing that can bring this homemade pesto to the next level is the creamy ricotta. Plus, this delicious meatless pasta dish comes together in less than 30 minutes!

Overhead image of two plates of Ricotta Pesto Pasta

As an environmental scientist, I am always trying to make more eco-conscious food choices. One simple way to improve your ecological footprint is by finding ways to enjoy more meatless meals.

Green tip: Industrial meat production has a huge impact on the environment, especially because of the amount of land it takes to sustain and its high amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

Squeezing lemon juice into food processor to make ricotta pesto pasta

Start With the Pasta First

Bring ten cups of water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the box.

This recipe works with any pasta, short or long. Pictured here, I used Paccheri, but I’ve also made this with anything from angel hair pasta to macaroni.

Whatever you have on hand!

Green tip: Pasta is a great meal option carbon footprint-wise! Manufacturing pasta is a relatively less intensive process, using less energy and other natural resources to produce than most other starches. Plus, its long shelf-life means you’re less likely to waste it!

Blend Until Smooth

Add all of your pesto ingredients plus the ricotta to a food processor or high-powered blender and blend until smooth. Simple as that!

Make sure the garlic and pine nuts completely break down. Check for lumps before removing the pesto with ricotta from the food processor.

Add all ricotta pesto ingredients

Blend until smooth

Conserve Some Pasta Water

Before draining your pasta, use a Pyrex measuring cup or other heat-safe jar with a handle to carefully extract at least 1/2 cup of the water that you cooked the pasta in.

Keep this starchy water on hand. You may need to use it to add back to the pesto pasta. If the ricotta pesto seems too thick or stodgy, you can add some of this water to your pasta without compromising the creamy texture.

After reserving the pasta water, strain the water from the pasta.

Green tip: Don’t waste your pasta water, use it to water your plants! So long as it’s not salty, the starchy water helps fertilize plants and help them grow.

Serving Your Ricotta Pesto Pasta

I find that the amount of sauce in this recipe is the perfect amount for 16 ounces of pasta, so if you want, you can mix the entire box of cooked pasta to the sauce.

If you think you may want your pasta not-so-saucy, serve up the sauce on each individual portion.

This Pasta with Ricotta Pesto is beyond delicious on its own, but if you want to add extra protein to this dish, I highly recommend this Pesto Butter Salmon.

Bowl of Ricotta Pesto Pasta garnished with basil

Should You Have Leftovers

If you have extra sauce, it will last in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. You can save extra sauce to eat over roasted veggies, spread on a sandwich, or to dip bread in!

If you have extra pasta with the sauce, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can reheat it over low heat, covered in a pot on the stove or in the oven in a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil at 350°F for 15-20 minutes.

In a pinch, you can reheat it in the microwave on high in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until thoroughly heated.

Super close up of pesto pasta with ricotta

Pesto Pasta with Ricotta Frequently Asked Questions

What cheese goes well with pesto?

A lot of pesto’s, this one included, contain Parmesan cheese to both thicken the texture and ramp up the flavor. But a more unexpected choice of cheese to add to pesto is ricotta.

The addition of ricotta to the pesto makes it super creamy, and also cuts some of the tang from the lemon juice and strong flavor of raw garlic.

Will ricotta melt into sauce?

Ricotta actually does not melt when heated, which makes it a great cheese to use on a raw sauce like in this ricotta pesto. Ricotta does however react very well to being aerated in a blender or food processor.

Whipped ricotta is light, airy, and extra creamy. Whipping it with pesto in this Ricotta Pesto Pasta brings the sauce to the next level!

20-Minute Ricotta Pesto Pasta
Recipe details
  • 4  servings
  • Prep time: 5 Minutes Cook time: 15 Minutes Total time: 20 min
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  • ▢ 16 ounces pasta of choice
  • ▢ 1 ounce fresh basil (1 oz basil = approx. 1 cup)
  • ▢ 2 ounces fresh arugula (1 oz arugula = approx. 2 cups)
  • ▢ 3 tablespoons lemon juice (1 lemon = approx. 4 tablespoons juice)
  • ▢ 1 ounce pine nuts (1 oz pine nuts = approx. 1/4 cup)
  • ▢ 2 cloves garlic
  • ▢ 2 ounces extra virgin olive oil (2 oz EVOO = approx. 1/3 cup)
  • ▢ 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese (1 oz Parmesan = approx. 1/4 cup)
  • ▢ 15 ounces Ricotta cheese (15 oz Ricotta = approx. 1 3/4 cups)
  • ▢ 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • ▢ 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cook the pasta al dente according to the directions on the packaging. Before straining the pasta, conserve some of the past water just in case you want to add some to your sauce to thin it out.
Add the basil, arugula, lemon juice, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, Parmesan, ricotta, salt, and pepper to a food processor or high-powered blender and blend on high until smooth.
Asses the consistency of the sauce. If it seems too thick, you can add some of the conserved pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Serve over the cooked pasta and enjoy!
  • If you have ready-made pesto, you can easily use that in place of all of the other pesto ingredients. Just blend 1 cup of pesto with 15 ounces of ricotta to make the sauce.
  • For more recipes like this, check out this list of Meatless Pasta Meals.
Marley's Menu
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  • Tara Leclaire Tara Leclaire on Mar 10, 2023

    This is so high in calories for one meal!!!!!!!! Not a good option for those who are watching their caloric intake.

  • Olga harbar Olga harbar on Mar 12, 2023

    Provide the recipe , not your opinion or political beliefs,,,,where do you think cheese comes from

    • Marley's Menu Marley's Menu on Mar 13, 2023

      Hmmm I hardly think sustainability is political, but you’re more than welcome to not read or use my free recipes if you’re not open to learning about it. Demanding that I use my own platform in a different way is not genuine or helpful feedback pertaining to the recipe.