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Need pasta recipes? Here are all the best easy pasta dinner ideas, from spaghetti marinara to good old mac and cheese — in order of cook time!

Pasta marinara
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In the mood for easy pasta recipes? Us too. Contrary to previous wisdom, pasta eaten in moderation can be part of a healthy diet. Pasta is seriously versatile, and one of the most delicious ways to eat your veggies. Here we’ve got a collection of our best easy pasta dinner ideas! From simple pasta marinara to a veggie-filled spring roll noodle bowl to cozy mac and cheese, there’s something for everyone.

Tip: Recipes are shown in order of cook time!

Now, a pasta recipe can be easy but take 1 hour, or a recipe can be easy and take 20 minutes! Time is not really of the essence when it comes to pasta. However, we know that most people assume that easy means quick. Below, the recipe are listed in order of cook time from shortest to longest. That way, you’ll know that fast and easy pasta recipes are first, and the total time gradually climbs as you scroll down the list. Ready to cook?

And now, our top pasta dinner ideas!

Is pasta healthy?

Have you been avoiding eating pasta recipes because it’s not typically considered healthy? Good news: a new study found pasta can actually help you lose weight. The Italian researchers found that eaten in moderation, pasta can be part of a healthy diet. This is a full 180 of conventional wisdom, right? Alex and I have been enjoying pasta in moderation for years—so we’re glad it’s back in good graces.

How to cook pasta to al dente

Before we get on to these easy pasta dinner recipes…you must promise us that you will cook your pasta to al dente. Say it with us: “I will cook my pasta to al dente.

What does al dente mean? In Italian it means “to the bite” and it refers to pasta that is still firm on the inside when cooked. You’ll find that al dente pasta tastes so much more satisfying: maybe because it’s a little more work to chew it? You may also find yourself eating less pasta because you have to bite through each piece. Here’s how to cook pasta to al dente:

  • Boil the pasta in a large pot of boiling water.
  • Start taste testing the pasta a few minutes before the package instructions indicate. The pasta should be tender, but still firm on the inside so that it has a little bite. (You may see a tiny bit of white on the inside of the pasta, which is good!)
  • Once it’s ready, immediately drain it! Pasta can go past al dente in a matter of seconds.
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Pasta marinara

Pasta Dinner Ideas: Pasta Marinara & More!


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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 3 to 4 1x

Description

Looking for easy pasta dinner ideas? This marinara pasta recipe features a homemade sauce and comes together in minutes! Boost the nutrients with a few handfuls of spinach, and you’ve got dinner.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 28 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, plus additional for garnish
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves or chopped spinach, tightly packed (optional)
  • 8 ounces spaghetti pasta
  • Parmesan cheese or goat cheese crumbles, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is al dente (start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside). Then drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, place the crushed tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, oregano, kosher salt, whole basil leaves and spinach (if using). Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer 15 minutes.
  3. Pour the marinara sauce over the pasta. Garnish with chopped basil. If desired, serve with Parmesan cheese or goat cheese crumbles: but it’s just as good without!
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Looking for more pasta dinner recipes?

Those were just to get started! We have lots more pasta recipes where those came from:

First up in our pasta dinner ideas: a fan favorite!

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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