Simple suppers: Pasta

Patricia Conte

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An Italian favorite both at home and in restaurants, pasta can be an easy go-to dish when you're looking to make meals that range from elegant to hearty and satisfying enough to bring together a busy family. The possibilities and variety for easy and filling pasta recipes are almost endless. Armed with your favorite pasta sauce and pasta shape from the grocery store, you're on your way to a delicious and simple meal any night of the week.

Vegetable lasagna

Vegetable lasagna

Serves 10 people

Ingredients

  • 1, 24-ounce jar of your favorite marinara sauce (more or less to taste)
  • 8 ounces (about 9-10 noodles) of lasagna noodles
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1/3 cup of carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of fresh mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups of broccoli, coarsely chopped (including the stems)
  • 1, 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1, 15-ounce container of nonfat ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh basil, minced (you can substitute dried basil)
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, minced (you can substitute dried oregano)
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, but omit the salt. Drain and rinse well under cold water. Set noodles aside, set out flat.
  2. In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrot and garlic and cook until the garlic is soft. Add the mushrooms. Cook while stirring, until the moisture from the mushrooms has evaporated. Reduce the heat and add the broccoli. Cover and simmer until the broccoli is crisp-tender (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach and nutmeg.
  3. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the ricotta cheese, seasonings, salt and cornstarch in a small bowl. Stir in 1-1/4 cups of the mozzarella cheese. 
  4. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread out about 2-3 tablespoons of the marinara sauce onto the bottom of the dish. Place about 3 noodles at the bottom of the dish. Spread half the cheese mixture and half the vegetable mixture over the noodles. Pour about half a cup of the marinara sauce over the vegetable layer. Repeat layers and end with the lasagna noodles on top. Pour about half a cup of the marinara sauce over the noodles. Top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. 
  5. Cover the dish and bake for about 30 minutes. Uncover the dish and let bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until it's bubbly and heated through.

Cook time: 55 minutes
Prep time: 15 minutes

Greek pasta salad

Serves 6 people

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of uncooked orzo
  • 1/2 medium cucumber, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup of tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of black Greek olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup of your favorite, low-fat Italian salad dressing
  • 1, 15-ounce can of garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2/3 cup of crumbled feta cheese

Directions

  1. Cook the orzo to desired tenderness, according to package directions, but omit the salt. Drain and rinse with cold water. 
  2. Combine the cooked orzo and the remaining ingredients (except feta cheese). Toss to combine.
  3. Sprinkle with feta cheese and serve.

Cook time: 10 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes

Hearty baked penne 

Serves 6 people

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef
  • 3 cups of penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1, 24-ounce jar of your favorite pasta sauce
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1-1/2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Brown the ground beef in a large skillet along with the Italian seasoning, black pepper, red pepper and garlic. Drain the beef and set it aside. 
  2. Once the ground beef is cooked, add the cooked pasta to the skillet along with the pasta sauce and half the Parmesan cheese. Mix together well.
  3. Spray the inside of a 13x9-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon the pasta mixture into the dish and top it with the remaining Parmesan and mozzarella cheese.
  4. Bake until heated through (about 20 minutes). 

Cook time: 20 minutes 
Prep time: 10 minutes

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Patricia Conte
Patricia Conte is a regular contributor to the SheKnows food and living sections. She is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of professional experience. You can follow her on Twitter, or visit her food blog, Grab a Plate, where she shares her love of food, recipes and bites in between.