If you have fresh basil or arugula in your garden, this quick meatless Pasta with Creamy Arugula Sauce is absolutely delicious! Use more greens and less pasta if you want a lower-carb version. 

PIN Pasta with Creamy Arugula Sauce!

Pasta with Creamy Arugula Sauce shown in serving dish with Parmesan in background

For a long time I never thought of pasta as being a summer dish, except for pasta salads. Then a few years ago I discovered the idea of no-cook pasta sauce, where a mixture of summer vegetables and fresh herbs are combined with freshly cooked pasta for a delightful dish that’s eaten barely warm.

I used my first basil pickings of the summer in this Pasta with Creamy Arugula Sauce that combines barely-cooked arugula and basil, pesto, ricotta cheese, parmesan, lemon zest, and olive oil. And wow, was this ever delicious!

I didn’t have that much basil yet, so I used a combination of chopped basil with a few tablespoons of basil pesto, and if you don’t have garden basil you could probably use even more pesto. I loved the use of ricotta cheese, which I thought gave plenty of creaminess to the finished pasta.

If you like the strong flavors of arugula and basil, this is a perfect summer pasta recipe, but if you’re not an arugula fan spinach would also be good, or use a combination of spinach and arugula for a less peppery flavor.

What ingredients do you need for this recipe?

  • whole wheat pasta (or other pasta of your choice)
  • ricotta cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • zest of one lemon (probably optional, but it brightens up the flavor
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • baby arugula, coarsely chopped (see notes)
  • chopped basil (see notes if you don’t have fresh basil)

What if you don’t have fresh basil?

This recipe calls for a generous amount of fresh basil. If you don’t have that much fresh basil you can use less basil and add a few tablespoons of basil pesto to punch up the basil flavor. I think the recipe could also be made with about 1/2 cup of basil pesto completely replacing the fresh basil if you don’t want to buy it.

How can you make this pasta recipe lower in carbs?

Of course pasta is not really a low-carb dish. I haven’t tried making this recipe with a lower-carb pasta, but you could make a version that is quite a bit lower in carbs by using a whole pound of baby arugula and a lot less pasta. This could also be made with spinach or a combination of arugula and spinach if you’re not such an arugula fan.

Want some low-carb pasta recipes?

I’ve had good results using hearts of palm pasta to replace regular pasta in some of my favorite pasta recipes. Check out Pasta with Sausage and Mushrooms, Pesto Pasta Salad, Pasta with Sausage and Kale, Low-Carb Italian Pasta Salad, Spaghetti with Sausage and Arugula, and Spaghetti Casserole to see those ideas.

Pasta with Creamy Arugula Sauce process shots collage

How to Make Pasta with Creamy Arugula Sauce:

(Scroll down for complete printable recipe with nutritional information.)

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, adding the pasta when it’s boiling. 
  2. I only had about 1 cup of chopped basil from my fledgling basil plants, so I used a couple of tablespoons of basil pesto to replace the other cup of basil.
  3. A generous amount of fresh lemon zest really brightened up the flavors in this pasta, but it’s probably optional if you don’t have a lemon on hand.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, combine the ricotta cheese, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
  5. Saute the chopped arugula and basil just until it’s wilted. (Then stir in the basil pesto if you’re using that.) 
  6. If you’re not a fan of the peppery flavor of arugula, I think this would also be good with baby spinach.
  7. Combine the wilted arugula, basil, and pesto with the other sauce ingredients and stir together.
  8. Save 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta into a colander.
  9. Combine the pasta with the sauce ingredients, adding pasta cooking water as needed until you get a creamy consistency.  (I used the whole 1/3 cup water.)
  10. Serve warm or room temperature, with additional freshly grated Parmesan if desired.
  11. If you’re an arugula fan like me you will LOVE this!

Pasta with creamy arugula sauce finished dish

Make it a Meal:

This pasta recipe does have some carbs and it’s also a relatively rich dish, so I’d serve it with something light and low in carbs like Lemony Green Beans, Roasted Green Beans and Red Peppers, Roasted Asparagus with Garlic, Garlic-Roasted Green Beans Recipe with Shallots and Almonds, or Pan-Fried Asparagus Tips with Lemon Juice and Lemon Zest.

More No Cook Sauce with Fresh Ingredients:

Tomatoes, Arugula, Olive, and Caper No-Cook Pasta Sauce

Tomato, Herb, and Feta No-Cook Sauce

Tomatoe Basil No-Cook Sauce

Pasta with creamy arugula sauce finished dish
Yield: 6 servings

Pasta with Creamy Arugula Sauce

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

This meatless Pasta with Creamy Arugula Sauce is a great recipe to make when you have fresh basil or arugula in your garden!

Ingredients

  • 1 box (13.25 oz.) whole wheat pasta, or use other pasta of your choice
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese (see notes)
  • 1 T + 1 T olive oil
  • zest of one lemon (probably optional, but it brightens up the flavors)
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 5 oz. baby arugula, coarsely chopped (see notes)
  • 2 cups chopped basil (see notes)

Instructions

  1. Fill a large pot with water, salt generously, and bring the water to a boil.
  2. Add pasta, start timing,  and cook until barely al-dente.  (Check package for cooking time; I cooked the my pasta for barely ten minutes.)
  3. While pasta cooks, chop the arugula, chop the basil, and zest the lemon.  (Wash the arugula and basil and spin dry if needed.)
  4. In a bowl large enough to hold all the pasta and sauce, combine the ricotta cheese, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, lemon zest,  and salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste.  (I used a generous amount of pepper but not too much salt.)
  5. Heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan, add the arugula and chopped basil and cook until they are barely wilted, about 2 minutes.
  6. Stir in basil pesto if using.
  7. Add the wilted arugula/basil/pesto mixture to the other sauce ingredients and stir to combine.
  8. When pasta is done scoop out 1/3 cup pasta cooking water and set aside.
  9. Drain pasta into a colander placed in the sink.
  10.  Combine the hot pasta with sauce ingredients and stir gently, adding as much of the pasta cooking water as needed to make a creamy mixture.  (I used the entire 1/3 cup of pasta water.)
  11.  Serve warm or room temperature, with extra freshly grated Parmesan to add at the table if desired.

Notes

Freshly-grated Parmesan is definitely best for this recipe.

For a lower-carb version, double the arugula and use less pasta.

If you don't have that much fresh basil you can use more arugula and more basil pesto and less fresh basil. I also think this would still be good if you replaced the fresh basil completely with about 1/2 cup basil pesto.

Recipe adapted slightly from a recipe by Lori Longbotham for Fine Cooking.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 294Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 39mgSodium: 665mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 18g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.

Did you make this recipe?

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating (under the PRINT button in the recipe) or share a photo of your results on Instagram! THANKS!

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
This would be a fairly low-glycemic recipe with whole wheat pasta, but it’s probably too high in carbs for low-carb diets. When it’s made with whole wheat pasta, part-skim ricotta, and using the reduced amount of pasta like I did would make this recipe suitable for Phase 2 or 3 of the original  South Beach Diet. If you’re actively trying to lose weight I would eat a small serving, with something like Easy Grilled Vegetables or Puerto Rican Spicy Cabbage Salad on the side. 

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use Pasta Recipes to find more ideas like this one.Use the Diet Type Index to find recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest, on Facebook, on Instagram, or on YouTube to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Historical Notes for this Recipe:
This recipe was first posted in 2011, and I made it many years when I had arugula growing in my garden. It was last updated with more information in 2022.

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