Martha Stewart’s One-Pan Pasta will forever live in my memory as one of the first—if not THE first—truly viral recipes of the internet. It was published over 10 years ago before social media ruled our coffee breaks or the word “viral” entered our lexicon, and yet seemingly overnight, everyone was making it.
“An entire pasta dinner? In one pot? What magic is this?!” we said while simultaneously reaching into our cupboards for a box of linguini.
And even now, hundreds of viral internet recipes later, this magical recipe still holds up as one of my favorites.
How To Make Martha Stewart’s One-Pan Pasta
The beauty of this recipe is in its sheer simplicity. Using a traditional Italian cooking technique, dry linguini, cherry tomatoes, sliced onions, garlic, and fresh basil go into a pan together. Top with a glug of olive oil and some water, bring to a simmer, and it’s ready to eat in about 15 minutes.
As the pasta cooks, it absorbs the majority of the water and releases starches, creating its own creamy sauce. It truly is creamy—the handful of shredded Parmesan stirred in just before serving is really just gilding the lily.
A Few Tricks I’ve Learned Over the Years
This recipe stands on its own without the need for improvement, but there are a few tricks I’ve picked up over the years:
- Use One Pound of Pasta: Go ahead and use a whole pound of linguini if you want instead of measuring out 12 ounces like the recipe suggests. Personally, I find it awkward to have 1/4 pound of pasta sitting in my cupboard and I’d rather just use the whole box. Add an extra 1/4 cup of water at the beginning, plus more if it seems like the pan is getting dry before the pasta is cooked through.
- Ditto with the Cherry Tomatoes. At my grocery store, they’re usually sold in one-pound packages, and I just throw them all in.
- Break the Pasta: If your pan is on the small side, break the dry linguini in half before adding it to the pan. Regardless of your pan size, this makes it easier to stir and serve.
- Stir Often: You don’t need to stand at the stove stirring constantly, but also don’t forget about it or the components won’t cook evenly. Stirring once a minute or so will do the trick. If you do forget to stir the pasta and it sticks to the bottom of your pan, just use a stiff spatula to scrape it up again.
- Stop Before the Pasta Is Fully Cooked: Stop cooking when the pasta is al dente and the sauce still looks a tad more liquidy than you’d like. Once you add the cheese, the sauce will thicken up, plus the pasta will continue to absorb more liquid even once it’s off the heat.
- Add More Water: If you overshoot your timing a bit and the pasta starts to become dry or gluey, just add another splash or two of water to thin it out again. No biggie.
- It Takes 10 Minutes: Speaking of timing, the recipe is accurate and the pasta takes about 10 minutes to cook once the water comes to a boil. The pasta is also best when eaten right away, so time any other meal components accordingly so you can sit down to eat as soon as the pasta is done.
The Best Pan for This Recipe
As Queen Martha advises, a wide, straight-sided sauté pan is best for this recipe. You want a pan that’s wide enough for the linguini to lay flat (or you can also break it in half) and straight sides to keep everything nicely contained as the pasta simmers. I use this this 5.5-quart Cuisinart sauté pan, which I’ve had for years and use for everything from this pasta recipe to roasting whole chicken.
If you don’t have a pan like this, I’d suggest using a pasta pot or a sauce pot instead. A skillet with sloped sides would likely result in unwelcome splashes and spills as you stir.
My Favorite Add-Ins
The base recipe is solidly tasty, but well…a bit basic. Here are some of my favorite recipe riffs:
- Add other quick-cooking veggies, like chopped asparagus, chopped or shredded zucchini, frozen peas, or jarred roasted red peppers
- Add extra garlic, or roasted garlic if you have it, for more of a garlicky kick
- Add bocconcini or mozzarella pearls toward the end of cooking
- If you have any leftover meat like shredded chicken, cooked bacon, or cooked sausage you can add this toward the end of cooking
- Stir in a cup of ricotta at the end of cooking
- Stir in a few generous spoonfuls of pesto at the end of cooking
- Add some lemon zest at the end of cooking
- Swap out the linguini for bucatini, spaghetti, or any other pasta that cooks in about nine to 10 minutes
Unless I’ve added leftover meat during cooking, I usually serve this pasta topped with some form of protein. Lemony chicken breasts or salmon fillets are a favorite in my house.