Pasta tossed with creamy spinach ricotta sauce with spinach a hint of lemon and garlic, then topped with lemon butter chicken breasts. This one pan dinner deserves all the praise. A simple recipe that scores 10 out of 10 on the delicious scale!
If you like this easy pasta recipe, you will also enjoy my Pesto Pasta with Grilled Chicken.
My son is a huge fan of spinach ricotta tortellini. So whenever I am short on time to cook dinner, I often pick up a package. This recipe for spinach ricotta pasta with lemon butter chicken came out of that deep love of his.
I wanted to create a homemade recipe that is easy and equally delicious because let’s face it, I am not making homemade tortellini on a regular basis!
Spinach ricotta combination is absolutely classic. It has a mild and creamy taste making creamy ricotta pasta popular with many. It is also quite lean as fresh ricotta is relatively low in calories but high in protein and spinach is a nutritional powerhouse.
Spinach Ricotta Sauce
This creamy sauce comes together with minimal effort and what is even better it tastes creamy but doesn’t have all the calories that come with heavy cream.
I’ve added a healthy portion of garlic, some lemon juice, chopped mint and fresh basil to give this mild sauce a slightly more complex flavour.
- While the pasta is cooking in a large pot of salted water, quickly sauté sliced garlic in butter, then add lemon zest and lemon juice.
- Add creamy ricotta cheese and a splash of reserved pasta water to loosen it, give it a quick stir. Cook over low heat to avoid curdling.
- Add fresh spinach, chopped mint and basil, cover with a lid and let the greens wilt for 2 minutes. Take the lid off, stir and add salt to taste. Voila! Your sauce is ready! Just add pasta, black pepper if you like, and serve.
How to make lemon butter chicken
Once again this is the simplest recipe I could come up with. Adding chicken to this creamy lemon ricotta sauce is not at all necessary but highly recommended.
You can serve this lemon ricotta pasta recipe vegetarian style or you can add this flavoured chicken breast cooked in garlicky lemon butter sauce. So good for weeknight dinners!
- For best results, sear seasoned with salt and pepper chicken breasts on both sides until golden.
- Add a tablespoon of butter, juice of 1 lemon and a few lemon slices, cover the pan with a lid and cook on low for approximately 10 minutes. Baste with juices a couple of times during the cooking time to really inspire your taste buds!
Tips for pan frying a chicken breast
- Sear seasoned chicken breasts on high to get a beautiful golden colour.
- Turn the heat down, add garlic, butter and lemon juice and continue cooking on low for a juicy interior for approximately 10 minutes. Turn the chicken breasts over once and baste them with the juices a couple of times for maximum flavour.
- Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and keep warm until needed.
I would suggest serving this pasta dinner in the traditional Italian method of mixing the sauce and pasta together before bringing to the table. This helps the sauce to fully coat the pasta and for the pasta to absorb the flavours of the sauce.
To finish up this spinach ricotta pasta, top with sliced lemon butter chicken breasts. Sprinkle with a generous amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
This lemon butter chicken is absolutely delicious on top of spinach ricotta pasta or on its own. You can use this chicken recipe with so many different sides or as a tasty add-on to your salads.
A creamy pasta like this one can be balanced out perfectly with a fresh salad. I would suggest Caprese Salad made with fresh tomatoes or any made with leafy greens as wonderfully Italian side dishes!
Recipe tips and notes
- Try to achieve al dente pasta, which means that it retains a bit of chewiness instead of becoming soggy. I often do this by put a timer on for a couple of minutes less than the package recommends and testing the pasta until I am satisfied.
- I chose linguine, which is a long, flat pasta shape, but it’s hard to go wrong with a recipe like this. Most shapes, including short ones, will love this zesty lemon ricotta pasta sauce!
- Make sure your ricotta is very fresh. It shouldn’t have a sour smell when it’s first opened, which will affect both the taste and texture of the sauce.
- Cook the ricotta sauce on low heat to avoid curdling of this delicate cheese.
- Reserve a cup of pasta water to loosen the sauce if you feel it is needed. The starchy water keeps the sauce creamy.
- Fresh parmesan cheese brings so much delicious flavor! It is so much better than any freeze dried version. Other hard Italian cheeses like Grano Padana are also perfect for a dish like this.
- Fresh arugula (or rocket in the UK) can be used in place of spinach.
Storage and leftovers
Pasta dishes are never quite the same the next day, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be enjoyable! It will keep in an airtight container for up to three days in the fridge and is best warmed up in the microwave.
I would never recommend freezing cooked pasta. It will become far too soggy when reheated, so best to keep this one out of the freezer!
More ricotta recipes
- Whipped Feta and Ricotta Dip
- Lemon Ricotta Cake with Blackberry Glaze
- Almond Crepe Cake with Orange Ricotta Cream
- Ricotta and Grana Padano Fritters with Tomato Basil Salsa
Spinach Ricotta Pasta with Lemon Butter Chicken
For the lemon butter chicken
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 chicken breasts skinless and boneless
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 clove sliced garlic
- 1 lemon
For the spinach ricotta pasta
- 450 g /1lb pasta such as linguine or your favourite
- 1 tbsp butter
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 250g/1cup ricotta cheese
- 125ml/1/2cup reserved pasta water
- 100g/2cups fresh spinach
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped mint or 1 tsp dried mint
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil or 2 tsp dried basil
- 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese for serving
For the lemon butter chicken
- Season 2 chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. Preheat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a frying pan and sear the chicken breasts on each side until golden.
- Lower the heat, then add butter, sliced garlic and let it cook for 30 seconds, then add lemon juice to the pan together with a few lemon slices and stir to combine. Cover the the pan and let the chicken breasts cook on low heat turning them over once and basting them with the juices a couple of times for approximately 10 minutes until no longer pink inside. Remove to a separate plate and keep warm till needed.
For the spinach ricotta pasta
- Cook the pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted water.
- While the pasta is cooking melt 1 tbsp butter in a large pan, add sliced garlic and cook for 30 seconds on low heat, then add lemon zest and lemon juice, ricotta cheese and ½ cup of pasta water. (Just ladle some from your pasta pot.) Mix everything until the ricotta is well incorporated.
- Add fresh spinach, chopped mint and basil, cover with a lid and let the greens wilt for 2 minutes. Then take the lid off and stir everything to combine, add salt to taste.
- Drain the pasta and add directly to the pan with spinach ricotta sauce, toss to combine. Slice the lemon butter chicken and place on top of pasta. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.