Lemon Ricotta Spaghetti, a real taste of summer!
This Italian spaghetti al limone with ricotta has a wonderful fresh summer taste, with an intense lemony flavour. Close your eyes and you can even imagine you are eating it sitting on a terrace overlooking the sea on the Amalfi coast or Capri!
So many traditional Italian pasta recipes make use of ingredients that are really simple and easy to find. This spaghetti al limone with ricotta is the perfect example of how Italians turn a handful of staple ingredients into something magic!
The secret seems to be in the quality of the ingredients. Luckily, nowadays, Italian produce and products can be found all over the world. And even where it’s not possible to find the exact ingredients that Italians use, there are often similar products and produce available which can substitute the Italian ones.
A recipe from Italy’s land of lemons!
One of the simplest, yet most divine, pasta recipes in Italian cuisine has to be spaghetti or tagliolini al limone! This recipe originally comes from Campania, more specifically Sorrento and the Amalfi coast, an area famous for its lemons and lemon gardens.
Sorrento lemons are not only used in cooking but are the main ingredient of the well-known Italian liqueur limoncello. Italians also use these lemons to make granita, sorbet and ice-cream.
Which lemons to use for spaghetti al limone?
If you can get hold of them, Sorrento or Amalfi lemons are the best to use. They are very high in vitamin C and have an intense fragrance. However, if Sorrento lemons aren’t available, then organic lemons which are rich in vitamin A, B1, C are good as well.
Organic lemons are a must if you’re going to use the zest in cooking. The skin of other lemons isn’t really edible as they have been sprayed with pesticides or covered in a fungicide wax.
For UK readers, I have made this dish whilst in UK and managed to find Sorrento lemons and good Italian ricotta at Waitrose.
Other versions of Italian lemon pasta
Like many other Italian pasta recipes, there are a number of versions of pasta al limone. The most basic being with just lemon rind, parsley, olive oil and garlic. Some recipes include cream and/or butter, which obviously makes the dish creamier and richer.
My favourite is this recipe with ricotta and basil. The end result is very creamy but without the heaviness and richness which comes with fresh cream, eventhough the latter is delicious too!
A no-cook sauce.
This spaghetti al limone with ricotta is a no-cook recipe. In other words, the sauce isn’t cooked, only the pasta. It’s absoluetly perfect as a summer dish or when you just want a quick light lunch or dinner. You can prepare the sauce a day in advance and keep it in a sealed container in the fridge until you are ready to make the dish.
Which pasta to use?
When it comes to the pasta, both spaghetti and tagliolini are traditional, but linguine are often used too. If you can find pasta di Gragnano, this is one of the best types of Italian pasta and comes from Campania as well. Gragnano is a town near Naples that’s famous for dried pasta. I used spaghetti made by Garofalo, one of the most well known producers from Gragnano.
Is this recipe vegetarian?
This recipe is easily made vegetarian by using vegetarian parmesan instead of Italian Parmigiano Reggiano. The latter isn’t vegetarian as they make it with animal rennet.
How to make this recipe gluten free.
All you need to do to make this spaghetti al limone with ricotta gluten free is use gluten free pasta. Many Italian pasta makers now produce this pasta. One of the most popular here in Italy is Rummo. However, Garofalo also make good gluten free pasta.
A perfect summer maincourse or side dish!
I totally fell in love with spaghetti al limone with ricotta the first time I had it. And, have made it a number of times. It’s one of my favourite summer pasta recipes. Not only is it fresh and lemony but it’s so easy to make. I am sure you will fall in love with it too! It also makes a fantastic side dish with seafood if you use short pasta instead of spaghetti.
If you do make this Italian lemon pasta recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out. Please write a comment here on the blog or post a comment on the Pasta Project Facebook page.
Your feedback means a lot to me!
If you like pasta with lemon you may also like this unique lemon water spaghetti recipe or this creamy linguine al limone
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This recipe was first published in 2017 but has been updated with new photos and text.
Spaghetti al limone with ricotta and basil
- 400 g spaghetti (14oz) or tagliolini or linguine
- 400 g fresh ricotta (14oz) drained
- basil leaves handful
- 1 Organic lemon medium sized from Sorrento or Amalfi if possible or organic
- 100 g Parmigiano Reggiano (3.5oz) grated or vegetarian parmesan
- Salt and black pepper as required
- Mash the ricotta cheese in a bowl and then add the grated rind from the lemon (I used all the rind from one lemon), most of the basil leaves torn into pieces, a pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper. Mix. (you can also use a blender)
- Add half the grated cheese to the ricotta and mix together well. If the sauce seems a bit thick, add a dash of milk. It needs to have the consistency of a dip.
- Cook the pasta al dente, in boiling salted water according to the instructions on the packet, reserve a large cup of the cooking water.
- Drain the pasta and return it to the pan or pour it into a bowl.
- Add the ricotta cream and half the saved cooking water to the pasta, a little at a time. Continue to mix well until you have a creamy sauce. If needs be, add some more of the pasta cooking water.
- Serve immediately with a sprinkling of ground black pepper, more grated Parmigiano (or vegetarian parmesan) and the remaining basil.
If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of one of my pasta recipes cookbook!?
Other great summer pasta recipes to try.
- Pasta salad crudaiola Barese from Puglia
- Vermicelli di Positano from Campania
- Pasta alla Portofino from Liguria
- Casarecce with caponata from Sicily
- Summer tagliolini with marinated vegetables
This is an outstanding recipe. So simple but so delicious. Having a Meyer Lemon tree in my yard adds additional lemon flavors unique to this variety. Also, I found a local cheese maker who makes Crecenza (stracchino) cheese which I used in place of the ricotta. As a further variation I added peas and fresh mint garnish. Colorful and delicious
This spaghetti dish looks so delicious. Who needs mac and cheese when you have this!! Thanks for sharing the recipe.
Enri Lemoine says
I was looking for a pasta al limone recipe and your recipe popped up! OMG, I have no words to describe how delicious this pasta is. I had it for lunch and thought I was in Positan for a moment! Thanks for sharing!
I love how simple and delicious this pasta is! I had all the ingredients necessary so made this right away for dinner. My family loved the lemon flavor.
This is a wonderful summer pasta! The fresh basil and lemon added such bright flavors, and you can never go wrong with a pasta that includes ricotta. So good!
Laura Arteaga says
This recipe had everything we were looking for! We wanted to use lemons from the garden plus having a family-friendly meal for these hot days 🙂 thanks a lot!
Amanda Mason says
Another amazing recipe from you!! And I love the simplistic ingredients in this one! This was mine and my husband’s date night dinner and we were thrilled with the flavor! So Good!
Mine didn’t look as pretty as yours but boy was it tasty! A new favourite recipe!
Having kids who adore pasta in all its shapes I keep searching for new inspirations. I must say they loved your recipe, thanks!
We love lemon everything so I had to make this pasta and it did not disappoint! So easy to make and delicious.
This pasta is so flavorful, comforting and delicious! I love how easy it is to make, the perfect weeknight meal for when you need something in a hurry.
Definitely a Happy Meal platter. Quick, easy and flavorful.