Vegetarian One-Pot Pastas You Can Zip Through in 20 Minutes

They're easy & cheesy.

April 24, 2019
Photo by Ana Cuba

It is truly no secret that I love pasta—I mean, really love it. I eat it at least twice, sometimes three times, a week. My last meal on this planet would definitely, without a single doubt, be a big plate of whole-wheat spaghetti (don't @ me), drenched in Marcella Hazan's iconic tomato sauce and snow-capped with salty Parmesan cheese. (Okay, you get the point.)

Other than being, well, super delicious, pasta is reliably quick and simple weeknight fodder. With pasta, I can pretty much always have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes—15 minutes, if I really move sharpish.

But even for me, pasta is not always the right kind of meal: For one, even spending 30 minutes cooking is sometimes overextending myself. And pasta can get a little repetitive. Not to mention, vegetarian pasta dishes can be lacking on the protein front, especially ones with speedy cook times. So how do I keep my pasta dinners uber-quick, and fresh, balanced, and exciting?

Cue Anna Jones, Guardian columnist, four-time cookbook author, and renowned food stylist. Both professionally and personally, Anna embraces a vegetarian, plant-forward lifestyle, and also understands the realities of a jam-packed weeknight.

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Top Comment:
“My one pot favorite is rotini, fresh broccoli florets and roasted red peppers (jar). When the rotini is almost done, add the broccoli to the water. Drain, then add the sliced peppers and all your seasonings -- EVOO, salt, pepper, garlic, Italian seasonings, etc., etc. ”
— Terry

I've noticed two wonderful things about Anna's cooking: 1) She cooks with the seasons, so her recipes change up pretty often throughout the year, but always capture the best vegetable offerings, and 2) In these seasonal offerings, everything from pasta to traybakes to soups and salads, Anna thoughtfully, intently layers textures and flavors. She'll add heft to most meals with nuts, beans, lentils, and hardy grains. She'll turn to bright, fresh herbs; sharp and salty cheeses; and zingy citrus zest to add punch. Each ingredient has a clear, important role in the dish.

Recently, in a weeknight dinner rut, I turned to the "spring" section of Anna's book for ideas, and hit the pasta jackpot. (It was a Tuesday, and I was pretty exhausted after work.) Luckily for me, Anna has perfected the art of the "one-pan pasta," and in her several recipes for them in the book, employs the same seasonal and textural creativity that I love so much about her cooking style.

Below, you'll find a couple of Anna's perfect one-pan pastas—one that uses bunches of fresh, springy greenery (literally!); the other, a pasta I know I'll turn to again and again in the late summer and beyond. Best news is, they're both made with totally unfussy ingredients, and are ready in some 15 to 20 minutes.

One-Pan Pea, Lemon & Asparagus Pasta

In this dish, Anna cleverly uses the starch from spaghetti, fresh peas and asparagus, and Parmesan or pecorino cheese to create a thick, velvety sauce to coat the pasta. When the pasta's cooked, she adds in sorrel, a bright, lemony, springtime green, roughly torn basil or mint, and the zest and juice of two lemons. It's done in about 15 minutes, and is basically April in a bowl.

One-Pan Squash, Caper & Kale Pasta

Here, Anna creates another self-saucing pasta, using a few smartypants moves. First, she sears quick-cooking, thin-skinned delicata squash (though you could use peeled butternut, or even big chunks of summer squash), and to this adds the pasta and the boiling water.

The starch from the squash and pasta water creates a sauce, along with curly kale leaves and some thinly sliced, full-of-flavor kale stems; Parmesan or pecorino; whole-wheat rigatoni or penne; and half a can of pre-cooked green lentils to near-instantly bulk things up (whole-wheat pasta gives off slightly less starch than its durum cousins). Anna also packs in a ton of flavor with a cube of vegetable bouillon, and two whole tablespoons of drained baby capers.

And these two variants are just the tip of the iceberg: You can apply the same one-pot technique Anna uses in these dishes to just about any quick-cooking vegetable/pasta combo. Just use a pasta shape with a cooking time of about 8 minutes, and maintain the right ratio of water-to-pasta (4 1/2 cups—a liter—of water for 12 ounces of pasta). A farfalle/broccoli floret/cherry tomato situation, with plenty of lemon and Parm, might very well be dinner tonight.

What are your favorite one-pan pasta combos? Let me know in the comments!
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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Leslee Paul
    Leslee Paul
  • Noreen Fish
    Noreen Fish
  • Terry
  • David Kmetz
    David Kmetz
  • Harpreet Chohan
    Harpreet Chohan
Brinda is the Director of Content at Food52, where she oversees all site content across Food52 and Home52. She likes chewy Neapolitan pizza, stinky cheese of all sorts, and tahini-flavored anything. Brinda lives in Brooklyn with 18 plants and at least one foster pup (sometimes more). Find her at @brindayesterday on Twitter and Instagram.


Leslee P. May 19, 2019
It would be very helpful to calibrate pasta recipes to 8 or 16oz. The easiest way to divide a package is in half. Being left with 4oz of pasta is annoying.
Noreen F. May 5, 2019
Last night we had spaghetti with ramps. SO tasty. I confess I used two pots, but you could totally do it in one.
Brinda A. May 19, 2019
Oh wow, ramps—'tis the season! Love it, Noreen, thanks for reading.
Terry April 29, 2019
My one pot favorite is rotini, fresh broccoli florets and roasted red peppers (jar). When the rotini is almost done, add the broccoli to the water. Drain, then add the sliced peppers and all your seasonings -- EVOO, salt, pepper, garlic, Italian seasonings, etc., etc.
Brinda A. May 19, 2019
Yum, sounds so good, Terry!
David K. April 28, 2019
Love the dish - why this obsession with a sound track? I don't need music to enhance
my enjoyment of videos, of any stripe. Please stop. Thank you.
Harpreet C. April 24, 2019
sorry to be a pedant but Parmesan is not vegetarian
Brinda A. April 24, 2019
Thanks for reading, Harpreet! I can definitely update the article above to say so, but by Parmesan, I don't necessarily mean Parmigiano-Reggiano. Anna specifies in the linked recipes that she prefers to use Parmesan that's made with vegetable enzymes, rather than animal rennet (and I do, too!). A few animal-rennet-free Parmesan options: Organic Valley Shredded Parmesan, Trader Joe's Grated Parmesan, and Belgioioso Vegetarian Parmesan (you can get this one in a wedge and grate it yourself). Hope this helps!
Harpreet C. April 24, 2019
thanks - I did say I was being a pedant ;)
in the UK they're mostly called 'hard cheese' or 'Italian style hard cheese'
they're generally not allowed to call it Parmesan
Jenna April 29, 2019
Parmigiana is not vegan. It is very much vegetarian. If you don’t want to use it leave it out or swap it for a vegan version. They have plenty of these mock “cheeses” on the market.
LMS May 19, 2019
Also sorry to be a pedant 😉But there is a difference between vegetarians (who usually eat eggs and cheese) and vegans, who eat neither.
delicia.sampson.7 May 19, 2019
Harpreet is referring to the animal rennet that is used in the cheese making process for most cheeses. The author does a good job of explaining alternatives...
Some other vegan substitutes can be seasoned ground and toasted bread crumbs or nuts, in place of vegan or vegetarian cheeses.
Brittanyann May 22, 2019
Thank you for your comment. I'm probably the only one who didn't already know what pedant means, but thanks to you I learned a new word today.
Bill October 22, 2019
use braggs nutricanol yeast it is vegan and has a nutty cheese flavor
Emma L. April 24, 2019
One-Pan Squash, Caper & Kale Pasta! I need.