There's really no food that's more last minute than pasta. In fact, most pasta recipes should be made at the last minute. But many pasta sauces take a long time to cook! These recipes rely on convenience foods or are designed to be so simple that they take less than 20 minutes to make, start to finish.
Always keep several different types and shapes of pasta on hand. Spaghetti, linguine, and fettuccine are used in most of these recipes simply because they're the shape most used with simple sauces.
Cooking pasta is easy but does take a bit of practice. You need a large pot full of salted, boiling water, some pasta, and patience. You must test the pasta until it's perfectly done, or al dente, an Italian term meaning "to the tooth". Perfectly cooked pasta is tender, yet firm, with a slightly firmer center. Fish a strand of pasta out of the water toward the end of cooking time and taste it. It should not taste floury but should be firm. There should not be a solid white dot in the center of the pasta, but the center should look a bit more opaque. You'll know perfectly cooked pasta when you taste it!
Drain the pasta immediately and add to the sauce. The sauce should wait for the pasta, not the other way around. In fact, experienced cooks know that if you take the pasta out of the boiling water just before it's done, then toss it in the sauce for a minute or two, the pasta will finish cooking and absorb some of the sauce's flavors. Every time you make pasta it will get easier and taste better.
Enjoy these easy recipes. Master one or two, keep the ingredients on hand at all times and you'll never be at a loss for dinner. Even at the last minute!
Last Minute Pasta Recipes
- Creamy Tomato Pasta
This is my new favorite pasta dish. Most other recipes that include cream cheese in pasta sauce don't use enough cream cheese. And they don't add the onion and extra tomatoes, which I think makes this dish complete. This is perfect.
- Fresh Tomato Pasta
With fresh tomatoes and spicy basil, this wonderful pasta recipe is ready in literally 20 minutes.
- Tomato Pesto Spaghetti
This fabulous recipe can be made any time of the year. Cherry or grape tomatoes are delicious year-round, or you could drain a can of chopped tomatoes (or chop drained whole canned tomatoes) and use those. Or just leave out the tomatoes!
- Skillet Spaghetti
This lovely recipe was one of the first I developed for this site. The pasta is so delicious because it cooks right in the sauce. Stir often and you'll have success!
- Salmon Spaghetti Carbonara
Add cooked salmon fillets and baby peas to a classic Carbonara for this fabulous updated recipe.
- Beefy Spaghetti
This is the spaghetti recipe my mother made when I was growing up. It stretches a pound of ground beef to feed six people. And it's super easy.
- Penne with Creamy Nut Sauce
Nuts and bread form the creamy yet flavorful sauce on pasta in this unusual and delicious recipe. It's perfect for a quick weeknight dinner.
- Classic Fettuccine Alfredo
There's a reason recipes like Fettuccine Alfredo and Spaghetti Carbonara are classics! Italian home cooks have relied on them to put an inexpensive dinner on the table in a hurry.
- Tortellini Simmer
And finally, pair ground beef and tomatoes with tortellini and some cheese for a fast skillet meal everyone will love.