Lemon is one of my favorite flavors for both sweet and savory dishes. I use a lot of it in my recipes like my Lemon Basil Beans, Cheater Paella, and Lemon Curd Thumbprint Cookies! In spring, I love the combination of lemon, spring vegetables, and herbs and this Lemon Ricotta Shells recipe has it all. Shell pasta is the best shape to grab the peas and the whole bite is bathed in a rich ricotta sauce. It is a crazy simple dish to put together and it makes a complete main or a terrific side dish.
Ingredients and Preparation
This recipe relies on the ricotta cheese to do the heavy lifting of making a creamy and rich sauce, so go ahead and get the whole milk ricotta. I give you permission. There's very little chopping involved in making the Lemon Ricotta Shells because we are using frozen peas (built-in bite size) and you don't even need to chop the garlic! The only real prep is in zesting and juicing the lemons and chopping the parsley. Easy-peasy, right?
I have written and tested the recipe so that you can cook it on your stovetop or your pressure cooker. The pressure cooker version is faster and makes a tender pasta with a starchier sauce. The stovetop version gives you more control over the texture of the pasta as well as the sauce, since you add in reserved pasta water as you see fit when combining all of the ingredients at the end.
Both preparations use the food processor to blend the sauce components together. Ricotta, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, salt, and pepper combine with two cloves of garlic that have been cooked along with the pasta for a speedy sauce that needs no cooking on its own. I love the look of it with the specks of lemon and pepper. The sauce will seem pretty salty if you taste it at this stage. Remember that you will use this sauce to season the pasta and peas so things should balance out by the time everything is mixed together.
Once you have the cooked pasta and prepared sauce, you mix both together with the peas and pasta water (if needed) and this dish is done! In about 30 minutes you've made a flavorful pasta that the whole family can enjoy.
Serving and Storage
I serve this pasta with a hefty sprinkle of additional Parmesan cheese and parsley right on top. If you want to really gild the lily here, add handful of chopped cooked bacon! Otherwise this dish works well with fish or chicken, but most of the time we eat it as a main dish all on its own.
You can store any leftovers in an airtight container for a few days. I find that the sauce gets absorbed into the pasta when it rests; stir in an extra dollop of ricotta or a splash of milk when reheating to restore the creamy texture. These Lemon Ricotta Shells are leftover lunch champs!
I hope you try these Lemon Ricotta Shells and enjoy the recipe as much as I do. I want to see your results! Tag your photo with #planeatpostrepeat and mention me @planeatpostrepeat on Instagram. I can give you a virtual high five and thank you for cooking one of my recipes! Comment below with any questions and please leave a review so others can find this recipe more easily.
Lemon Ricotta Shells
- Pressure Cooker
- food processor
- 8 oz. small shell pasta
- 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 2 cloves garlic
- 8 oz. whole milk ricotta cheese
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese plus extra, for serving
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup peas, defrosted if frozen
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Pressure Cooker Instructions
- Add pasta, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, garlic, and 2 cups water to the pressure cooker.
- Cook with manual high pressure for 6 minutes, then quick release the pressure.
- In a small food processor, combine ricotta, ¼ cup Parmesan, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and the garlic cloves from the pressure cooker. Process until very smooth.
- Add peas and sauce to the pasta in the pressure cooker. Stir to combine.
- Serve with parsley and Parmesan cheese.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Boil pasta according to package directions, adding the garlic cloves for the last two minutes of cooking.
- Reserve ½ cup of the starchy pasta water and drain the rest. Transfer the pasta back to the cooking pot and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking. Pull out th etwo garlic cloves for the next step.
- In a small food processor, combine ricotta, ¼ cup Parmesan, lemon juice and zest, salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and the garlic cloves from the cooked pasta. Process until very smooth.
- Add peas and sauce to the pasta in the cooking pot. Use the reserved pasta water to get the sauce to the desired texture.
- Serve with parsley and Parmesan cheese.
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