20 Easy Pasta Dinner Ideas

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

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.

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.

Recipes 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!

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Pasta marinara

Easy Homemade Marinara Pasta


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • 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.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 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

Keywords: Pasta Dinner Ideas, Easy Pasta Recipes for Dinner, Pasta Marinara, Homemade Marinara, Marinara Pasta

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!

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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