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Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta

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Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta has all the flavors of spring in every bite. The simple lemon ricotta sauce comes together in about a minute and is a perfect complement to the vegetables, pasta and salty pancetta.

This recipe was featured in Stillwater Living Magazine
overhead shot of finished pasta in a white bowl with a skillet of extra pasta in the background

As soon as the weather starts to warm up I go into lighter recipe mode. I’m all in on recipes that use fresh spring and summer vegetables, and easy dishes I can enjoy throughout the summer months.

I start making Corn, Zucchini and Red Pepper Cakes as soon as fresh corn is readily available. Farro with Spring Vegetables is my take on a dish I saw Trisha Yearwood make on The Food Network. And wonton wrappers are the key to my Spinach Ravioli with Asparagus Garlic Butter Sauce.

I actually haven’t done a great job of creating spring recipes, so it’s high time to change that. I’ve also been trying to come up with more ways to use ricotta cheese, so I created Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta

WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS
  • It’s easy to make, and on the table in under 30 minutes
  • The lemon ricotta sauce is very flavorful, yet tastes light
  • You can customize the ingredients to your preference
close up off center shot of finished lemon ricotta fiesta pasta in a white bowl with a fork on the side
INGREDIENT TIPS FOR LEMON RICOTTA FIESTA PASTA

I love the salty bite that Pancetta adds to this dish. Skip the thin-sliced pancetta…instead, buy a chunk from the deli counter, and dice it into 1/4″ pieces.

Pancetta has much less fat than bacon, so cook the pancetta in a little bit of oil. This helps the pancetta get golden brown, and not burn.

Cook the vegetables in the reserved fat, to absorb the beautiful flavor. Don’t add any more oil, or the vegetables will get greasy and heavy.

I use asparagus and frozen peas as my green veggies. You can find fresh asparagus pretty much year-round, and I always have a bag of frozen peas handy.

Use a short-cut curly pasta, so the sauce clings to every crevice. My preference is Cellentani or Cavatappi, but Orecchiette is another good option.

I add fresh grape or cherry tomatoes to the Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta just before serving. The tomatoes add a pop of fresh flavor to the dish.

close up shot of nearly finished pasta in a black skillet
LEMON RICOTTA SAUCE

For a long time, I wasn’t a fan of fresh lemon, because it has such a strong bite. But when it’s used in moderation, it really brightens dishes and adds wonderful flavor.

I don’t like sauces to overpower a dish, so this lemon ricotta sauce is perfect. Ricotta and fresh lemon are both light and they complement the other ingredients really well.

Yes, you need to be generous with the oil, because it helps to break down the ricotta. But the sauce doesn’t taste oily or heavy.

You really need to use whole milk ricotta for Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta. I tried it with part-skim, but the consistency wasn’t creamy enough.

overhead shot of finished pasta in a white bowl with a fork on the side
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pot of salted, boiling water, cook pasta according to box directions. Drain, reserving 2 Tablespoons of pasta water.

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet. Add diced pancetta and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally.

overhead process shot of pancetta cooking in a black skillet

Transfer pancetta to paper towels to drain, reserving the fat in the skillet.

You’ll likely get some smoke while the pancetta cooks, so I turn on the vent fan. I also move the skillet to another burner for 2 minutes to cool slightly.

Add onion and cook over medium-low heat for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Toss in asparagus and cook for 5 minutes. Add peas and cook for 1 minute

overhead process shot of vegetables cooking in a black skillet

Transfer vegetables to a bowl and set aside.

Add 1/4 cup oil to skillet, and bring to low heat. Add ricotta and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Next, add zest and juice of lemon, salt, and pepper, plus reserved pasta water. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking slowly until completely smooth.

overhead process shot of lemon ricotta sauce in a black skillet

Return vegetables, pasta, and tomatoes to the skillet.

overhead process shot of pasta, and vegetables added to lemon ricotta sauce

Stir well to combine. Portion into serving bowls, top with pancetta and fresh-grated Parmesan.

overhead shot of finished pasta in a white bowl with a skillet of extra pasta in the background
SERVINGS AND LEFTOVERS

Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta is a delicious complete meal. The recipe as written will serve 3-4 people, especially if served with a salad.

You can serve this dish immediately or at room temperature. It’s also fabulous served cold, as the flavors have had time to intensify.

I haven’t had the best luck reheating the dish, because the sauce tends to get kind of clumpy. You could add about 1 Tablespoon of water, to help prevent that.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What if I don’t like pancetta? Substitute thick-cut bacon or turkey bacon. Or, for a vegetarian option, use veggie bacon or no meat at all.

Can I use other vegetables? Use green beans, snow peas, zucchini, or baby spinach. If you use spinach, add it for just the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, until wilted.

What other tomatoes work? Sundried tomatoes are great, but make sure to drain them and pat dry before adding to the skillet. Roasted grape/cherry tomatoes would be another great option.

MORE DELICIOUS RECIPES WITH LEMON
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overhead shot of finished lemon ricotta fiesta pasta in a white bowl with a fork on the side

Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Lemon Ricotta Fiesta Pasta has all the flavors of spring in every bite. The simple lemon ricotta sauce comes together in about a minute and is a perfect complement to the vegetables, pasta, and salty pancetta. This dish is delicious hot, warm or even cold

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces Cellentani pasta (or any short-cut pasta)
  • 2/3 cup Pancetta, diced into 1/4" cubes
  • 2 teaspoons avocado oil
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 asparagus spears, ends discarded, spears cut into 2" pieces
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced, for garnish

LEMON RICOTTA SAUCE

  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon

Instructions

    1. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook for 10 minutes, tossing occasionally
    2. Remove pancetta with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to drain. Reserve fat in skillet
    3. Put the skillet on another burner and allow it to cool for 2 minutes.
    4. Add onion and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.
    5. Toss in asparagus and cook for 5 minutes. Add peas and cook for 1 minute.
    6. Transfer vegetable mixture to a bowl.
    7. Add 1/4 cup avocado oil to the skillet over medium heat.
    8. Add ricotta and whisk slowly to melt into the oil.
    9. Add lemon juice and zest, plus 2 Tablespoons pasta water, salt, and pepper.
    10. Return the vegetables to the skillet, along with drained pasta and tomatoes. Stir to combine.
    11. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with pancetta and fresh grated Parmesan. Garnish with parsley and serve

Notes

PANCETTA NOTES

Skip the thin-sliced pancetta...instead, buy a chunk of pancetta from the deli counter, and dice it into 1/4" cubes

Pancetta has much less fat than bacon, so you need to add a little oil so the pancetta gets golden, not burnt.

The pancetta will likely cause a lot of smoke while it cooks, so turn on the vent fan! Also, move the skillet to a cool burner for a couple of minutes after cooking, so the onions don't burn when added.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What if I don’t like pancetta? Substitute thick-cut bacon or turkey bacon. Or, keep the dish vegetarian with veggie bacon or no meat at all.

Can I use other vegetables? Use green beans, snow peas, zucchini or even baby spinach. If you use spinach, add it for just the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, until wilted.

What other tomatoes work? I’ve used Sundried Tomatoes. If you use the ones in oil, drain them well and pat dry before adding to the skillet. Roasted grape/cherry tomatoes would be another great option.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 424Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 347mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 4gSugar: 11gProtein: 9g

Nutrient values are estimates only. Variations may occur due to product availability and food preparation. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, etc

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