Easy weeknight pasta doesn’t have to mean a jar of marinara. (Though, don’t get me wrong, I love that, too.) I’m just confident—nay, convinced—that no matter how bare your fridge and pantry, if you have a box of pasta, you have dinner.
Italian food is all about simplicity. You know, less-is-more ingredient lists, fuss-free techniques. That’s what makes pasta such a got-home-from-work-late champ. Put a pot of water on the stove. Figure the rest out between then and when the timer strikes al dente.
And drink a glass of wine while doing it.
Here are my 6 most tried-and-true ingredients, plus a recipe to show each off. Use these suggestions less like a rulebook and more like a playbook. (Emphasis on play.)
The formula: 1/4 pound pasta + 2 fried eggs
We learned this trick from our co-founder Amanda’s sister Rhonda, who learned it from [Naples at Table] by Arthur Schwartz. Permission to eat pasta for breakfast: granted. (Sorry, toast.) Rhonda tops her version with pangrattato, or olive oil–fried breadcrumbs with lemon zest and herbs.
Spaghetti + crispy bacon + fried eggs + crumbled toast
Rigatoni + so much lemony sautéed kale + fried eggs
Bucatini + miso–brown butter + fried eggs + nori pieces
The formula: 1/2 pound pasta + 1 can tuna
Better than George Clooney? You have to try it to believe it. Food52er boulangere had this “best thing I have ever tasted in my entire life” combination on her first night in Florence. She adds in pan-fried tomatoes, wilted spinach, and lemon juice.
Linguine + olive oil + canned tuna + parsley
Bucatini + tomato sauce + canned tuna + olives
Penne + lemony mayo + canned tuna + capers
The formula: 1/2 pound pasta + 1 cup Greek yogurt
Saved by our community members 1,845 times, it’s safe to say you’re as obsessed with Diane Kochilas’ yogurt pasta as we are. The creamiest, dreamiest sauce comes together like that (snaps fingers) and we love its tangy, bright flavor. Just don’t forget to save the pasta water to thin the yogurt—it makes the dish.
Shells + Greek yogurt + frozen peas + mint (like this)
Tagliatelle + Greek yogurt + sautéed spinach (like this)
Rigatoni + Greek yogurt + tons of lemon zest + pecorino
The formula: 3/4 pound pasta + 1 1/2 pounds alliums
The recipe above knows this, too: Cooked-into-oblivion alliums are a pasta’s best friend. They also last
a lifetime a while in your pantry, so you probably always have some around. This version, adapted from Beard on Pasta cooks a boatload of onions for 1 hour (yep, 1 hour!), stirs in some booze, and tops the whole thing off with cheese.
Tagliatelle + braised leeks + fried breadcrumbs
Penne + braised red onions + radicchio + Manchego
Pappardelle + onions + minced anchovies
The formula: 1 pound pasta + 1 1/2 cups grated cheese
Cacio e pepe is the lazy way to make mac and cheese. And I mean that as a compliment. Most recipes opt for Pecorino Romano, but who are you if not a rule-breaker? Try Parmesan, asiago, even fontina or Gruyère or extra-sharp cheddar. And the pepper? Feel free to showcase another spice, too—just add to taste.
Bucatini + Pecorino Romano + ground pink pepper
Penne + cheddar + ground mustard + ground cayenne
Fusilli + Gruyère + crushed, toasted fennel seeds
The formula: 1/2 cup bean-sized pasta + 1 can beans
You know what’s just as shelf-stable as pasta? Beans. Victoria Granof’s Pasta con Ceci takes chickpeas, tomato pasta, garlic, and olive oil and makes dinner magic. But chickpeas don’t deserve all the fun. (A lot of it, sure, but not all of it.)
Orzo + white beans + olive oil + lemon zest + dill
Elbows + pintos + sautéed kielbasa, bell peppers
Ditalini + chickpeas + any-greens pesto
What’s your go-to pantry pasta? Tell us about it in the comments!