There is probably no category of food more accessible, more universally popular, more versatile, and more suited to quick weeknight dinners than pasta. If you have a box or bag of pasta in the pantry, you essentially have dinner. Even if you haven’t had time to plan ahead or stop at the market, you can likely pull together a meal with ingredients from your fridge and your pantry. Most pasta recipes are highly flexible, so don’t feel bound to specific ingredients or quantities. You can substitute for and adapt these simple recipes to suit your taste, style, and pantry stock.
There are pastas to be found in many cuisines and cultures, ranging from couscous in the Middle East to buckwheat or rice noodles in Asia. Most of the recipes below rely on Italian-style wheat and semolina-based pasta, what we know as dried pasta.
There are lots of dried pastas on the market, from supermarket brands (and plenty of those are great! Ronzoni, DeCecco, and more), and then there are more specialty brands, which are a little pricier. There are also artisanal dried pastas, many of which are bronze-die cut, which means they were cut or extruded using bronze dies. This gives the outer surface of the pasta a bit more texture, which helps the sauce cling better. You can use any dried pasta you like in the following recipes. Just make sure to check the cooking instructions and times on the packages. Get tips for cooking perfect pasta every time.
And yes, pasta is often the best and easiest answer to the “what’s for dinner?” question. But of course, pasta is about more than main courses and dinners. A pasta side dish always rounds out a meal beautifully, and pasta can also be featured in soups and casseroles. Don’t forget about smaller portions of pasta as a first course for a more elaborate meal. Beyond these simple pasta recipes, you can also explore an assortment of terrific pasta salads. Without further ado, let’s get to those pasta recipes.
20 Best Simple Pasta Recipes
We’ll start with one of the quickest easiest pastas in the vast Italian repertoire. This fast and easy recipe, which translates to "cheese and pepper," is a perfect example of the best of simple Italian cooking, and a quick weeknight dinner made from pantry ingredients. The simplicity of the dish is belied by the satisfying creamy, cheesy results.
Pasta and broccoli rabe are terrific partners. This classic Italian pasta dish often includes sausage of some kind, and you could surely add it here, but I was leaning into a less meaty dish, and actually love broccoli rabe enough to want it all by its lonesome in this recipe. Leave out the Parmesan and the anchovies if you want to make this pasta vegan.
This classic sauce can be enjoyed in all of its simplicity (ANY kind of pasta goes with marinara sauce, but spaghetti or angel hair or another long skinny type is my noodle of choice). Or, you can use it as the base of other pasta dishes, like Baked Tortellini, or as the sauce for a Meatball Sub, or as a dipping sauce for Fried Calamari.
This flavorful 5-ingredient pasta features chicken sausage (or the sausage of your choice) plus nutritious kale. Pick the chunky pasta shape of your choice for this total weeknight pasta.
A super-solid, super-satisfying cold weather pasta casserole — kind of a deconstructed lasagna. You can use any meat sauce (or even a vegetarian tomato sauce) in place of the Bolognese. Just make a simple green salad, and you are good to go.
There are plenty of pasta and kale recipes out there, but this one is special. It's the Parmesan-infused pan-fried fresh breadcrumbs that make the dish. I like a long skinny pasta in this one.
Cheesy, satisfying, and special, this is one of the best baked pasta dishes around. I use a combination of ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan in this recipe, but you can mess around with the cheese choices as you like. And if you want to replace the ground turkey with ground beef, that’s great, and if you want to leave it out for a vegetarian pasta, that’s great, too!
The classic easy combination of olive oil, garlic, and pasta is seasoned with salt and pepper plus red pepper flakes and loosened up with a bit of pasta cooking water. Simple perfection in 15 minutes.
This pasta has so much going on in terms of flavor, color, texture, and just plain deliciousness. Make this in the height of tomato season for a real treat. You can use halved cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, beef steak tomatoes, or any tomato that’s ripe and ready to eat.
This pasta takes its inspiration from the classic Italian-American wedge combo (the sandwich some of us look forward to when we get to a great street fair in Little Italy!). Here, bound together with a rich tomato sauce, the sausage and peppers take center stage in a very hearty tomato-based sauce paired with the chunky pasta of your choice.
Vodka sauce has an additional layer of lushness and richness thanks to the addition of cream and deepened flavor from a bit of vodka. This is totally a notch up from anything you’ll find in a jar and much easier than you might think. Ziti or rigatoni would be good in place of the penne.
This perfect Italian classic makes people so happy and will never go out of style. My dad often requested this when I asked him what he wanted me to make. Add in some garlic bread and a salad and maybe stick a candle in an old Chianti bottle. Invite over Lady and the Tramp. You might also want to make this with Slow Cooker Meatballs.
A spicy red sauce makes this classic Italian-American shrimp and pasta dish irresistible (go for big shrimp!).
Feta, zucchini, and tomato are classic Greek ingredients and they come together in this pasta like they've known each other forever. I love this hot, warm, or at room temperature. When your garden is bursting at the end of the summer, this is the pasta to make.
This is pure Italian comfort food: Chicken Parmesan translated into a pasta casserole. Use any plain cooked chicken you like, whether roasted, poached, grilled, or sautéed, or feel free to lean on a purchased rotisserie chicken for a convenient shortcut. Dried or fresh herbs will be great, and fresh or packaged mozzarella are both fair game.
Easy and soul-satisfying. You have undoubtedly read intros to recipes that boast that the sauce for the pasta can be made in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the noodles. This is definitively one of those pastas. But it doesn’t taste easy. It tastes like Fettuccine Alfredo. Add a touch of garlic, a bit of freshness from chopped parsley, and possibly a sprinkle of hot pepper flakes at the end to balance the soft richness of the sauce.
This 30-minute pasta with a tomato-based sauce is assertively flavored with garlic and red pepper flakes and is so simple to pull together for a hearty weeknight dinner.
When ramps are in season in spring, you’ll want to make the most out of the ultra-seasonal ingredient. And if you’re new to cooking ramps, this is a simple, easy way to get started, and really taste the ramps for the special spring wild food that they are. It couldn’t be easier, and you can use whatever pasta you like, though I love the way a long, skinny noodle shimmies up to the long, skinny ramps.
You can adapt this recipe how you want, adding anything from other seasonings to cubes of cooked chicken to crumbled bacon to small pieces of cooked broccoli, and so on and so on. Use all kinds of cheeses, from cheddar to provolone to Gruyère to Emmenthal to gouda, and add a bit of some harder grated cheese (such as Parmesan) at the end for piquant flavor. Once you make it once or twice, you’ll have it down. Since you can make the sauce while you boil the pasta, you are not looking at a whole lot of time here. If you have grated cheese ready to go, the whole thing can come together in 20 minutes or so…not a whole lot longer than it takes to make it from a box.
This easy 30-minute pasta recipe is a satisfying, quick, and easy weeknight dinner. If you've ever felt daunted by the idea of cooking clam pasta at home, then just jump right into this recipe made with an ample amount of canned clams and a wonderfully garlicky and brothy sauce.