25 Weeknight Dinners to Make With a Box of Pasta|Recipes Spots

  • on October 1, 2023
25 Weeknight Dinners to Make With a Box of Pasta

Close-up on a skillet of chicken piccata pasta
Simply Recipes / Nick Evans

I love pasta. I could eat it almost every night of the week and not get bored. Pasta comes in so many different shapes and can be made into soups, salads, and a plethora of comforting dinners. What I don’t love is when a recipe doesn’t use the whole box.

As a recipe developer, I try hard to follow recipes as written. I know how much work goes into writing and testing recipes. But my best intentions go out the window when I see a pasta recipe that doesn’t use all 16 ounces. I refuse to leave four ounces behind so I usually go ahead and use it all. Sometimes my blatant disregard for a recipe works out fine and sometimes I regret my decision. 

I want to save you from my mistakes. It’s easier to find a recipe that uses the whole box than I thought. And since some boxes of pasta weight only 12 ounces, we included a few of those, too. Below are 25 weeknight-friendly pasta dishes that you and your family will love. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to use the rest of the can of tomato paste while I’m at it.

Warm Caprese Pasta

Bowl of 5-ingredient warm caprese pasta at a table setting with a table napkin, salt and pepper shaker, a small bowl of basil, and a stack of plates
Simply Recipes / Photo by Fred Hardy II / Food Styling by Ana Kelly / Prop Styling by Shell Royster

Slip into cooler weather with a warm pasta salad for dinner. Warm the cherry tomatoes on the stove with olive oil, which makes them juicier and fuller flavored. You can serve the pasta warm or at room temperature.

Easy Pasta With Winter Greens

Swiss chard, lemon, and parmesan pasta heaped in a low bowl.
Alison Bickel

This striking pasta comes together faster than you’d think. Blanch Swiss chard in your boiling water before cooking the pasta. Then blend it with some pasta cooking water with lemon juice and zest, garlic, and a little Parm.

Paccheri with Quick Sausage Ragu

Pot of Paccheri With Quick Sausage Ragu With a Spoon, and in the Surroundings, a Glass, a Block of Parmesan, a Stack of Plates, and Basil Leaves
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Unlike most ingredients, bigger pasta doesn’t take longer to cook than smaller pasta, so go ahead and swing for the thick and long paccheri. If you can’t find it, rigatoni is a good substitute. Dinner is ready in 30 minutes flat.

Green Goddess Pasta Salad

Bowl of Green Goddess Pasta Salad
Simply Recipes / Lori Rice

Get out your blender and make a zippy, refreshing pasta salad. Use the blender to make the dressing and then cook the pasta and chopped vegetables in the same pot. Any small pasta will work in place of the medium shells, so use what you have in the pantry. Add in a can of drained white beans for a full meal. 

Creamy Miso Mushroom Pasta

Two Plates of Creamy Miso Mushroom Pasta
Simply Recipes / Hannah Zimmerman

Miso and mushrooms add a savory umami flavor to a simple box of spaghetti noodles. Look for white miso in the refrigerated section near the tofu.

No-Cook Tomato Basil Pasta

Bowl of No Cook Tomato Sauce Pasta with a Fork
Simply Recipes / Sarah Tane

You had me at no-cook. Instead of using heat to bring the ingredients together, this recipe uses the refrigerator. The trick is to use really ripe tomatoes. Stir the no-cook sauce into the warm linguine and enjoy.

One-Pot Mac and Cheese

One pot mac and cheese topped with cracker topping
Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe

Cook your macaroni directly in the sauce. Cream cheese is the key to this rich and creamy (and easy) mac and cheese.

Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca
Elise Bauer

Make this classic Italian pasta dish whenever you need a comforting meal and don’t have time to go to the store. Stock anchovies, olives, capers, and canned tomatoes and make a restaurant-quality sauce in less than an hour. Serve over spaghetti or linguine.

Creamy One Pot Pasta with Zucchini

Bowl of Creamy One Pot Pasta with Zucchini
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

One pot pastas are the gold standard for weeknight cooking. As an added bonus, the mountain of shredded zucchini basically disappears in the finished dish.

Pressure Cooker Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera in the Pressure Cooker
Coco Morante

Do you always overcook your pasta? Let the Instant Pot help. The pressure cooker keeps track of the cooking time so you can sit and scroll. Make this recipe in two steps: first, cook the vegetables. Then cook the pasta. Mix them together, then serve a flavorful dinner with only one pot to clean.

Sausage, Asparagus, and Mustard Strozzapreti

Pasta with mustard sauce, Italian sausage, and asparagus in a bowl and topped with shredded parmesan.
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Using quick-cooking proteins, hassle-free vegetables and a fun pasta shape will remind you why pasta night is your favorite night. Whole grain mustard, milder than Dijon, is ideal for this dish. Use penne or ziti in place of the strozzapreti if you like.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto

Whole Wheat Pasta with Kale Pesto
Sally Vargas

Whole wheat pasta has a slightly nutty flavor that pairs well with robust pestos. Kale pesto is a quick way to use up a bunch of kale. Blanching it softens the flavor and also helps the sauce stay a vibrant green.

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Pasta With Garlic and Oil)

Spaghetti Aglio e Olio (Pasta With Garlic and Oil) Topped with Parsley and Parmesan
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

The epitome of easy, this classic pasta is made with four ingredients and a couple seasonings. Though it’s always a good idea to save back some pasta water, you’ll be disappointed if you forget this time. Set a glass measuring cup next to the pot to help you remember.

Smashed Tomato Pasta

Smashed Tomato Pasta on a Serving Platter Next to a Block of Parmesan on a Plate
Simply Recipes / Alison Bickel

Whenever the thought of standing over a stove to stir a pot of tomato sauce seems like too much (aka every work day), turn to this quick and easy recipe. Roast roma tomatoes until they’re soft and juicy. Smash the tomatoes and stir into a pot of cooked pasta. You can roast the tomatoes ahead of time and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

Chicken Piccata Pasta

How to Make Chicken Piccata with Pasta
Nick Evans

Classic flavors, updated presentation. Instead of serving the crispy chicken on the side, this recipe chops the chicken and adds it directly to the pasta and lemon sauce. Serve with a green salad.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe
Jessica Gavin

Cacio e pepe relies on quality cheeses and freshly ground pepper for unforgettable results. Look for long pasta like bucatini or spaghetti noodles to coat in the luscious sauce.

Fusilli With Vegetables and Breadcrumbs

Bowl of Fusilli With Spring Vegetables and Breadcrumbs Next to a Glass, a Bowl of Breadcrumbs, and a Another Bowl of Pasta
Simply Recipes / Mihaela Kozaric Sebrek

The toasty breadcrumb upgrade makes this easy, creamy pasta a big winner. And a tub of mascarpone makes the sauce a breeze.

Angel Hair Pasta with Quick Cherry Tomato Sauce

Angel Hair Pasta with Quick Cherry Tomato Sauce
Sheryl Julian

Grab a pint of the end-of-summer tomatoes for this ultra-fast pasta dinner. Angel hair pasta is a delicate pasta that cooks fast, so you’ll be eating in 20 minutes or less.

Greek Pasta Salad

Gluten Free Greek Pasta Salad
Sabrina Modelle

If you like pasta chock full of vibrant colors and flavors, then look no further than this Greek pasta salad. The olive oil dressing adds an herby undertone to the garden-fresh vegetables and pasta. As much as you may want to, don’t skip soaking the sliced onion. You’ll appreciate the way it mellows the flavor.

Spring Shrimp Scampi With Peas and Mint

Spring Shrimp Scampi With Peas and Mint on an oval platter.
Shrimp Scampi with Peas and Shrimp

No matter the season, I’ll eat a pile of shrimp tossed with ricotta, peas, and spaghetti. This bright pasta dish comes together quickly. You’ll be eating in 35 minutes.

Pasta With Turkey Meatballs and Roasted Vegetables

Pasta With Turkey Meatballs and Roasted Vegetables in a what shallow bowl.
Coco Morante

Mini turkey meatballs entice even the youngest members of the family to come to dinner. The meatballs and vegetables bake in the oven while the pasta cooks on the stovetop. You can speed the process up by buying pre-made turkey meatballs, but I can guarantee they won’t be as cute.

Pasta with Ricotta and Pan-Fried Tomato Sauce

Pasta with ricotta and pan-fried tomato sauce in a bowl
Alison Bickel / Simply Recipes

Stuffed shells wow on special occasions but when it comes to the weeknights, I’m looking for a less labor-intensive meal. This pasta dish takes the same flavors of stuffed shells and leaves us with a bowl of warming pasta in just 30 minutes.

Pasta with Artichoke Hearts, Sun Dried Tomatoes, and Toasted Almonds

Pasta with Artichoke Hearts & Sun Dried Tomatoes
Elise Bauer

Dairy-free eaters rejoice! It’s not easy finding a pasta dish that isn’t improved with a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, but here’s one. Chopped, toasted almonds add the nuttiness to this dish without the added dairy.

Chicken Pasta with Thyme-Mint Cream Sauce

Chicken Pasta with Thyme and Mint
Elise Bauer

I always sprinkle fresh herbs on my pasta, but this recipe takes it a step further and includes them in the sauce itself. The mint and thyme cut the richness of the cream sauce and add a layer of flavor you didn’t know you needed.

Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad

Smoked Salmon Pasta Salad
Elise Bauer

Swap out mild-flavored fresh salmon for smoked salmon. Plus, it’s already cooked! The rest is easy. Cook pasta and mix it with chopped vegetables, lemon juice, and mayonnaise. Leftovers make a great lunch.

Article Categories:
Dishes · Salad · Salmon · Soups

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