Top 5 Easy-to-cook Pasta Recipes
Pasta recipes are some of these most versatile dishes out there. Cooking a romantic dinner for two? There’s a pasta recipe for that. Need a quick and easy dinner on a weeknight? There’s a pasta recipe for that. Serving a crowd? There’s one for that too.
Below, you’ll find 5 easy pasta recipes we’ve made and loved on all sorts of occasions – family gatherings, date nights in, and times when I’ve been at a loss for what to cook for dinner. Oftentimes, those nights have yielded the best pasta dinners we’ve had. Turns out, it only takes simple ingredients – olive oil, fresh herbs, and a splash of wine or sprinkle of cheese – to create pasta recipes worth making again and again.
These pasta dishes are some of our favorites. I hope you love them as much as we do!
The first snow came early in Chicago this year. It was barely November and we were driving to an appointment. It was snowing, and then all of a sudden it went from “really charming” to “wow it’s really coming down!” We sat in the cold car way too long, wearing way too-light coats, staring at brake lights and a grey sky. I thought – really – what have we done?? I write a blog about vegetables, I’m shooting a book that’s due before May (when the spring farmers markets open) and we’ve moved so far from the sun!
We got to where we were going – an industrial area in the Pullman neighborhood where, situated on the roof of the Method production facility, is Gotham Greens. I’ve been obsessed with their locally grown greens since the moment I came across their deliciously spicy arugula earlier this year. We got a tour of their rooftop greenhouse, and even though it was cold and miserable outside, it was so warm and sunny up there. There was a sea of the softest butter lettuces, my favorite spicy arugula, and the loveliest scent of fresh basil.
Later that night, with a fridge full of greens and a pantry full of not much else, I made my go-to quick & easy dinner: this five minute pesto pasta. We weren’t about to head out into the snow for any additional groceries, and really, nothing beats pasta in terms of combining bold flavor and easy prep.
How to Make Pesto Pasta
As I said above, making pesto pasta is easy. Here’s all you need to do:
- Blend up a batch of my 6-ingredient basil pesto, or use store-bought pesto in a pinch.
- Cook your pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water according to the package directions.
- Before draining the pasta, reserve some of the starchy pasta water. Then, add 1/4 cup of this pasta water back into the pot with your pesto, and stir to thin the pesto.
- Toss in the cooked pasta, and mix until the pesto thoroughly coats it.
- Add a big handful of arugula and toss until it’s barely wilted.
- Finish everything with a big squeeze of lemon, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and toasted pine nuts.
Lemon Linguine with Roasted Tomatoes
So, you roasted a bunch of tomatoes after Monday’s post. Now what do you do with them? Make linguine pasta, of course! This linguine recipe has been one of our favorite dinners this summer. Along with finely diced roasted lemon, the tomatoes infuse the tangles of linguine noodles with rich, savory flavor. These little guys pack such a punch that all you need is a little cheese, a handful of herbs, and a drizzle of olive oil to perfect this simple, yet elevated, linguine recipe.
If you roast the tomatoes ahead of time, this one is super easy to toss together. So pour a glass of wine, kick back, and soak in the last days of summer with a big plate of pasta!
Summer Linguine Pasta Ingredients
Looking at the recipe below, you’ll notice that this pasta takes inspiration from a quintessential summer dish: Caprese salad! Because tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella are a match made in heaven, I put them front & center here. The tomatoes are the star of the show, while the mozzarella adds creamy richness, and the basil freshens it up.
I accent this classic combo with thyme leaves, crunchy pine nuts, zesty roasted lemon, fresh lemon juice, and bitter arugula for extra green. Salt, pepper, and a generous drizzle of olive oil tie it all together.
Linguine Pasta Variations
This simple recipe is flexible, so feel free to play with it depending on your tastes and what’s in your pantry. Here are a few ideas for changing it up:
- Use your favorite cheese! Crumbled feta or goat cheese would be excellent.
- Switch the pasta! I love linguine pasta here, but another long-cut pasta, like fettuccine or spaghetti, would work too. Or for an all-veggie meal, swap the pasta for roasted spaghetti squash.
- Simplify your pasta by omitting the cherry tomatoes. Add an extra handful of arugula and finish your linguine with a shower of grated Parmesan cheese.
- Make pesto linguine! Skip the thyme, and toss your pasta with a few big scoops of pesto. It’s delicious with the roasted tomatoes, lemon, and fresh mozzarella.
- Make it vegan by skipping the cheese. Add a few handfuls of roasted chickpeas in its place to make this pasta heartier.
You know, the ones that go around the internet this time of year predicting everything from the popularity of coconut oil to the color of pale pink we’ll all be wearing in the spring? One that’s caught my attention lately is that “they” are saying that staying in is the new going out. And I’m totally on board with that. If you’ve had a busy holiday season how good does this sound: Stretchy pants, spaghetti bolognese, wine, and a nice dinner by the fire with twinkly Christmas tree lights in the background?
Ok, just kidding. We don’t have a fireplace, and we haven’t even put up the Christmas tree, because if you remember last year it was FEBRUARY before we got around to taking the thing down. But festivity aside, let’s make pasta, shall we?
What is spaghetti bolognese?
I’m calling this a spaghetti bolognese, although I realize that Italian grandmothers are shaking their heads right about now. In traditional spaghetti bolognese, pasta is topped with a tomato sauce made of aromatic vegetables, red wine, and a mix of beef and pork. While this bolognese sauce is not exactly authentic, it’s equally delicious, made with a hearty mix of mushrooms and lentils that get all stewy with onions, carrots, tomatoes, and rosemary, among other savory ingredients.
My Twist on Spaghetti Bolognese
Hidden in this spaghetti bolognese recipe are some unconventional ingredients. I find that balsamic vinegar and soy sauce bring out a rich flavor in the mushrooms. Sage (to me) has a sausage-like scent, so I used a bit of dried sage to bring a depth of flavor to the sauce. In addition to the lentils, I added some finely crushed walnuts that you won’t detect, but they add some richness to this no-meat situation.
I used canned tomatoes as the base of the sauce and tossed in some sliced fresh tomatoes near the end for no other reason except that I find brown foods exceptionally challenging to photograph.
Aside from that whole not having a Christmas tree thing – Christmas came early because I got the chance to cook with KitchenAid’s new Stainless Steel Cookware set. The polished stainless steel is so fancy! The 12-inch skillet cooked my stewy sauce perfectly, and these pieces were a breeze to clean. Plus, how pretty is this large pot (and Jack’s action-pasta drop shot!):
What to Serve with Spaghetti Bolognese
Cook your pasta until al dente, toss it with the sauce, and serve! We like ours with steamed green veggies or another simple vegetable side. Roasted cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, and zucchini are some of our favorites.
It would also be good with a green salad and crusty bread. Make up your own, or try this arugula salad, this spring salad, this Brussels sprout salad, or this kale salad.
Easy Baked Ziti
Baked ziti is a dish that has a special place in both Jack’s heart and mine. Growing up, I ate it at all sorts of gatherings – graduation parties, holidays, and more – and Jack’s mom makes it every year on Christmas Eve. With the holidays right around the corner, I thought now would be the perfect time to share my baked ziti recipe.
Easy to make and perfect for serving a crowd, it’s the recipe I turn to whenever we’re hosting family or friends, one we’ve made and loved time and time again. Whether you serve it at a holiday feast or on a regular weeknight, I hope you enjoy it too.
My Baked Ziti Recipe
My baked ziti recipe is a fresher take on the versions I ate growing up, which were often filled with ground beef or Italian sausage. I swap homemade marinara sauce for the meat sauce, and then, I amp it up with these three key components:
- Fresh spinach – I sauté a full pound of spinach to make this recipe extra fresh. I love the way it mingles with the noodles, and it adds such a gorgeous pop of green.
- Lemony ricotta – In between the layers of noodles and spinach, I dollop big spoonfuls of lemony ricotta cheese. It gives this baked ziti an incredible creamy richness and a burst of bright flavor. Note: for the best creamy texture, be sure to use whole milk ricotta in this recipe!
- Smoked mozzarella – If it’s what you have on hand, regular mozzarella cheese will work here, but using smoked mozzarella really takes it over the top. It adds a delicious savory flavor to the pasta’s Italian seasoning. You won’t be able to get enough!
Of course, I always finish the whole thing with a big handful of fresh basil and parsley!
How to Make Baked Ziti
Making this baked ziti recipe is easy! Here’s what you need to do:
First, cook the pasta! Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta until it becomes al dente. Be careful not to overcook it! It will soften more while it bakes.
While the pasta cooks, make the lemony ricotta. Mix the ricotta cheese with lemon zest, oregano, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes for a touch of heat.
Next, sauté the spinach. Drain the pasta, and heat a glug of olive oil in the same pot. Sauté the spinach until it’s just wilted. I work in batches here, cooking 1/2 pound of spinach at a time, so that I can take it all off the heat while it’s still vibrant green. Remove the sautéed spinach from the pot, roughly chop it, and set it aside.
Then, mix everything together! Return most of the spinach and all the pasta to the pot, along with all but 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce. Stir until everything is well combined.
Finally, layer it up. Spread the remaining sauce on the bottom of a large casserole dish, and spread half of the pasta mixture over it. Dollop in the ricotta and the reserved spinach, and scoop the rest of the pasta on top. Cover it all with a layer of grated smoked mozzarella and a bit of grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese. Drizzle with olive oil, and bake until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling.
Serve hot, and enjoy!
Roasted Vegetable Lasagna
Vegetarian lasagna was the first big dinner that I learned to make. Even way back in college, veggie lasagna would always be the main event when I made a meal for a group. Nowadays, I still make it anytime I’m serving a crowd, and I love it as a Sunday supper because I can put that day’s farmers market haul to good use. It’s easy, foolproof, and fun to make, and who doesn’t love to share stories at the table over red sauce and pasta?!
I’m not sure why it took me so long to get a great vegetarian lasagna recipe on the site, but now that it’s here, we’re obsessed! This veggie lasagna recipe is savory and satisfying, filled with loads of roasted veggies, a creamy tofu-basil ricotta, noodles, and plenty of marinara sauce. I think you’re going to love it!
Vegetarian Lasagna Recipe Components
My veggie lasagna recipe includes these essential components:
- Roasted vegetables – The caramelized roasted veggies really amp up the flavor in this hearty vegetarian dish. The vegetables cook down as they roast, so a LOT of them can fit in this recipe. I start with over 5 cups of chopped vegetables, and I sprinkle in some chopped kale for good measure! Feel free to swap in whatever veggies you have on hand. I used mushrooms, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, fennel, and carrots, but yellow squash, broccoli, eggplant, and/or bell pepper would also be delicious.
- Tofu-basil ricotta – This dairy-free substitute for ricotta cheese is so yummy that no one will know that they’re eating tofu – promise! I layer the ricotta mixture in between the lasagna noodles, and I top the whole thing with grated mozzarella. Of course, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese would be fantastic here as well.
- Lasagna noodles – Don’t use no-boil lasagna noodles in this recipe. Because the veggies are cooked ahead of time and the tofu mixture takes the place of cheese, there’s no need to bake this dish for as long as you would a traditional lasagna recipe. As a result, no-boil noodles won’t cook through.
- Marinara sauce – I like to make mine from scratch or use jarred Bertolli® Organic Fire Roasted Garlic Marinara. Yum!