One-Pan Pasta Dinner

Simple, quick and delicious. I'm in!

Simple, quick and delicious. I’m in!

Have you seen the one-pan pasta recipe that’s flying around the internet? It’s a great way to use fresh tomatoes and basil that are so good right now.The idea is that everything goes into the pan and cooks at once. Although I think it’s been around for a long time, Martha Stewart Living recently published the recipe and got the buzz going. I read about it at Smitten Kitchen where Deb complained that the pasta was on the mushy side of al dente and revised the recipe using farro as the main ingredient. That farro version is truly delicious will go into my favorite dinners notebook. In fact it was so good that I became curious about the pasta version and tried Martha’s recipe. Deb was right. By the time the sauce had reduced enough, the pasta was too far gone.

Bring it all to a rolling boil, stir for 10 minutes and eat

Bring it all to a boil, stir,eat.

I wanted to make this recipe work. The idea of a true one-pan meal that is healthy, easy, quick and really good was so appealing that I couldn’t resist trying. Paul would happily eat pasta every night so he was thrilled with my repeated experimentation. I’ve always wondered why you need so much water to cook pasta. It takes forever to come to a boil and then it all goes down the drain except a half cup or so that might be used to thicken sauce. Well, it turns out that you don’t need gallons of water and best of all you don’t have to drain the pasta or wash the colander! My changes to Martha’s recipe include using a heartier type of pasta and reducing the amount of water.

The finished product.

Dinner is served!


I’ve tried lots of one pot meals and have rarely been satisfied. This one’s different. It’s not a compromise, something you’d only want to make when you’re short on time. Thanks to the principles of evaporation and absorption, it works and it’s darned good! We’ve served the final recipe to two sets of guests so far and everyone loves it. It’s beautiful, ridiculously simple and can be prepared ahead of time. Use a hearty, high-quality dried pasta and the results will make you happy! I haven’t experimented with whole wheat or other pastas, but suspect they would become too soft. Let me know your thoughts if you try alternative pastas.


One Pan Pasta that Works (Adapted slightly from Martha Stewart Living)

3-4 servings as a main dish, 8 as a side


 12 ounces dried penne rigate, small rigatoni or orecchiette

1 large red onion sliced thinly, root to stem (about 2 cups)

12 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes halved, or quartered if they’re large

4 cloves garlic peeled and thinly sliced

2 generous sprigs of basil plus torn leaves for serving

2 tablespoons olive oil p;us more for serving

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

4 cups of water

Grated parmesan for serving


Place all ingredients except parmesan and torn basil in a wide skillet with straight sides (If you’re prepping ahead, don’t add the water until you’re ready to cook). Bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Set the timer for 8 minutes and continue to boil, stirring often. Test the pasta for doneness at 8 minutes and cook another minute or two if needed. Serve with torn basil, parmesan and olive oil.

NOTES: Yellow or white onions will work just fine. Red ones look and taste great and add nice texture. If you want to double the recipe, make two batches side-by-side for best results. A wide dutch oven will work if you don’t have a straight-sided skillet. Evaporation is important so it must be a wide pan. Finally, if you want to use fresh chopped tomatoes, the plum variety is best. For juicier tomatoes, reduce the water by 1/4 cup.  If you want your pasta on the soft side, add more water after the 8-minute test.







Quick Tomato Tortellini Soup

We all have those days when we’re out of energy, ideas or time when it comes to dinner. For years this soup has been my go to on those occasions.  In fact, this recipe came to my rescue just last night! It’s 15 minutes from pantry to table, and is a delicious, healthy, one-pot meal. 

No shopping is required if you keep some version of these things on hand; fresh spinach or other greens, canned tomatoes, dairy case tortellini and chicken broth.  The flavors come together quickly in the pot. Add a loaf of crusty bread and you’ll be sitting down to dinner before you know it.

This soup cries out for improvisation. I hardly ever make it the same way twice. The constants are the diced tomatoes, greens and broth. Small ravioli can replace the tortellini. A parmesan rind adds amazing flavor. Use beef stock or try fire-roasted diced tomatoes or tomatoes with basil or italian herbs. Add cooked sausage or cooked diced chicken along with leftover cooked rice or farro instead of the tortellini. You get the idea.

Tonight we added some organic chicken sausage from the freezer (threw them in whole since they were frozen), a piece of parmesan rind and a drizzle of olive for each serving. Paul said it tasted like Italy in a bowl. High praise for 10 minutes of prep!

I’d love to hear what your improvisations on this soup are.


tort soupphotoTomato Tortellini Soup (serves 4 hungry people)


4 cups low sodium chicken broth or stock 

2 – 14.5 ounce cans of organic diced tomatoes with juice (added flavors in the tomatoes are fine)

cloves of garlic chopped or 1/4 tsp powder

Salt and Pepper to taste

5-10 ounces fresh spinach, baby kale or chard (salad mixes are perfect)

1 package Buitoni whole wheat cheese tortellini (about 2 1/2 cups) 

Olive oil to drizzle

Optional and excellent:  Parmesan rind, a couple of sliced organic cooked chicken sausages, a cup of chopped cooked chicken, olive oil and grated parmesan for garnish.


  1. Bring chicken broth, tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper, and parmesan rind if using, to a boil in a dutch oven or soup pot.
  2. Add greens and tortellini and simmer for about 10 minutes.  
  3. Test tortellini for doneness, correct seasoning to taste and ladle into bowls.
  4. Drizzle each serving with olive oil.


  • Almost any greens will work. I’ve used lettuces, frozen spinach and canned turnip greens but lean toward fresh spinach and/or baby kale.  If your kale is mature, cut into small ribbons and add a couple of minutes before the tortellini.
  • Good olive oil makes a real difference here. I keep a special bottle for finishing soups and sauces.
  • Parmesan rinds are like hidden treasure. Buy real Parmigiano Reggiano and freeze the rinds to use in soups and sauces.
  • Most grocery stores carry tortellini and ravioli in the dairy case. I keep a package or two in the freezer.  It’s fine to add it directly to the soup frozen.