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10 Easy Pasta Recipes Quick Enough for a Weeknight Dinner

Add these tasty recipes to your cooking arsenal—your family (and your stomach) will thank you.

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After a long or hard-fought run, there is no better way to refuel the engine than by slurping up a bowl of spaghetti. But why just drown your noodles in a jar of red sauce? Pasta of all shapes and sizes serves as an ideal blank canvas, ready to welcome a much more diverse array of flavors and nutritional profiles. The easy pasta recipes below are a great jumping off point.

Whole-grain pasta will deliver the healthiest punch, as it’s denser in fiber, micronutrients, and antioxidants. That means the first ingredient on your box of spaghetti should be whole wheat, spelt, or another whole grain. But you may want to go easy on your fiber intake the day before a big run to sidestep digestive woes. In this case, it’s fine to opt for the more refined stuff made from white flour for your pre-race dinner.

Another winner is the newer-on-the-market pastas made from legumes, such as chickpeas. These pack in more than twice the amount of fiber and protein as regular penne or rotini, and their flavors and textures are always improving.

Fresh pasta (bought refrigerated) takes only a few minutes to cook—think two or three instead of nine. Make sure to drain it quickly to avoid overcooking. But before draining any pasta, scoop out some of the cooking water; it’s liquid gold. The starch in the water will help sauces cling to noodles, creating a silky, satisfying meal.

Two-Step Pasta Prep

  • Step One: Cook your pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted boiling water. For traditional wheat-based pasta varieties, drain well after cooking but do not rinse with water. The rules change with Asian noodles and legume based noodles, which require a post-drain rinse to remove excess starch and reduce clumping.
  • Step Two: Toss pasta with any sauces, such as pesto or vinegar, and then add toppings.

Each of the below easy pasta recipe combos makes 2 servings.

Get Crackin’

Spaghetti with egg
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

As nature’s perfect protein, eggs are great to help build lean body mass.

BASE 4 ounces spaghetti
TOPPING 2 tablespoons melted butter + 2 cups baby spinach + 2 sliced scallions + 2 sunny-side up eggs + 1 teaspoon hot sauce + ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper + ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pizza Party

Rotini with mozzarella
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

Softer cheeses like fresh mozzarella contain more moisture and are less calorie dense than their harder counterparts.

BASE 4 ounces cooked fusilli
SAUCE 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato pesto + 2 tablespoons reserved pasta cooking water
TOPPING 4 ounces cooked crumbled turkey sausage + 2 ounces torn fresh mozzarella + ½ cup sliced roasted red pepper + 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

Fishy Caprese

Penne with salmon
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

Salmon supplies a boatload of the omega-3 fats linked to healthier aging.

BASE 4 ounces cooked penne
TOPPING 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar + 6 ounces cooked salmon (broken into chunks) + 1 cup halved grape tomatoes + 2 ounces bocconcini cheese + 1 tablespoon capers + 2 tablespoons olive oil + 1/3 cup sliced basil

Ham It Up

Cavatelli with ham
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

Pears are a great source of fiber, which can help cut your risk for cancer and heart disease.

BASE 4 ounces casarecce or cavatelli
TOPPING 2 ounces sliced prosciutto + 1 medium sliced pear + ½ cup sliced fennel + 4 tablespoons chopped walnuts + 2 cups arugula + 1 ounce grated Gruyère cheese

Curry in a Hurry

Soba with shrimp
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

Both broccoli and red pepper provide immune-boosting vitamin C, which may help shield runners from coming down with the common cold.

BASE 4 ounces soba
SAUCE ½ cup warmed light coconut milk + 2 teaspoons yellow curry paste + juice of ½ lime
TOPPING ½ pound cooked shrimp + 2 cups steamed broccoli + 1 sliced red bell pepper + 4 tablespoons roasted peanuts + ¼ cup cilantro

Good Gourd

Bowtie pasta with pumpkin
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

Pumpkin is a leading source of beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that can improve brain function in women.

BASE 4 ounces bowtie
SAUCE  cup canned pumpkin + 2 tablespoons heavy cream + 1 tablespoon maple syrup +  teaspoon nutmeg
TOPPING 1 cup canned cannellini (white kidney) beans + ¼ cup dried cranberries + 2 ounces crumbled soft goat cheese + cup parsley

Plant Power

Vermicelli with tofu is an easy pasta recipe
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

Research shows that eating more plant proteins like tofu (and easing up on the meat) may add a handful of years to your life.

BASE 4 ounces vermicelli
SAUCE ¼ cup hoisin sauce + 1 teaspoon lemon zest + 1 teaspoon Sriracha
TOPPING 1 cup julienned carrots + 1 cup sugar snap peas + 4 ounces sliced pan-seared firm tofu + 2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Burrito Bowl

Rotini with black beans
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

Packed with protein, fiber, minerals and antioxidants, black beans are nearly the complete nutritional package.

BASE 4 ounces rotini
TOPPING 1 cup canned black beans + 1 small diced avocado + ⅔ cup corn kernels + 1 diced Roma tomato +  cup sliced red onion + ½ cup grated cheddar cheese + ½ cup jarred salsa

Avo Fredo

Linguini with avocado
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

The payload of healthy fats in avocado can improve your cholesterol, making this recipe especially ticker-friendly.

BASE 4 ounces linguini
SAUCE 1 small avocado +  cup reserved pasta cooking water + 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice + ½ seeded minced jalapeno + 1 minced garlic clove (blended)
TOPPING 4 ounces sliced cooked chicken + 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes + 2 tablespoons roasted pumpkin seeds

Asian Inspiration

Udon with steak is an easy pasta recipe
Photo: Hannah DeWitt

Fiery kimchi is laced with beneficial bacteria that help bolster digestive health (read: perhaps no more mid-run dashes to the porta-potty).

BASE 4 ounces udon
TOPPING 4 ounces sliced cooked sirloin steak + ½ cup chopped kimchi + 1 cup shredded daikon radish + 2 tablespoons kimchi liquid + 2 teaspoons sesame oil + 2 sliced scallions