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The Secret to Making One-Pot Pasta Without a Recipe
Photo: Liz Andrew/Styling: Erin McDowell

Some nights, you want to spend three hours cooking dinner from scratch. But on a busy weeknight? Yeah, not happening. So we have a solution: One-pot pasta. You throw all of the ingredients—yep, all of them—into the same pot and boil. Dinner’s ready in no time, and you don’t have to deal with a bajillion dirty dishes.

Although there are tons of one-pot pasta recipes online, most follow the same simple formula. And we’re here to tell you that formula, because we want you to be able to create one-pot pasta from ingredients you already have in your pantry. In our opinion, pasta can (and should) be a back-pocket dinner that you whip up when you didn’t have time to go to the supermarket. Here, our pearls—er, noodles—of wisdom.

Use the Correct Water-to-Pasta Ratio

Think about the way you normally make pasta: You bring water to a boil, add pasta and strain the water when the pasta’s done cooking. One-pot pasta works a little differently. You add all of the ingredients and the water to the pot, then bring everything to a boil. The water will cook off, creating a creamy sauce—but you have to add the right amount. Make sure to use 1¼ cups water for every pound of pasta.

Stick with Ingredients You’d Normally Boil

Don’t go throwing raw bacon into the pasta water and expect it to come out crispy. You’re boiling the ingredients, people. Choose ingredients that are meant to be boiled/wilted/simmered, like peas, dark leafy greens, tomatoes or lemon zest.

Go Heavy on the Garnish

Want cheesiness? Or crunch? Or a pop of fresh greenery? Add these ingredients right before serving. For example, you could grate a block of Parmesan cheese over each plate, top the pasta with toasted breadcrumbs or pile on handfuls of fresh herbs. Garnishes add layers of extra flavor and texture, so don’t skimp. 

And just like that, dinner is done. Pass the Parm.

RELATED: One-Pot, 15-Minute Pasta Limone

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