Savor the taste of Lemon Chicken Pasta, where the zest of lemon meets the creaminess of whole-milk ricotta! A perfect joining of flavors, this easy pasta recipe promises a delightful meal in just 30 minutes. Indulge in a dish that's as nutritious as it is delicious! 

A close up of lemon chicken pasta on a plate with a fork next to a bowl of lemon wedges.
Photo Credits: Ali Redmond

When a recipe calls for whole milk ricotta, what it's really saying is, "Get ready for some rich, velvety goodness." This creamy wonder is the reason eggplant lasagna is lush, cannolis heavenly, and now, your weeknights are stress-free thanks to the ricotta in this easy Lemon Chicken Pasta recipe. 

Many creamy pasta recipes use heavy cream to achieve that velvety texture and while I have nothing against it, I try to keep heavy cream for special occasions—enter ricotta. It has far fewer calories and saturated fat than heavy cream and still creates rich creamy recipes. I use it in this Lemon Chicken Pasta recipe, but also to make creamed spinach and to stuff portobello mushrooms.

As the name of the recipe indicates, this easy weeknight dinner has a bold lemon flavor, support from onions, garlic, and just a touch of heat from red pepper flakes. Chicken for protein and spinach for extra nutrients and a pop of color. Dinner is on the table in about 30 minutes start to finish.

Table of Contents
  1. What You Need to Make Lemon Chicken Pasta
    1. For the Sauce
    2. For the Chicken and Pasta
  2. How to Make Lemon Chicken Pasta 
  3. What to Serve with Lemon Chicken Pasta 
  4. More Great Pasta Recipes
  5. Lemon Chicken Pasta Recipe
Ingredients for lemon chicken pasta including spaghetti, ricotta, lemon, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, onion, garlic, chicken breast, oregano, and baby spinach.

What You Need to Make Lemon Chicken Pasta

For the Sauce

  • Whole Milk Ricotta: Often creamy recipes use heavy cream, but swapping in whole milk ricotta still gives you that creamy texture with far fewer calories and saturated fat. 
  • Lemon, zested, and juiced: Both the zest and the juice add a delightful citrusy tartness that balances out the earthy flavor of the spinach and lifts the dish.
  • Kosher salt: Salt enhances the flavor of the other ingredients. 
  • Freshly cracked black pepper: I use freshly cracked pepper because I like the texture and the subtle heat, but you can use whatever you have on hand. 
  • Red pepper flakes (optional): For a bolder heat add these colorful, spicy flakes. 
An overhead photo of lemon chicken pasta in a skillet next to a bowl of lemon wedges and a stack of 2 plates.

For the Chicken and Pasta

  • Spaghetti: I prefer a longer noodle like spaghetti or bucatini to help grab the sauce. 
  • Olive Oil: A lot of people think of oil simply as a way to saute vegetables or cook chicken, but quality olive oil has the extra benefits of polyphenols (antioxidants.) The Mediterranean diet heavily relies on olive oil as the main source of healthy fats. There is a lot of misinformation about olive oil, so If you want to learn more check out our guide, Everything You Need to Know about Olive Oil.
  • Small yellow onion, finely chopped: When cooked yellow adds a gentle sweetness to recipes. 
  • Cloves garlic, minced, adds another layer of flavor to this simple dish. 
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts: I slice these into cutlets so they cook quickly. You can also buy chicken cutlets to avoid having to slice them yourself.  Once the chicken is cooked through, slice them again and add them back to the pan with the pasta.
  • Oregano: People often think of oregano in red tomato sauces, but it complements lemon beautifully. 
  • Kosher salt and black pepper: These culinary heavy hitters elevate and add warmth to the pasta.
  • Lemon, zested and juiced: The lemon vibe in this easy pasta recipe is strong and really makes this whole dish sing. 
  • Baby spinach: This leafy green vegetable adds a pop of color and nutrition to this recipe. Spinach is an iron-rich vegetable and a good source of Vitamin C.
An overhead photo of 2 plates of lemon chicken pasta, one with a fork. Next these is the skillet with the rest of the pasta.

How to Make Lemon Chicken Pasta 

  • Make the lemon ricotta: In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using). Set aside. Lemon ricotta sauce in a bowl with a spoon.
  • Boil the pasta: Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, add the pasta. 
  • While the pasta cooks prepare the chicken: Set a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and garlic. Use a sharp knife to cut each chicken breast horizontally into two halves. To do this place your non-dominant hand on top of the breast, then hold your knife in the other hand, keeping it parallel to the cutting board. Start on the thicker end and carefully slice your way to the thinner end. You should end up with 4 thin pieces of chicken breast. 4 uncooked chicken breast fillets seasoned with salt and pepper on a cutting board.
  • Season and cook the chicken: Season the chicken all over with salt, pepper, and oregano. Add it to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. You want the onions to take on color here. If, however, they start to brown too much and you’re afraid they will burn just add some pasta water to the pan (¼ cup) and scrape the brown bits up. Do this multiple times if you have to. Flip the chicken, add the lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the chicken reaches 160°F. Keep adding spoonfuls of pasta water to the skillet to prevent the onions from burning. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil.4 chicken breast fillets seasoned with salt and pepper being cooked with onions and garlic in a skillet.
  • Finish the dish: Reduce the heat to low, add the spinach to the skillet, and stir, until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. If the pan is dry add about ¼ cup of the pasta water and toss to help it wilt. Reserve 1 ¼ cups of pasta water, and drain the pasta. Add the pasta, and ricotta sauce to the skillet, and toss to coat. Add ¾ cup pasta water and toss again. Add additional pasta water to reach your desired level of creamy pasta sauce. Slice the chicken into strips, and add it back to the pan. Toss again. An overhead photo of the lemon chicken pasta in a skillet.
  • Serve the pasta: Divide the spaghetti among pasta bowls and serve.Lemon chicken pasta on a plate with a fork.

What to Serve with Lemon Chicken Pasta 

I’m a pretty vegetable-heavy eater so I tend to serve most pasta recipes with simple salad, even if I already have greens in them.

My favorite quick and easy salads are Lemon Parmesan Salad or Fennel Salad if I feel like sticking with a citrusy theme or if it’s the middle of summer and peppers are at their peak I’m always a fan of simple vegetable salads like this Bell Pepper Salad. Of course, something cooked like Roasted Broccoli is great.

When serving a crowd I might whip up a batch of Garlic Bread or homemade Focaccia is great too.

More Great Pasta Recipes

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4.72 from 14 votes

Lemon Chicken Pasta

Summer Miller
Lemon chicken pasta on a plate with a fork.
Savor the taste of Lemon Chicken Pasta, where the zest of lemon meets the creaminess of whole-milk ricotta! A perfect joining of flavors, this easy pasta recipe promises a delightful meal in just 30 minutes.
Prep – 10 minutes
Total – 20 minutes
Cuisine:
American, Italian
Serves – 6
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

For the Sauce

  • 4 ounces whole milk ricotta
  • 1 small lemon, zested and juiced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

For the Chicken and Pasta

  • 8 ounces (½ pound) spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 4 ounces baby spinach

Instructions
 

  • Make the lemon ricotta: In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (if using). Set aside.
  • Boil the pasta: Place a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, add the pasta.
  • While the pasta cooks prepare the chicken: Set a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and garlic. Use a sharp knife to cut each chicken breast horizontally into two halves. To do this place your non-dominant hand on top of the breast, then hold your knife in the other hand, keeping it parallel to the cutting board. Start on the thicker end and carefully slice your way to the thinner end. You should end up with 4 thin pieces of chicken breast.
  • Season and cook the chicken: Season the chicken all over with salt, pepper, and oregano. Add it to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes. You want the onions to take on color here. If, however, they start to brown too much and you’re afraid they will burn just add some pasta water to the pan (¼ cup) and scrape the brown bits up. Do this multiple times if you have to. Flip the chicken, add the lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the chicken reaches 160°F. Keep adding spoonfuls of pasta water to the skillet to prevent the onions from burning. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent with foil.
  • Finish the dish: Reduce the heat to low, add the spinach to the skillet, and stir, until wilted, about 2 to 3 minutes. If the pan is dry add about ¼ cup of the pasta water and toss to help it wilt. Reserve 1 ¼ cups of pasta water, and drain the pasta. Add the pasta, and ricotta sauce to the skillet, and toss to coat. Add ¾ cup pasta water and toss again. Add additional pasta water to reach your desired level of creamy pasta sauce. Slice the chicken into strips, and add it back to the pan. Toss again.
  • Serve the pasta: Divide the spaghetti among pasta bowls and serve.

Notes

Nutrition

Calories: 365.1kcalCarbohydrates: 34.4gProtein: 32.3gFat: 10.8gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1.3gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 82.2mgSodium: 359.9mgPotassium: 700.3mgFiber: 2.8gSugar: 2.4gVitamin A: 1898.6IUVitamin C: 27.1mgCalcium: 86.7mgIron: 1.8mg
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Summer Miller is an award-winning cookbook author, journalist, and an IACP finalist in essay writing and memoir. Her recipes, food writing, and editing chops span both print and digital media. You can find her work at Simply Recipes, Eating Well, Saveur, Bon Appétit, and the Kitchn among others. She is the Senior Executive Editor at The Mediterranean Dish.
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Comments

    1. Hi Sarah, Devin here from The Mediterranean Dish team. This recipe will serve 4-6 people, depending on their appetite. (The calorie info is for 1/6th of the total in the whole pot of pasta.) Hope this helps, let us know how it goes!

  1. 4 stars
    Really liked this. It was so creamy! I substituted chick pea pasta rotini) which made for easy mixing and gluten free. I cut up the chicken and mixed it all together. Delicious 😋

  2. 4 stars
    This recipe was really good! The use of ricotta cheese instead of heavy cream was nice change and really delicious. The only change I made was I grilled my chicken breast instead of cooking on the stove top. I cut it up and added it to the pasta once it was all done and mixed with the ricotta sauce.

  3. 5 stars
    This recipe is incredible! So very flavorful. I did make a couple of substitutions, however. I decided to try it with shrimp and it worked beautifully. I marinated the shrimp in minced garlic, and instead of using spinach, I used basil. I also used gluten-free rotini for the pasta. Because of the less starchy pasta water, I didn't need quite as much water to loosen the sauce. This will definitely be used in my rotation. Thanks for such a great recipe.

  4. 3 stars
    Wow, this was amazing! Since beginning the Mediterranean diet, I've been staying away from pasta, but I was SO glad to find this recipe. It was absolutely delicious and will be a staple in my weekly meals.

  5. 5 stars
    I didn't have ricotta, but I substituted for Greek yogurt, and my goodness, this was delicious! I also added a bit of Aleppo pepper. Every bite was to die for! A definitely winner and put into the rotation.

  6. 5 stars
    Thank you for this! I am not really allergic to dairy, but the richness of somethings can make me violently ill. I cannot wait to try this with the ricotta! And, I love the lemon flavor in anything! It looks like just what I have been looking for. I did not know that about ricotta and I'll bet I could adapt some other recipes using it! Love your site! Thank you again!