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Kalyn's Kitchen

Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce

If you have fresh basil or arugula in your garden, this quick meatless Penne Pasta  with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce is delicious! Use more greens and less pasta if you want a lower-carb version. Use Pasta Recipes to find more ideas like this one.

Click here to PIN Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce!

Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce [found on KalynsKitchen.com]

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 no-cook pasta sauces, 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 Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce that combines barely-cooked arugula and basil, pesto, ricotta cheese, parmesan, lemon zest, and olive oil.

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 also lightened up the dish by using part-skim ricotta cheese, which I thought gave plenty of creaminess to the finished pasta.  If you like the strong flavors of arugula and basil, I think this is a perfect summer pasta recipe, but if you’re not an arugula fan spinach would also be good.

Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce [found on KalynsKitchen.com]

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, adding the pasta when it’s boiling. 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 the recipe called for. 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. While the pasta is cooking, combine the ricotta cheese, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Saute the chopped arugula and basil just until it’s wilted.  (Then stir in the basil pesto if you’re using that.)  If you’re not a fan of the peppery flavor of arugula, I think this would also be good with baby spinach.

Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce [found on KalynsKitchen.com]
Combine the wilted arugula, basil, and pesto with the other sauce ingredients and stir together. Save 1/3 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta into a colander. 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.)

Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce [found on KalynsKitchen.com]

Serve warm or room temperature, with additional freshly grated Parmesan if desired.

More No Cook Sauces with Fresh Ingredients:

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with No-Cook Sauce of Tomatoes, Arugula, Olives, and Capers from Kalyn’s Kitchen
No-Cook Pasta Sauce with Spinach, Grapefruit, and Pine Nuts from The Passionate Cook
Penne Pasta with Tomato, Olive, and Feta No-Cook Sauce from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Sun-Dried Tomato No-Cook Sauce from The Italian Dish
No-Cook Pasta Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Thyme from Kalyn’s
Raw Pasta Sauce from One Hot Stove

Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce

This meatless Penne Pasta  with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce is a great recipe to make when you have fresh basil or arugula in your garden!


  • 1 box (13.25 oz.) whole wheat penne pasta (or use other pasta of your choice)
  • 8 oz. (1 cup ) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan cheese (preferably freshly grated Parmesan) plus more for serving if desired
  • 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 (or more, for a lower-carb version of this recipe, use more greens and less pasta)
  • 2 cups chopped basil (or use 1 cup chopped basil and 2-3 tablespoons basil pesto like I did)


  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.


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

All images and text ©

Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
Using whole wheat Pasta, part-skin ricotta, and decreasing the amount of pasta makes this recipe suitable for Phase 2 or 3 of the  South Beach Diet. If you’re actively trying to lose weight I would eat a small serving, with something like The World’s Easiest Grilled Vegetables or Spicy Cabbage Salad on the side. This would be a fairly low-glycemic recipe with whole wheat pasta, but it’s obviously not suitable for low-carb diets.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Use the Diet Type Index to find recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You can also Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Nutritional Information?
If you want nutritional information for a recipe, you can sign up for a free membership with Yummly and use the Yum button on my site to save the recipe and see the nutritional information. Another option is entering the recipe into this Recipe Nutrition Analyzer, which will calculate it for you.

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    36 Comments on “Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce”

  1. Just wanted to say that I ended up making this last night with wide pasta noodles and it was AMAZING. Thank you so much! (Also for the egg muffins recipe which is now a breakfast staple at our house).

  2. I'm arugula crazy this summer so you know I think this sounds wonderful. Another bookmarked. 🙂

  3. On the way to Safeway… added ingredients to my list. Very likely to make this tonight!

  4. Levana, glad you like the photos.

    Carla, love to hear how you like it if you try a gluten-free version.

    Joanne, it was definitely a keeper!

  5. You so rarely post pasta dishes that when you do, I know they must be REALLY good! I adore both arugula and basil so this pasta dish was pretty much meant for my taste buds!

  6. Wow! That looks delish! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love your step by step pictures..it is easy to follow…thanks for sharing this recipe…:-)

  8. I'm glad this idea is appealing to others with an abundance of basil in the garden. I'm definitely planning to make it again when my basil needs trimming again!

  9. This is great – I'm looking for ways to use basil this year. It is planted all over the place at the farm, and this year, I want to make the most of it, and use up some of the pasta I've stocked up on all year!

  10. Kalyn, what a wonderful "no-cook" pasta dish for the summer using fresh produce from your own garden! That's what I love about summer – simple, no-fuss recipes. Fresh produce doesn't need much, perfect for the lazy days of summer!

  11. Ok, Yum is right & perfect timing. I have an abundance of arugula & my basil is going strong, so this is a fabulous way to use it! Thanks once again Kalyn, for a great recipe!

  12. Thanks for the nice feedback everyone. And the funny thing about the photos is that my "good" camera is still in the shop, so these photos are taken with the Canon Rebel I bought in 2006! I'm glad I didn't sell it.

  13. The photos are excellent. They tell the whole story!

  14. This pasta looks really good, Kalyn. I'll try it, probably with baby spinach.

  15. This is my kind of pasta! It looks so good!

  16. looks delicious, Kalyn.

  17. Oh yeah, pine nuts would be a great addition to this!

  18. Yummmmy, yummmmmy, yummmmmy…it's like love in your tummy if you add some toasted pine nuts, too!!!

  19. Nancy, it was really a hit at my house!

  20. Kalyn this penne pasta dish sounds really delicious!