5 Easy Homemade Pasta Recipes for One (or 2) When You're Busy

Updated 05/07/19
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Sometimes, but especially at this time of the year, we're just too busy to make anything after work and too often we'll reach for something easy, or a pre-made frozen meal. That's not to say there aren't any nutritious frozen meals out there, but there's nothing quite like the taste of freshly made pasta on a weeknight to give you the comfort (and carbs) you need. If we had to create a list of our favorite foods, the Italian signature would be in our top five. It is just the most satisfying meal and the best part is how quickly you can whip it up when you're in a pinch. 

It's also the perfect meal to make when you're only cooking for one or two people because you can really manage the portion size and store away the leftovers for lunch the next day. So we tapped April Anderson, author of Gourmet Cooking for One (Or Two) to share five of her favorite pasta recipes (one is a lasagna recipe) that tick all the boxes when you're busy: quick, easy, and healthy. Read on to make these deliciously simple homemade pasta recipes for one tonight. 

Creamy Pumpkin Spinach Fettuccine

April Anderson ; Reprinted with permission from Gourmet Cooking for One or Two by April Anderson, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018

"If you've only ever thought of pumpkin as an ingredient used in desserts, then this pasta might seem a little strange. But I can promise that it deserves a place in your savory recipe repertoire, and there’s no better way to give it a try than in a creamy pasta dish. The sauce starts as a basic Alfredo to which the pumpkin and spinach are added. From there, just toss the sauce with the hot pasta and dinner is served."

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 tbsp (28 g) unsalted butter
1 large clove garlic, smashed
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
1/4 cup (60 g) pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup (40 g) frozen chopped spinach
1/4 cup (45 g) shredded Parmesan cheese, plus 1 tsp for garnish
3 oz (85 g) fettuccine, cooked according to package directions
2 tbsp (30 ml) reserved pasta water, as needed
1 tsp chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions

In an 8 1/2-inch (22-cm) skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the cream and adjust the heat to medium. Whisk the butter and cream together until combined. Discard the garlic.

Add the pumpkin and salt and stir until combined. Add the spinach and stir for 2 to 3 minutes until it’s thawed and warmed through. Add 1/4 cup (45 g) of the cheese and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until it melts and the sauce is smooth.

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BLT Chicken Pasta

April Anderson ; Reprinted with permission from Gourmet Cooking for One or Two by April Anderson, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018

"If you combined a BLT sandwich with chicken pasta, this is what you’d get. Fresh tomatoes, spinach, smoky bacon and tender pasta combined with chicken and a simple mayo sauce takes the flavors of a lunchtime staple and turns them into dinner."

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 tbsp (14 g) mayonnaise
1 tbsp (8 g) sour cream
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon, divided
1 slice thick-cut bacon, cut into 2" (5-cm) pieces
1 (4-oz [115-g]) boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced in half horizontally into 2 equal-size
pieces
3 oz (85 g) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups (60 g) roughly chopped fresh spinach
½ tsp kosher salt
2 oz (60 g) penne, cooked according to package directions
2 tsp (2 g) chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions

In a small-size bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, zest and juice from 1/2 lemon. Set the bowl aside.

In an 8 1/2-inch (22-cm) skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until it’s crispy, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate lined with a paper towel and leave the fat in the pan. In the same pan, cook the chicken breast in the bacon fat for 5 minutes. Turn it and cook it on the other side for 5 minutes, or until it’s cooked through. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and slice it into 1/4-inch (6-mm) pieces.

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Mushroom Pancetta Bolognese

April Anderson ; Reprinted with permission from Gourmet Cooking for One or Two by April Anderson, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018

"This mushroom pancetta Bolognese, unlike a traditional Bolognese, is light on the meat and doesn’t require hours on the stovetop. I like to serve it tossed with bucatini—a thick pasta that’s hollow on the inside—but any long pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine will work well, too."

Serves 2

Ingredients

4 oz (115 g) pancetta, diced
8 oz (225 g) baby portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped
1/4 cup (38 g) finely diced yellow onion
2 tbsp (20 g) minced garlic
3/4 cup (90 g) shredded carrot
1 tsp dried Italian herbs
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp (30 ml) dry white wine
1 tbsp (16 g) tomato paste
1 cup (242 g) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup (60 ml) water
4 oz (115 g) bucatini, cooked according to package directions
1/4 cup (45 g) grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
2 tsp (2 g) chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions

In a 3 1/2-quart (3-L) saucepan, cook the pancetta until it has released its fat, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook them with the pancetta for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until they have cooked down and released their moisture. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, Italian herbs, salt and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes, or until the onions and carrots have started to soften.

Pour the wine into the pan and use a spatula to scrape up the browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato paste and stir until it’s combined with the vegetables. Add the tomatoes and water, stir and adjust the heat to medium-low. Simmer the sauce (it should lightly bubble) for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Summer Squash Tortellini Bake

April Anderson ; Reprinted with permission from Gourmet Cooking for One or Two by April Anderson, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018

"Fresh herbs and roasted yellow squash pair with cheese tortellini to make a creamy sauce. I like to simmer the onion and garlic in the goat cheese sauce and then remove them before adding the pasta so the sauce is creamy smooth and subtly flavored."

Serves 2

Ingredients for the squash: 

2 cups (226 g) diced yellow squash, cut into 1/4" (6-mm) pieces
2 tsp (10 ml) olive oil
1/2tsp kosher salt

Sauce
2 tbsp (28 g) unsalted butter
2 tbsp (16 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (235 ml) 2% milk
1 (2-oz [57-g]) onion wedge
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 oz (60 g) goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 large basil leaves, rolled and sliced into thin ribbons
9 oz (255 g) fresh cheese tortellini
1/4 cup (45 g) grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

To make the squash, spread the squash in an even layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle the oil and sprinkle the salt over the top, then stir the squash around to coat it. Roast the squash for 20 minutes, or until it starts to turn golden and is caramelized. Remove it from the oven and lower the temperature to 350°F (175°C).

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a 2-quart (2-L) saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and stir until it forms a loose paste. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously, until the milk is combined with the flour and butter and there are no lumps. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the onion, garlic and salt. Cook the sauce for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Adjust the heat if needed to prevent it from boiling.

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Two-Slice Sun-Dried Tomato and Sausage Lasagna

April Anderson ; Reprinted with permission from Gourmet Cooking for One or Two by April Anderson, Page Street Publishing Co. 2018

"This two-slice lasagna delivers all the comfort and good feelings of a standard- size lasagna without a pile of dishes to clean up or enough leftovers to feed a small army. This recipe only requires one skillet to make the simple white and sun-dried tomato sauces, and the oven-ready lasagna noodles go straight from the package to a loaf pan that’s just the right size to bake a lasagna with two generous servings."

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 tsp (10 ml) olive oil
8 oz (225 g) mild Italian sausage links, casings removed
1/3 cup (50 g) finely chopped yellow onion
1 tbsp (10 g) minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup (40 g) chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup (235 ml) canned tomato sauce
2 tsp (2 g) chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp (14 g) unsalted butter
1 tbsp (8 g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (235 ml) 2% milk
4 sheets flat oven-ready (no-boil) lasagna noodles
1/2 cup (90 g) grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup (90 g) shredded provolone cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C).

Heat the olive oil in an 8 1/2-inch (22-cm) skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage, breaking it up with a spatula as it cooks. Add the onion, garlic, oregano and salt and cook it with the sausage until the onions start to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the tomato sauce and adjust the heat to bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the parsley, stir and transfer the sauce to a bowl. Set the bowl aside while you make the white sauce.

In the same skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the flour, stir and cook until it’s smooth and lightly bubbling, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking continuously, until it’s incorporated with the butter and flour. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook, whisking frequently, until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 2 to 3 minutes.

Lightly coat the bottom of the loaf pan with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the sun-dried tomato sauce. Place a noodle in the pan and top it with 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the same sauce. Drizzle 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the white sauce over the top. Top with 1 tablespoon (11 g) of the Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon (11 g) of the provolone cheese. Start the next layer with another lasagna noodle and more of each sauce and cheese. Repeat with the remaining noodles, sauces and cheese. For the last layer, top the noodle with the remaining meat sauce, Parmesan and provolone cheese.

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