Sunday, June 26, 2011

Penne Pasta Recipe with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce (Meatless)

If you have fresh basil or arugula in your garden, this quick pasta dish is delicious! Use more greens and less pasta if you want a lower-carb version.

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.

I used Dreamfields Pasta to keep the recipe South Beach Diet friendly (and whole wheat pasta would also be good), but if you're not on a diet you can use any type of pasta.  The sauce ingredients are gluten-free, so if you used brown rice pasta or other gluten-free pasta, this would be a gluten-free recipe.

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.

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

Penne Pasta with Wilted Arugula, Basil, Ricotta, and Parmesan Sauce
(Makes about 6 servings, adapted slightly from a recipe by Lori Longbotham for Fine Cooking.)

1 box (13.25 oz.) Dreamfields or 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)

Fill a large pot with water, salt generously, and bring the water to a boil.  Add pasta, start timing,  and cook until barely al-dente.  (Check package for cooking time; I cooked the my pasta for barely ten minutes.)

While pasta cooks, chop the arugula, chop the basil, and zest the lemon.  (Wash the arugula and basil and spin dry if needed.)  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.)

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.  Stir in basil pesto if using.  Add the wilted arugula/basil/pesto mixture to the other sauce ingredients and stir to combine.

When pasta is done scoop out 1/3 cup pasta cooking water and set aside.  Drain pasta into a colander placed in the sink.  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.)  Serve warm or room temperature, with extra freshly grated Parmesan to add at the table if desired.

South Beach Diet Suggestions:
Using Dreamfields Pasta, part-skin ricotta, and decreasing the amount of pasta makes this recipe suitable for Phase 2 or 3 of the  South Beach Diet.  However, even with the use of part-skim ricotta, the generous amount of Parmesan makes it something that I would eat for a small serving, with something like The World's Easiest Grilled Vegetables or Spicy Cabbage Salad on the side.

More No Cook Sauces with Fresh Ingredients:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with No-Cook Sauce of Tomatoes, Arugula, Olives, and Capers from Kalyn's Kitchen

Penne Pasta with Tomato, Olive, and Feta No-Cook Sauce from Kalyn's Kitchen

No-Cook Pasta Sauce with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Thyme from Kalyn's
No-Cook Pasta Sauce with Spinach, Grapefruit, and Pine Nuts from The Passionate Cook

Sun-Dried Tomato No-Cook Sauce from The Italian Dish

Raw Pasta Sauce from One Hot Stove

Pasta with Fresh Heirloom Tomato Sauce from Dula Notes

(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

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More to Chew On:


  1. Kalyn this penne pasta dish sounds really delicious!

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

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

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

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

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

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

  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. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. I love your step by step is easy to follow...thanks for sharing this recipe...:-)

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

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

  17. I'm arugula crazy this summer so you know I think this sounds wonderful. Another bookmarked. :-)

  18. 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).

  19. Kalyn, we have used soooo many recipes off your site; it is a regular 'bookmark' to go to! Thanks for all your recipes .. fantastic!!!
    We're low carbers, using Eades 'Protein Power' book for a few years; very similar I'm sure to south beach and atkins .. and have had great results not only controlling our weight but cholesterol. Your site is terrific!

  20. Judy, thanks. Great to hear the site is useful for you.

  21. You really can't beat a no cook sauce in the summer time. I have to try this out. I've been obsessing about arugula lately and I love that this is meatless with some protein from the ricotta! So fresh looking!

  22. This was delicious, Kalyn! The only change I made was to add some chopped fresh tomatoes (seeded) to the spinach/basil saute. I needed to use them up and they were a nice addition flavor-wise and color-wise.

    I served it as a side dish with grilled chicken and my husband raved. I plan on bringing this to a Fourth of July BBQ on Monday.

    Thanks for another great recipe!

  23. Aggie, I've been known to obsess about arugula myself.

    Molly, I love the idea of adding some tomato this this!

  24. Made this for dinner last night. Kalyn it was delicious! I made half of the recipe for two of us and served it with Italian style chicken sausages! I added a sprinkle of freshly ground nutmeg to the ricotta mixture (a Northern Italian tradition with greens). Excellent!

  25. I think a sprinkle of nutmeg is an excellent idea!

  26. I fixed this tonight, and it was absolutely delicious! I had enough basil in my garden to make the recipe without using the pesto, and we loved the fresh taste. Thanks for a great recipe, Kalyn!

  27. Georgia, glad you liked it. And lucky you to have all that basil!

  28. Oh yum, I'm on such a basil kick lately so this sounds delicious! I need to try that dreamfield pasta, I've heard good things about it.

  29. Aubrey, hope you enjoy! I am waiting for my basil to really start producing, but I'm enjoying the basil I've had so far.

  30. This looks so good! Do you think spinach could be substituted for the arugula?

  31. Yes, I think it would still be very good with spinach, just a little milder tasting.

  32. I've made this several times and it is delicious! Do you think you could add shrimp for some additional protein? Would you need to make more sauce if so?

  33. Maggie, I think shrimp would be great in this. I would probably saute them separately and add at the end. I don't think you'd need more sauce, unless you really like a lot.


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