Hear Me Out: Zucchini Is the Secret to the Creamiest Pasta Sauce, Ever

This lemon ricotta pasta is proof.

By Suruchi Avasthi
lemon ricotta pasta recipe

You could say we have a thing for pasta here at Camille Styles. From long spaghetti noodles to fun and funky cavatappi to layered pasta bakes, the options are endless. My approach to pasta is simple: let both the season and pantry spark my imagination and inspire a little magic. While I love pulling out all the stops, I also know that ingredients should be allowed to shine as they are. And that, dear readers, is why we’re here—to talk about this lemon ricotta pasta recipe that has become one of my weeknight go-to meals.

One of my favorite pasta recipes is this dish inspired by the spaghetti alla nerano from Stanley Tucci’s Finding Italy. A few weeks back, I found myself with some subpar zucchini in the back of my vegetable drawer. Thinking back to the flavors of that dish, I wanted to see if I could upgrade my zucchini into a silky smooth sauce, brightened up with a few extra ingredients I had on hand. And just like that, this magical lemon ricotta pasta was born. Yes—all because of a zucchini.

lemon ricotta pasta recipe

The Show-Stopping Ingredients

Zucchini. Zucchini is the secret star of this recipe, adding an extra dose of vegetables without anyone ever knowing.

Ricotta. Creamy and silky, it adds a nice richness and clings to the noodles perfectly. Use the full-fat version, always.

Lemons. Lemon pasta is always a favorite combo of mine. The lemon brightens up the flavors in this recipe.

Onions and garlic. The base of all good things: aromatics.

Artichokes. While optional, I like adding something briny to partner up with the lemon. It keeps every bite interesting.

Kale. I’m all about adding greens to my pasta. If I’m going to eat my vegetables, I might as well eat them alongside some carby goodness, right? The kale gives this pasta a nice heartiness. Plus, it’s a good way to use up any wilting greens you might have.

Noodles. I love a bucatini, but use any pasta shape you prefer.

lemon ricotta pasta recipe
lemon ricotta pasta recipe

Tips for Success

I know: nowhere in this recipe’s name does it indicate that zucchini plays a key role. But before you think I’ve tricked you, sit tight. Just as some people like to sneak zucchini into their smoothies (yep, it’s a thing), I like hiding it in my pasta. Why? Because zucchini has this magical ability to melt down when cooked. And of course, I love finding ways to incorporate more veggies into my meals (see: green sauce pasta). Bonus: this tricks adds some heft to the lemon ricotta sauce.

Finely chop a bunch of zucchini and toss it in with your oil and aromatics. Let it cook covered, squishing down the zucchini every couple of minutes until you end up with a smooth sauce-like texture. Add the ricotta and lemon and stir into a thick sauce that will cling to every noodle. I like the zucchini here because it adds this subtle sweetness when cooked down that helps balance out the lemon’s acidity and the richness of the ricotta. Trust me, if you’re trying to sneak in veggies—for you or your picky eaters—once you learn this trick, you’ll never go back.

lemon ricotta pasta recipe

How to Make This Lemon Ricotta Pasta Your Own

While I stayed simple with artichokes and kale, there are lots of options for customizing this recipe with what you have on hand.

  • Use any greens you like. Spinach, frozen or fresh, or even a big handful of chopped basil at the end.
  • While I stuck with just kale and artichokes, you could also add peas, asparagus, chopped zucchini, leeks, or even some cherry or grape tomatoes.
  • Toss in a bit of pesto for an herby kick with the sauce. (This vegan pesto would be perfect.)
  • I prefer a long noodle with the sauce to keep it simple, but ziti or cavatappi will have all those crevices for the sauce to sneak into, so use what you have.

While I like eating this pasta on its own, it would be delicious served up alongside salmon or with a fresh green salad.

lemon ricotta pasta recipe

More Pasta Recipes You’ll Love

Still looking for inspiration? These recipes have you covered.

Camille’s Lemony Spring Pasta Salad

Ratatouille Pasta

Pesto Pasta Primavera

Miso Tomato Pasta

Scroll on for the recipe, and if you make this lemon ricotta pasta, be sure to leave a rating and comment below!

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lemon ricotta pasta recipe

Lemon Ricotta Pasta

  • Author: Suruchi Avasthi
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 2 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


An easy weeknight pasta recipe packed with fresh spring flavor.


Units Scale
  • 23 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large shallot or 1/2 small yellow onion
  • 3 small green zucchini, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 cup artichokes, chopped
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, chopped
  • 1/2 pound pasta of choice per person (I used bucatini)


  1. Sauce. To make the sauce, add a few tablespoons of oil to a large stove top pan and bring to a medium heat. Add the shallot with a large pinch of salt, and cook for about a minute. Add the zucchini, with a pinch more salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes if desired. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes and squashing down the zucchini as it softens so it “melts” into a sauce. Once the zucchini is softened and mashed, add the ricotta and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Set aside while you cook the pasta.
  2. Pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve a cup of pasta water.
  3. Assembly. Add the kale and artichokes to the ricotta sauce, then add about 1/2 cup of pasta water to the sauce to thin slightly. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir to combine, adding more pasta water if needed.
  4. Serve. Serve hot and top with additional lemon juice and herbs if desired.
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Italian

Comments (1)

  1. Dee says:

    Garlic is on the ingredient list but not in the recipe.

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