One-Skillet Pasta With Tomatoes, White Beans & Marinated Mozzarella

May 28, 2020
20 Ratings
Photo by Allison Bruns Buford
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 25 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

This hearty, vegetarian pasta dinner delivers lots of cozy, comforting vibes. Strewn with white beans, tomatoes, greens, and lemon zest, the pasta bakes entirely in one skillet and makes its own luscious sauce in the process, all in about 25 minutes. Even better, while the pasta is in the oven, its savory flavors concentrate, the top layer gets brown and crispy, and the bottom layer stays creamy. You can serve the pasta straight from the skillet as is—or do as I do and top with quick-marinated mozzarella to up the flavor and texture more still. The resulting dish has pretty much everything I want from a speedy weeknight dinner: loads of bold, bright flavors, distinct, contrasting textures, and just one skillet to clean.

A few notes: I like orzo or ditalini for this dish because of the way they nestle-up with the beans and greens, but other types of small pasta shapes work well, such as shells, fusilli, or elbow macaroni. If you don’t have white beans, chickpeas stand-in nicely. For the liquid, I use a mix of water and heavy cream, but opt for all water or stock, or half-and-half or milk for the cream. Feel free to substitute other types of greens for the kale, and the mozzarella topper is adaptable, too—marinate feta if that’s what you have, mix together ricotta with a drizzle of olive oil and lemon zest, or just go heavy on the grated Parmesan. —EmilyC

What You'll Need
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, halved and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo or ditalini pasta
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes, juices included (one can)
  • 14 ounces cooked cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained (one can)
  • Finely grated zest plus juice from 1 small lemon
  • 3 cups to 4 cups chopped Tuscan or curly kale, any tough ribs removed (or substitute spinach or chard)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 pinch red chile flakes
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, thyme, oregano) or substitute 1 teaspoon dried oregano or crushed fennel seeds
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces (or substitute feta)
  • Grated Parmesan or pecorino for serving (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onion and a few pinches of salt, and saute for 4 minutes, or until translucent (a little browning around the edges is fine). Add garlic and saute for 1 minute longer.
  3. Lower the heat, and add the tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until it caramelizes and starts to change in color from bright to brick red (about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes in total).
  4. Add water, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet, then add cream, pasta, diced tomatoes (with juices), white beans, lemon zest, kale, salt, and a pinch or two of chile flakes. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir and scrape the bottom of the skillet again. Transfer skillet to the oven (uncovered) and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. (To check for doneness, use a spoon to peek at the bottom of the pan—the liquid should be cooked off, and the pasta loose and creamy. Return to the oven for a few extra minutes, if needed, if the sauce is too soupy.)
  5. While the pasta is baking, make the marinated mozzarella: In a medium bowl, mix the mozzarella with the chopped herbs, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and a pinch of chile flakes and salt. Adjust seasoning and acidity, to taste.
  6. Once the pasta is done, let cool for a few minutes, then top with grated Parmesan (if using) and the marinated mozzarella; lightly stir it into the top layer of the pasta—or pass it on the side so everyone can serve themselves. Serve the pasta straight from the skillet.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jessie Chen
    Jessie Chen
  • Jen Vibul Priddy
    Jen Vibul Priddy
  • Tracy Leming
    Tracy Leming
  • EmilyC

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

33 Reviews

Darian December 31, 2020
This turned out pretty well for us - good enough that I will make it again, but with room for improvement based on lessons learned. I used spinach because we do not care for kale, chose ditalini pasta, marinated feta to use up odds and ends, and reduced water to 2 cups based on other reviews. I still had to cook a little longer (~22 minutes) for the liquid to be right, and the pasta was not mushy but a little more done than desired. So next time I will reduce water a little further and reduce cooking time accordingly (the 15-18 minutes recommended). The mozzarella is probably a better choice as it would melt and incorporate a little better. I did not add parmesan but might try that in the future.
Jessie C. October 18, 2020
Delicious. Could use more kale but great recipe and I'm looking forward to making it again
JV September 2, 2020
Unfortunately this was a flop for us. Taste was okay but the water to pasta ratio was off for us... we ended up with a lot of leftover liquid, like a thin soup, and the pasta was overcooked, almost falling apart. We did use a different shaped pasta (fusilli, one of the suggestions in the intro) so this may have been the issue. Indicating weight measurements for the pasta could have solved for this.... we may retry this with much less water and less time in the oven though. The marinated cheese was delicious and would make again.
Bob August 26, 2020
Great recipe as is! My wife thoroughly enjoyed it. Just make sure that you either double the recipe or have extra handy for the next day because the family will be fighting over who gets to have it for lunch. Compliments, EmilyC!
EmilyC August 26, 2020
Thanks Bob! So glad you and your wife enjoyed this -- leftovers and all! : )
Rsuzy June 29, 2020
Already commented on how great this is but want to add that it also freezes really well. I put in plastic container and covered top with parchment paper before lid. Heated in microwave and was still fabulous and creamy!
EmilyC June 30, 2020
Great to know that it freezes well! Thanks for the tip!
Joanne June 29, 2020
Absolutely delicious! Filling and healthy!
I doubled the recipe and also glad I did.
Looking forward to lunch tomorrow already.
EmilyC June 30, 2020
Wonderful! What type of pan did you use for doubling the recipe? I can include a note in the recipe for others.
Esthi August 17, 2020
I didn't have a big enough skillet, so I used a cast iron Dutch oven which worked perfectly. And that is large enough for a double portion.
Jen V. June 27, 2020
Great recipe and quick to throw together after work. Little work for high reward! Thanks!
EmilyC June 28, 2020
So glad you enjoyed this, Jen! Thanks for your note!
getup8 June 19, 2020
Great recipe. I ended up just having penne and still worked well. Also used spinach which was good, although do think some hearty kale would have been the better call. Still, thoroughly enjoyed.
EmilyC June 20, 2020
So glad, thank you!
Liz June 9, 2020
Terrific dish. We didn't have a 12 inch pan we could put in the oven, so used a shallow braising-style pot. Because of that, there ended up being more liquid - so we will adjust the next time. The flavours are great - it was a big hit in our house!
EmilyC June 11, 2020
Great news! Thanks so much for your note, Liz!
eliza B. June 9, 2020
A big hit! I added extra lemon juice to the dish and it was great. So easy to prep - and really delicious flavor. The liquid didn't completely cook down -- wish I'd had some good crusty bread to soak it up. Next time!
EmilyC June 11, 2020
Great, and yes to crusty bread on the side!
Tracy L. June 8, 2020
This was a rare success for me. I almost never get positive reviews from my family on a new dish, but everyone at the table said this recipe was worth repeating! Woo-hoo! We all enjoyed the flavors and I was excited to have found a vegetarian recipe they actually liked.

There were some problems: I tried to use a 10-inch skillet, so I ended using two skillets and a casserole dish instead of one skillet. Also, I live at high altitude, so I added some extra water, and that made the sauce too thin. Finally, I happened to have half and but not cream, so I substituted, and that also contributed to the thin sauce.

The good news is that these things can all be fixed next time around, and there WILL be a next time!
EmilyC June 11, 2020
Wonderful, so glad you liked it Tracy! It’s a very forgiving dish. When I recently made it, I dumped in the can of diced tomatoes only to realize it was tomato sauce inside (manufacturer packaging problem, I guess!), but it was still good. : )
thewholekumquat June 5, 2020
Made with orechiette, chickpeas, spinach, and pre-shredded mozzarella because that's what I had on hand. A hit!

I don't have a large enough skillet, and so probably should have reduced the amount of liquid at the start. At some point, we decided to stop waiting until it cooked off, and the dish ended up soupier than it should have been. My crowd didn't mind, however.
EmilyC June 6, 2020
Thanks so much for sharing your notes, and so glad it was a hit!
Rsuzy June 2, 2020
Delicious! Had no lemons to zest so substituted 1 and 1/2 tbls bottled lemon juice...not reconstituted...and worked great . I also used Italian seasoning for marinade as my herbs. Was the best recipe online I have tried so far!
EmilyC June 6, 2020
Wonderful! Glad you tried and liked it. Thanks for your feedback.
Claudia June 2, 2020
This was fantastic. What would your advice be as far as how much more liquid to use if I wanted to double the recipe?
EmilyC June 2, 2020
So glad you liked it, Claudia! Good question on doubling. I’ve never tried doing so. Re: the liquid, not sure you’d need to double it — maybe start with 5 to 5.5 cups liquid total, then add more if needed? Also, you might want to use a Dutch oven or a 14-inch skillet if you have one. Just my best guesses. Please report back if you try doubling the recipe!
Claudia June 2, 2020
This was so good. What would your advice be as far as how much liquid to use if I wanted to double this recipe?
rlsalvati June 2, 2020
We loved this. The lemon-tomato-cream sauce is fantastic.
EmilyC June 2, 2020
Thank you—so glad you enjoyed it! : )
JMurov May 31, 2020
This was a big hit. I even found gluten free orzo and the consistency didn’t suffer.
EmilyC June 2, 2020
Wonderful! Good to know that the gluten-free orzo worked well. Thanks for trying this!
mmt710 May 31, 2020
absolutely delicious! added some homemade spicy italian sausage to help clean out the fridge.
EmilyC June 2, 2020
So glad you liked it! Sausage is a great idea. Thanks for you note!