You could say we have a thing for pasta here at Casa Zuma. It's one food group we never tire of, and our approach is simple: let both the season and pantry spark the imagination and inspire the flavors. While I love pulling out all the stops, I also know that ingredients should be allowed to shine as they are. 

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.

This pasta has a secret

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.

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

Total Time

35 minutes




Suruchi Avasthi


  • 2–3 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)


  • 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.
  • Pasta . Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve a cup of pasta water.
  • 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.
  • Serve . Serve hot and top with additional lemon juice and herbs if desired.