When making tortelloni filled with spinach and ricotta, I sometimes end up with leftover filling. It occurred to me that it would make a very nice pasta sauce, so I added a little cream to the spinach and ricotta mixture and it was delicious—so much so that I’ve been making it just to use as a pasta sauce. Serve the pasta and sauce at once.–Giuliano Hazan

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta FAQs

Can I use low-fat ricotta cheese?

We don’t recommend it. As author Giuliano Hazan notes, whole-milk ricotta will give you the best results.

How can I make this spinach penne pasta dish faster?

We’re all for getting this quick and easy pasta on the table as quickly as possible. Use pre-washed bagged baby spinach to save yourself a few minutes.

What else can I make with spinach and ricotta?

If you love the creamy combination of spinach and ricotta, or simply need to use up extra ingredients, try using it as a filling for homemade pasta, or make this spinach and ricotta gnudi.

A white serving bowl filled with penne with spinach-ricotta sauce.

Penne with Spinach-Ricotta Sauce

4.80 / 5 votes
When making tortelloni pasta with spinach and ricotta filling, I sometimes end up with leftover filling. It occurred to me that it would make a very nice pasta sauce, so I added a little cream to the spinach and ricotta mixture and this penne with spinach-ricotta sauce was born!
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories640 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time20 minutes
Total Time30 minutes


  • Salt
  • 6 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 pound penne
  • 3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


  • Fill a pot with about 6 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
  • Pour about 1 inch of water in a second pot, one that's large enough to contain the spinach, and bring to a boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the spinach and cook until quite tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
  • Drain the spinach in a colander, pressing on it with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer the spinach to a cutting board and finely chop it.
  • Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion. Place the butter and onion in a large skillet over medium-high heat and sauté until the onion turns a rich golden color, about 5 minutes.
  • When the water for the pasta is boiling, add 2 tablespoons salt and the penne and stir well. Cook until al dente.
  • When the onion is ready, add the spinach to the skillet and sauté, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add the ricotta, cream, and nutmeg, and cook, stirring, until the ricotta is heated through and the cream has reduced considerably, 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and season accordingly with salt and pepper, then remove from the heat.
  • When the penne is done, drain it well, toss it with the spinach and ricotta sauce and the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and serve at once.

Adapted From

Thirty Minute Pasta

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 640 kcalCarbohydrates: 92 gProtein: 25 gFat: 18 gSaturated Fat: 11 gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 4 gTrans Fat: 1 gCholesterol: 53 mgSodium: 296 mgPotassium: 542 mgFiber: 5 gSugar: 6 gVitamin A: 4552 IUVitamin C: 13 mgCalcium: 306 mgIron: 3 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Giuliano Hazan. Photo © 2009 Joseph De Leo. All rights reserved.

About David Leite

David Leite has received three James Beard Awards for his writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating

1 Comment

  1. 5 stars
    This pasta is mild and luscious, reminiscent of creamed spinach but much lighter. We served it two ways: my husband had his with parmesan and I had mine with mizithra. Both were delicious. I think it might also be very good to puree the sauce, especially if you are working with frozen spinach or spinach which is past its prime.