Quick and Easy Summer Pasta

This weekend is the unofficial start of summer here in the US, even though actual summer doesn’t start for another month.  This quick and easy summer pasta lives up to its name. It’s great for hot, sticky weather (which we always get plenty of here in NY).  The dish can be eaten hot or cold, and since there’s no mayonnaise, it’s perfect for picnics or traveling. And, it’s good either for a quick lunch or a light dinner.  Pairs beautifully with a cold glass of Chardonnay.

I’ve adapted this dish from a recipe for summer pasta in Jacques Pépin’s Fast Food My Way cookbook.The only thing you have to cook is the pasta. The rest is just a bit of chopping and maybe shredding or grating the cheese.  I’ve used parmesan, but put in anything you like that works. It could be mozzarella, or Fontina too.

He says to warm the veggies first, but I didn’t. I don’t like freshly cooked tomatoes; they taste odd to me (kind of like some people think coriander tastes like soap).  If you don’t have that issue, go right ahead and heat the veggies, for thirty seconds or so, in the microwave.

The original recipe called for zucchini, but having none, I went with some bell pepper instead. So, use whatever vegetables you like or have handy. For example,  use zucchini, carrots, some cooked eggplant, a handful of spinach, or a mixture of bell peppers (I love the mini ones). This is not baking, so exact ingredients and careful measuring aren’t crucial.

One more thing, as is, this is a light, easy meal. If you want to make it heartier, add some protein to make it more filling.

Quick and Easy Summer Pasta

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Category: lunch

Cuisine: American

one serving

quick and easy summer pasta


  • 4 oz. dried pasta (preferably short, such as fusilli)
  • 1 quart water (for cooking pasta)
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2-3 sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 C green bell pepper, diced
  • pinch salt
  • grinding black pepper
  • 1 T plus 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 T grated parmesan cheese
  • 1T fresh basil, shredded


  1. Boil the water and add the pasta. Cook about 10-12 minutes, until al dente.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, add the tomatoes, mushrooms, bell pepper, salt, pepper, and olive oil to a medium size bowl. Toss everything together.
  3. Once the pasta is ready, drain it, and add it to the bowl with the veggies.
  4. Add the grated cheese and the basil.
  5. Toss everything together.

Quick and Easy Summer Pasta Substitutions and Variations

    • swap the pasta for some crusty bread (and transform it into panzanella)
    • add some green olives castelvetrano would work nicely)
    • toss in some diced Genoa salami
    • include some pre-cooked leftover chicken, cut in strips
    • add chunks of hard boiled egg

More Quick and Easy Summer Pasta Recipes

egg and pasta gratinEgg and Pasta Gratin with Chives

Crispy eggs, gooey cheese, and tender pasta combine for great comfort food. Perfect for a quick meal, or a light lunch.


spaghetti with green olives and lemon pankoSummer Pasta with Green Olives and Feta Cheese

Welcome warm weather and wake up your taste buds with this light, zesty, earthy pasta dish. It’s ready in 30 minutes.


pistachio pasta pestoPistachio Pesto Pasta

This recipe is inspired by…a mystery. Seems Robert B. Parker liked to cook. So, he included this in one of his novels. Not the usual source for a recipe, but quite good, and a nice change from pricey pine nuts.

pasta alla norma with eggplantPasta alla Norma with Eggplant

Take advantage of summer veggies with this slightly spicy pasta dish. It’s got sweet tomatoes, creamy fork-tender eggplant, and a dash of red pepper flakes for a kick.

Spaetzle Recipe Without a Spaetzle Maker

OK, two confessions. The first is that this spaetzle recipe is nearly identical to Tyler Florence’s spaetzle recipe. Also, his version claims it’s six servings. I suppose that’s as a side dish. Or maybe it’s a typo. My second confession is that it was soooo good I ate the whole thing. All at once.

First of all, it was delicious! But that alone wouldn’t make it something I’d normally share, especially since I made so few changes. The important thing about this recipe isn’t that I adapted it or altered it. What I did do was figure out a way to make it without any special equipment.

I hate single use gadgets and while the recipe is really good, I wasn’t going to go out and buy a special spaetzle maker. Besides my dislike of one-use gadgets, there’s just no place to keep the thing. Tyler’s recipe, as well as many others, suggest using a slotted spoon or a cheese grater instead of the spaetzle machine. I tried both of those. They just didn’t work very well.

Then I had a brainstorm. The potato masher! It worked perfectly! Just hold it in one hand, scoop up some batter with a spoon in the other hand, and scrape the spoon back and forth over the masher (like you were grating cheese). Ta da!!!

You want the flat-bottomed sort of masher, with lots of holes, not the squiggly kind that looks like a bicycle rack.

There’s no brand name on the one I have, so I don’t know exactly what it is, but the masher on the left is the closest I could find. The holes on mine are rectangular, not round, but I think that will be OK, since real spaetzle maker holes are round. The key is that there’s a flat surface, with lots of holes in it.

I included the image below so you could see what it should look like.  That design will work fine.  The one on the right will mash potatoes, but will be useless for spaetzle.

Flat potato masher
Squiggly potato masher

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Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Category: lunch

Cuisine: German


spaetzle recipe

A super-easy way to get your noodle fix. And, with my method you don't need any special tools either.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter


  1. Get two bowls, one large, and one medium. Put the flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg in the larger bowl, and mix them together.
  2. Now get the smaller bowl and whisk together the milk and eggs.
  3. Make a depression in the center of the flour mixture and pour the milk-egg mixture into it.
  4. Push the flour in from the sides toward the milk-egg mixture and then gradually mix everything together to form a dough.
  5. It should be fairly smooth and thick. Let the mixture rest for at least 10-15 minutes.
  6. While the dough is resting, fill a 3 quart saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Once it's boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer.
  7. Now, grasp your potato masher by the handle with one hand, holding it with the flat mashing side down. Pour a spoonful of batter over the mashing head. Then scrape it back and forth with the spoon (like you were grating cheese). This will make your spaetzle.
  8. Do it in batches, so the pot doesn't get too full. Cook the spaezle for three minutes or so, until they start to float to the top. Stir every once in a while so they don't stick. Then remove them with a slotted spoon, drain, and set aside while you make the next batch.
  9. Once the spaetzle are cooked, heat the butter in a large skillet. Or be lazy and reuse the saucepan. Add the spaetzle, and turn and toss them so they are coated with the butter. Cook for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

Spaetzle Recipe Substitutions and Variations

  • Serve with grated cheese, like Emmenthaler or Gruyère
  • Cook some onions until caramelized, add them to the spaetzle (with or without cheese)
  • Cut off small pieces of dough and flick them into a pot of simmering chicken soup or broth (like mini dumplings!)

More Pasta Recipes

white ragu papardelleWhite Ragu Pappardelle Pasta for One

Earthy porcini mushrooms, rich sausage and bee, white wine, and a touch of cream simmered gently and served with hearty fresh pasta.


butternut squash cream sauce pastaButternut Squash Cream Sauce Pasta

A welcome change from the usual tomato or cream pasta sauces. And nothing says fall like butternut squash.


smoked salmon pasta with tomato cream sauceSmoked Salmon Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

A silky smooth sauce with just a bit of cream, layered over pasta. It tastes decadent, but it isn’t.


pasta olives tomatoes capersPasta with Olives Tomatoes and Capers or Puttanesca

The name is a little risqué, but this pasta has nothing to be ashamed of.  The briny capers, salty olives, and sweet tomatoes meld together in your mouth. It’s spicy, zesty and takes very little time to prepare too.


Egg and Pasta Gratin with Chives

Quick, what’s gooey, melty, cheesy, and great comfort food?  This egg and pasta gratin has crispy eggs, tender noodles, and lots of cheese. It’s almost a cousin to pasta carbonara (but no bacon).  The flavor is simple and delicate and the recipe incorporates two of my favorite “food groups”: pasta and cheese!

It’s adapted from a a new cookbook I just got (because given a bookstore gift card as a gift, I naturally headed straight for the cookbook section!). The cookbook is called Fast Food My Way and it’s chock full of inspiration. As you may have guessed from the title, all the meals are relatively easy and quick. They’re just perfect for those days when you don’t feel like fussing (or simply don’t have the time).  Of course, you can also make this for a leisurely weekend brunch or scale the recipe up and serve it to guests.

The whole thing fits in perfectly with my own philosophy, which is delicious food for one person, made from real ingredients. Because, just because you’re cooking for one rather than two or more doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a home-cooked meal.And, of course, making it yourself is much cheaper than going out, or ordering a meal kit.

As written, the flavor is pure comfort food; not spicy or salty. However, if you want, you can add other flavors (more on that in the substitutions and variations section).

Egg and Pasta Gratin with Chives

Category: lunch

Cuisine: French


egg and pasta gratin

Crispy eggs, gooey cheese, and tender pasta combine to make this dish great comfort food. Great for a fast meal, or to warm up with on a cold day.


  • 4 oz short pasta (I used cavatelli)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1.5 teaspoons fresh chives, minced
  • Pinch salt
  • Grinding of black pepper
  • 1.5 teaspoons butter (preferably unsalted, if you only have salted butter, skip the added salt)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 C grated hard cheese, such as Swiss or Emmenthaler


  1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a saucepan. Add salt. Pour in the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes (or until it is al dente)
  2. Toss the olive oil, chives, salt, and pepper together in a medium to large bowl (it should be big enough to hold the finished dish; I used a large soup bowl).
  3. Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat, but don’t drain it yet.
  4. Grab a soup ladle and pour a ladleful of the pasta water into the bowl.
  5. Now, drain the pasta, and put it back in the pot. Scoop up a ladleful of the pasta, and add it to the chive/water mixture. Mix it all together thoroughly.
  6. Keep both the remaining pasta in the pot and the pasta in the bowl warm while you make the eggs.
  7. Next, heat the butter in a skillet. Add the eggs and cook on medium-high heat with the pan covered for about 2 minutes. The eggs should be set (the whites will be firm, while the yolk is still soft).
  8. Sprinkle a generous tablespoonful of the cheese on top of the pasta in the bowl. Next, add one of the cooked eggs. Add more cheese, then pasta from the pot, then cheese, and then the second egg, then more pasta in succession.

Egg and Pasta Gratin Substitutions and Variations

  • Add crumbled bacon on top
  • Go for more sweetness and crunch with a sweet bell pepper
  • Try some leeks instead of the chives
  • Dice some sun-dried tomatoes

More Pasta Recipes

Smoked Salmon Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

Pasta with Tomato Artichoke Sauce Recipe

Pasta with Olives Tomatoes and Capers or Puttanesca

Pistachio Pesto Pasta

Smoked Salmon Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

The inspiration for this recipe comes from a long-ago birthday dinner at a tiny neighborhood Italian restaurant. The restaurant is now (sadly) closed, but their smoked salmon pasta with tomato cream sauce lives on!

The pasta is bathed in a velvety, slightly pink, tomato sauce with a touch of cream.  It’s delicious and elegant too.  Make a double batch and serve it for company (they’ll think you’ll worked on it all day).

This only requires a little bit of smoked salmon (about a slice or two), so you won’t bust your budget cooking it.  Even better, check to see if your market or deli sells smoked salmon ends. They’re much cheaper, and taste just as good as the fancy slices.  Besides, a beautiful slice hardly matters when you are going to cut it up into small pieces!

If you don’t have any smoked salmon handy, you can use leftover cooked salmon instead. Add it right at the end.  The idea is just to heat it up. You don’t want to overcook it.

To save some time (and get dinner done faster), put the water for the pasta in the pot first, and start bringing it to a boil. While the water is heating up,  chop the onion.  Then get the second pan going with the butter and oil.   Once the water is boiling, add the pasta to the pot.  Finish the sauce in the second pan while the pasta cooks. That way, you have dinner in about 20-25 minutes and nothing sits around getting cold.

Smoked Salmon Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce

Category: dinner

Cuisine: Italian

one serving

smoked salmon pasta with tomato cream sauce

Creamy, velvety pasta with smoked salmon. A dish elegant enough for company (but you don't have to share).


  • 4 oz. short pasta
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 T onion, chopped
  • 1/4 C crushed or pureed tomatoes
  • 1/4 C cream
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 or two slices smoked salmon, chopped (about 1/4 C)


  1. Fill a saucepan with the water and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook for 5-8 minutes.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter and oil in a small saucepan on medium heat.
  3. Add the chopped onion, and cook until translucent (about five minutes).
  4. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Add cream and pepper flakes.
  6. Bring to a simmer until thick (about 5 minutes).
  7. Add the salmon and heat for a minute.
  8. Drain the pasta, and pour into the pot with the sauce. Stir everything together and serve.


Smoked Salmon Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce Substitutions and Variations

  • Trade the smoked salmon for leftover cooked salmon.
  • Add a shot of vodka for penne a la vodka with salmon.
  • Try sun-dried tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes.

More Pasta Recipes

Pasta alla Norma with Eggplant

Summer Pasta with Green Olives and Feta Cheese

Linguine with Garlic and Olive Oil

Spaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce

Pasta e Fagioli Soup (Small Batch)

I should probably refer to this pasta e fagioli soup as “blizzard soup.” The forecast called for up to 20 inches of snow (though we only got seven).  I was determined to keep the stove going and get a batch of hot soup. Besides, there is more snow coming tomorrow!

Therefore, I deliberately made this the “hard” way.  First, I soaked the beans overnight.  Then I cooked the beans and sort of followed a recipe from The New York Times.  I cut it in  half and added pancetta (don’t know why they left that out).

I even made my own vegetable stock.  If you spot potatoes and carrots in the photo, it’s because they were in the homemade vegetable stock recipe .   Neither one is traditional for pasta e fagioli soup, but I left them in anyway. Why toss perfectly good veggies? I didn’t include them in the recipe here though.

You can use vegetable stock, or chicken stock if you prefer. I would  have made chicken stock but I didn’t have enough chicken bones. And I certainly wasn’t going out to get some in a blizzard!

Don’t be put off by the long prep time on this recipe.  That includes soaking the beans overnight. You can speed this up by using my quick soak method. That cuts the soaking time down from 8 hours to only one.

If you’re really in a hurry, and don’t have the time or patience to soak and cook the beans for an hour or more, use a can of white canellini beans instead. Make the rest of the soup, then add the can of beans.  Just cook them long enough to heat through.

Pasta e Fagioli Soup

Prep Time: 8 hours, 15 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes

Total Time: 11 hours, 35 minutes

Category: soup

Cuisine: Italian

three or four servings

pasta e fagioli soup

A small batch of pasta and bean (pasta e fagioli) soup. Just the thing to keep your home (and stomach) warm on a cold day.


  • Beans
  • 1 C dried white beans
  • 1 quart water
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • Soup
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half
  • 1 1/2 ounce pancetta (chopped), or you can buy it pre-chopped
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary (or about 1/3 tsp dried)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup pureed canned tomatoes
  • pinch sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2-3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Bouquet garni (bay leaf, 2 Manchego rinds, thyme spring, or 1/4 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 cup elbow macaroni


  1. Beans
  2. Pour the soaked beans, along with the water, into a large pot (a Dutch oven will do nicely).
  3. Add the onion and turn the heat to medium. Bring it to a soft boil (bubbling slowly,).
  4. You may see foam rising to the top. You can remove that with a spoon (it's not harmful, it's just not attractive).
  5. Add the garlic and the bay leaf (you can put the bay leaf in a tea ball so it's easier to remove).
  6. Simmer the beans for 30 minutes.
  7. Add salt to taste and let the beans cook another hour. Check to see that they're soft. If not, cook another half an hour.
  8. Taste the beans and add more salt if needed. Take out the bay leaf. Drain the beans with a colander over a bowl. Keep the broth, you'll use it for the soup.
  9. Soup
  10. Heat oil in dutch oven. Add the onion and cook for five minutes or until the onion softens.
  11. Add the rosemary, garlic, and pancetta.
  12. Cook for a minute. The scent should start to waft through your kitchen.
  13. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper
  14. Cook for 5-10 minutes.
  15. Add the bean broth you set aside, and the stock.
  16. Add the bouquet garni, Manchego rinds, and more salt.
  17. Turn the heat to medium-high until the soup boils. Then reduce the heat and let it simmer for half an hour.
  18. Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes, until it's al dente.
  19. Taste and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
  20. Remove the cheese rinds and serve.


Use dried beans if you have them, and have the time. If not, this works with canned beans too. If you use canned beans, drain the can first. Place the beans, water, and the remaining ingredients from the bean recipe in your pot. Simmer for 30 minutes. Then move on to the rest of the soup.

You can tie the bouquet garni ingredients together (if you use fresh herbs). If not, put them in a tea ball. It makes it easier to remove them.

Substitutions and Variations for Pasta e Fagioli Soup

  • Save time and use canned beans
  • Try different kinds of beans: pinto, kidney, or cranberry
  • Use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock
  • Use bacon or pork fat instead of pancetta (I even used soppressata salami once)
  • Add one potato (cut into chunks) to the soup
  • Chop up a handful of spinach and add that with the pasta

More White Bean and Soup Recipes

Lentil Bean Sausage Soup

Moroccan Chicken and Bean Soup

Easy Italian Wedding Soup

White Bean Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes


Pasta with Olives Tomatoes and Capers Puttanesca

In a hurry for dinner?  Pasta is your friend. This pasta dish with olives, tomatoes, and capers (or pasta puttanesca) has a slightly racy name.  Nobody really knows why.  One theory says the dish was popular with the ladies of the evening because it was easy to cook and the ingredients were cheap.  Another says that the sauce’s aroma helped lure in customers.

Whatever the reason, it certainly is budget friendly and you can make it in about 20 minutes.

Whoever is responsible created a dish that’s packed with flavor. There’s pungent little bits of garlic, slightly briny capers, and nutty Niçoise olives. 

Capers, in case you don’t know, are the buds of a Mediterranean plant that are picked and then pickled (try to say that three times fast).  I always thought Niçoise  olives were a variety, but I found out today that they’re really called Le Calletier.  Niçoise is just the method of curing them.

I adapted this recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook. They suggested using whole canned tomatoes, and then squeezing them out and chopping them up.  That’s too messy for me. You can use crushed tomatoes, purée, or even tomato sauce in a pinch.

Traditionally, this recipe also includes anchovies.  However, I am a fish wimp. The strongest fish flavor I like is salmon.  Also, anchovies were $32 a pound.  Nope. Not happening. Nuh uh.

The other great thing about pasta puttanesca is that you can use canned tomatoes, jarred capers, dry pasta, and spices you probably already have sitting on your shelf.

Save the rest of the tomatoes for pasta alla norma.

The remaining capers will keep indefinitely in the fridge once opened.  They’re great with smoked salmon, lemon, and dill for a weekend brunch.


Pasta Olives Tomatoes Capers or Puttanesca

Category: entree

Cuisine: Italian

one serving

pasta olives tomatoes capers

Pungent, earthy, and ready in minutes, this pasta puttanesca goes great with a full-bodied red wine. Pour yourself a glass and enjoy a great meal.


  • 1/4 lb spaghetti, linguine or long, dried pasta (about the diameter of a quarter)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 can (use half of the 15 oz size if you can find it), otherwise 1/4 of a 28 oz can pureed tomatoes
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch dried red pepper flakes
  • 2T black Niçoise olives
  • 1T drained capers
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped


  1. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a wide saucepan (or a Dutch oven)
  2. Add a pinch of salt and the spaghetti; cook the pasta until al dente (tender, but not mushy). Drain right away and transfer to a small pasta plate or bowl.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, combine the tomatoes and the olive oil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  4. Once the tomato/oil mixture is boiling, individually add the oregano, pepper flakes, olives, capers, and garlic. Stir after each additional ingredient.
  5. Turn the heat down a bit and keep cooking the sauce until it thickens. Adding a bit of the pasta water will help thicken it.
  6. Pour the sauce over the pasta and serve. A chunk of crusty bread will help sop up the sauce.

More Pasta Recipes

Pasta with Broccoli, Mushrooms, and Chicken Sausage

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe

Penne with Feta Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Olives

Spaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce

Spaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce

This recipe for spaghetti with spinach and lemon cream sauce was a bit of an accident. I innocently ordered a bunch of spinach (along with other groceries) from Fresh Direct.  I expected, well a standard bunch of spinach. What I got was a “spinach tree.” It’s enormous. It’s so large I had to prop it up against a bottle of seltzer and a plant to take a photo of it.

spinachSo, if anyone from Google noticed a spike in searches for  ‘spinach recipes’ over the last few days, it was me.

I adapted this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen. She used basil (or arugula), and while I have basil growing in my window, I don’t have arugula.

Besides, there’s that enormous bunch of spinach to use up!

So, I combined the two.  A bit of basil, and a handful of spinach, some diluted Greek yogurt instead of the heavy cream (didn’t have the cream and couldn’t leave to get some), and dinner is served!

Spaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Italian

one serving

spaghetti spinach lemon cream sauce

A great summer pasta dinner with fresh lemon, spinach, and a bit of cream.


  • one handful spaghetti (about 4 ounces), it should be about the diameter of a quarter
  • salt
  • 1 lemon (for juice and zest)
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit more when you serve the pasta
  • 1 T heavy cream*
  • 2 T finely grated Parmesan cheese (plus more when you serve the pasta)
  • Handful of spinach, washed thoroughly, shredded, or chiffonade (stack the leaves, roll them up so they look like a cigar, and then chop them cross-wise)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Boil a pot of water (a dutch oven will work nicely because it's wide enough to hold the pasta).  Salt the water and then add the pasta.  Cook about 8 minutes until it's al dente.
  2. As you wait for the pasta to cook, zest the lemon (you'll need about 3/4 of a teaspoon of zest). Then, squeeze the lemon to juice it (this works best if it's warm; if you had it in the fridge, pop it in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm it up). You'll get about 1-2 tablespoons.
  3. When the pasta is ready, drain it, keeping about 1/3 C of the water.
  4. Take a small saucepan and heat the olive oil, cream, lemon zest, and about half the reserved water.  Cook that on high heat for a minute.  Put the pasta back in the larger pot, add the lemon zest mixture, and stir until the pasta is coated with it.
  5. Add the parmesan, and half the lemon juice.  Stir and toss together thoroughly (I used a spaghetti spoon and a standard fork ) until the sauce is distributed evenly over the pasta.
  6. If you want your pasta "saucier" add more of the cooking water. Taste and add more lemon if you like.
  7. Stir in the basil and the spinach. Season with salt and pepper.  Top your pasta with extra olive oil and parmesan cheese and serve.

Substitutions and Variations for Spaghetti with Spinach and Lemon Cream Sauce

  • If you don’t have heavy cream, melt 1/3 C unsalted butter and add 3/4 C whole milk. This makes about a cup.
  • Use plain Greek yogurt and thin it out with a little milk. If you do this, add a little hot water to the mixture first, before putting it in the pasta. This will prevent it from curdling.
  • Use frozen peas instead of spinach (add to the pasta while it’s cooking and save yourself an extra pot to clean; put the peas in for about 3 minutes).
  • Add some leftover cooked chicken for more protein.

Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I love the Smitten Kitchen blog (as does a friend who is a professional chef). Deb’s recipes are consistently good. And, her original kitchen was nearly as small as mine. Which just proves you don’t need a lot of space, drawerfuls of gadgets, or an enormous pantry to create delicious food.

Everything is made from real ingredients, and ingredients that are easy to find. I know it really bugs me when some recipe calls for a teaspoon of some exotic ingredient I’ll never use again! One thing about this book is that the format spreads the recipes over more than one page, so it can be a bit hard to follow.

Spaghetti Spoon

It’s a small thing, but this spoon makes it much easier to toss your spaghetti and coat it with the sauce. It’s also a lot easier to get it out of the pot and into a bowl for serving. And because it’s OXO, it’s comfortable to hold too.

Microplane Zester

This is one of my favorite tools. It’s just the thing for zesting lemons (and getting only the zest without the bitter pith). Hard cheese can be tough to grate with a box grater, but this produces perfect little curls that practically melt into your pasta. It’s also ideal for grating nutmeg, ginger, or even garlic. Since it’s long and thin, you can just perch it right on top of the bowl while you grate. Note that it’s sharp, so be careful!

More Recipes for One Person with Spinach or Spaghetti

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Dressing and Feta Cheese

Spinach and Feta Cheese Omelette

Spicy Sesame Noodles Recipe for One Person

Single Serving Recipe for Singapore Noodles with Chicken

Penne with Feta Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes, and Olives

This penne with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives recipe is fairly hands-off, simple, and delicious. And, of course, it’s just one serving!

It also allowed me to make some progress using the enormous jar of sun-dried tomatoes that’s been in the back of my fridge forever! Add some pasta, a bit of feta cheese, olives, and a few leaves of fresh basil, and you get a tasty lunch with only a few minutes of real work. (I have a basil plant growing in my window, so that basil was really fresh).

The feta was leftover from making a feta and spinach omelette, so it also helps toward my goal of not wasting anything. I just hate having a couple of tablespoons of sauce, or a few random bits of fruit or vegetables turning into a science experiment.

Now, on to more tasty mental pictures.

Since the tomatoes are dried, you’ll have to start by heating them and softening them up a bit.  You can do this overnight (if you’re organized), or just start them a few minutes before you start boiling the water for the pasta.

Once the tomatoes are soaked and the pasta is cooked, the rest of the recipe takes only a few minutes to prepare.  Just cook the garlic, toss the remaining ingredients in the saucepan you used to cook the penne and heat them up with the pasta.

Since the entire meal only uses one pot, it’s also easy to clean up afterwards. I don’t have a dishwasher, so easy cleanup is good!

Penne with Feta Cheese and Sun-dried Tomatoes for One

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Category: entree

Cuisine: Mediterranean

one serving

penne with feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and olives

Penne with Feta Cheese and Sun-dried Tomatoes for One Person


  • 3 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1C dried penne pasta
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp fresh basil
  • 2-3 castravelano olives (pitted), optional


  1. Soak the tomatoes in hot water for 20 minutes, until softened. Once they are pliable, cut them into small pieces.
  2. Boil water in a medium saucepan and cook the pasta about 8 minutes, until al dente.
  3. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving about 1/4 C of the pasta water.
  4. Add oil to the saucepan, cook garlic on low 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add the sun-dried tomatoes, pasta, cheese, salt, pepper, and olives (if using) back to the pot.
  6. Add the reserved pasta water.
  7. Stir to combine and heat through, for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Pour into a serving bowl.
  9. Top with fresh basil leaves.

Substitutions and Variations for Penne with Feta Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Olives

  • add a handful of fresh spinach (maybe half a cup of torn leaves) at the end, after you drain the pasta; cooking it just a minute or two until it wilts
  • put in some leftover cooked chicken, this makes it more substantial and suitable for dinner
  • add some cooked mushrooms (if you have dried mushrooms, throw them in the hot water when you’re rehydrating the sun-dried tomatoes)

Ingredients and Tools for This Recipe

Roland Sun-Dried Tomatoes

The nice thing about sun-dried tomatoes is that they do last a long time (if you happen to have bought a giant jar because the price was great).  In addition to pasta, you can toss them on pizza, mix them in with eggs, add them to pesto, or put them in meatloaf.


Whole Castelvetrano Olives

My mom only eats black olives and my dad only likes green ones. I never really liked olives of any kind that much until I tried these. They were set out as a bar snack (of all things). They are bright green, mild, and don’t taste sour or briny like most olives do. They’re great with this pasta dish, and also marinated in olive oil with slivers of garlic and rosemary (which is how the bar served them). Delicious and great for a wine and cheese cocktail hour (either just for you or for company).

More Single Serving Recipes with Pasta or Feta Cheese

Strawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Dressing and Feta Cheese

Summer Pasta with Green Olives and Feta Cheese

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe (a chance to use more fresh basil)

Spicy Sesame Noodles Recipe for One Person

I recently found myself craving spicy sesame noodles. Unfortunately, I had trouble finding a ready-made recipe that appealed to me. One recipe was too sweet, another was too bland.  Yet a third called for ingredients I didn’t have at hand, like tahini and sesame paste. While those would be good, I dislike buying an entire jar/package/bottle of something just for one recipe. It did give me the idea to include some ginger, which I liked. Besides, I wanted spicy sesame noodles right then and there, not several hours or days in the future!

So, I combined and improvised.  And, of course, cut down the recipes from eight or four people to just one serving.

I also didn’t have long  rice noodles, only linguine, so I used that.  If you use rice noodles, follow the directions on the package to cook them.  There are instructions in the recipe for both.  If you only have linguine (or even short pasta) use that and don’t worry about it.

So, instead of a ready-made recipe, I ended up with my own twist. But, I’m happy to say it turned out really well.

A bit of a warning about this recipe. As is, it’s really spicy, since that chili garlic sauce packs a punch, so if you prefer a milder version, leave it out.

It’s great for a hot summer day, as it requires only that you cook the noodles, and nothing else. Just chop, mix, arrange in a bowl, and eat.


Spicy Sesame Noodle Recipe for One

Category: entree

Cuisine: Chinese

one serving

spicy sesame noodles

Spicy sesame noodle recipe for one. This make a great quick and easy lunch.


  • 2 oz. dry linguine (about two inches around) or long rice noodles*
  • 1 T canola oil
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp smooth peanut butter**
  • 1/2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sriracha
  • 1/2 scallion (just the green part), chopped
  • 1/8 tsp sesame seeds


  1. Fill a medium size saucepan about two-thirds of the way full with water and bring to a boil.
  2. While the water is coming to a boil, make the spicy sauce.
  3. If using linguine, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook 8-10 minutes. If using rice pasta, follow the package directions (see note below)
  4. Mix the remaining ingredients (except for the scallions and sesame seeds) in a small bowl.
  5. Once the linguine is cooked, drain it, and run it under cold water to cool off. Pour the drained pasta into a serving bowl.
  6. Add the sauce and stir to coat the pasta.
  7. Top with scallions and sesame seeds.


* Rice Noodles: If you use rice noodles, follow the package directions for how to cook them. Generally, that means pouring boiling water over them, letting them sit, and then running the noodles under cold water. Check to make sure, because some are cooked like standard wheat noodles.

**Peanut Butter: if you use natural peanut butter, add an additional pinch of sugar and mix in 1/4 tsp or so canola oil to make it sweeter and smoother

Spicy Sesame Noodles Recipe for One Person Substitutions and Variations

  • if you don’t have rice vinegar, use white vinegar
  • top with diced fresh bell pepper
  • add lightly cooked snow peas or broccoli
  • if you want a heartier meal, add in some cooked chicken
  • add 1 tsp tahini to the sauce
  • garnish with sliced cucumber
  • use the peanut butter and cucumber to make a peanut butter and cucumber sandwich — yes, really)

More Spicy Noodle Recipes

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup for One

Schezuan Chili Noodles

Easy Singapore Noodles with Chicken for One Person


Savory Mac and Cheese Recipe with Three Cheeses

There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of mac and cheese recipes out there: three cheese, four cheese, and on and on. This savory mac and cheese recipe is a bit different. First, it’s both savory and cheesy, second it’s sized for just one person. No leftovers.

I got the idea for this recipe from a friend who made it with sun dried tomatoes. I tried it that way, but wasn’t mad about the combination.  However, the idea to add bay leaf and garlic is inspired.  I know it sounds odd, but the garlic becomes mellow once you cook it, and the bay leaf complements the cheese.

I’ve used three cheeses: cheddar, mozzarella, and manchego. My friend used cheddar and parmesan. You can follow my version, or his, or make up your own. Provolone would work too.  I even recently had mac and cheese that had muenster in it, which worked surprisingly well.

One thing though, he used low fat milk, which I would never do.  You can, if you want to.

Savory Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Category: lunch

Cuisine: American

one serving

savory mac and cheese

Savory mac and cheese with three cheeses, bay leaf, and garlic.


  • 1/2 C dry short pasta (macaroni, fusilli, or shells are fine)
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp flour
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1/3 C cheese (mixture of shredded cheddar, edam, and manchego, or whatever cheeses you like)
  • salt and pepper


  1. Boil the water for the pasta in a medium size saucepan.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a small saucepan.
  3. Add the flour, stirring continuously until it thickens and you get a roux. It should look like a paste.
  4. Then add the garlic and the bay leaf.
  5. Slowly add the milk, and bring it to a slow boil, stirring until it thickens. It should now start to look more like a sauce.
  6. Add the shredded cheese and let the sauce simmer on a low flame until the cheese melts.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the nutmeg and the thyme.
  8. Strain the pasta and pour into a dish. Add the cheese sauce and stir to combine it all together.


Note: I left the bay leaf on top for contrast and color in the image. Don't eat it!

Savory Mac and Cheese Recipe Substitutions and Variations

  • as suggested above, mix and match the cheese you use
  • add the sun dried tomatoes when you mix the cheese and pasta together (just because I didn’t care for it, doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea)
  • cook some bacon and crumble that on top
  • include some caramelized onions
  • top with prosciutto

More Savory Pasta Recipes

Pasta Alla Norma with Eggplant

Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage

Summer Pasta with Green Olives and Feta Cheese

Pistachio Pesto Pasta Recipe

Tools and Ingredients for Making Savory Mac and Cheese

small square baking dishsmall square baking dish
Porcelain Square Quiche Dish 

I just got this little dish and I’m really pleased with it. It’s oven, dishwasher, and microwave safe, and it fits in the toaster oven so I don’t have to heat up my big oven to make something small. It’s called a quiche dish, but it was great for mac and cheese, and I intend to use it for single serving apple crisp and brownies. It’s even pretty enough to serve in. The other nice thing is you can buy just one, rather than a set.

small au gratin dishsmall au gratin dish
Porcelain Round Au Gratin Dish

This au gratin dish, from the same company, is also a good option. It has handles to make it easier to pick up and take out of the oven (which I wish I had thought of). It would also make a nice dish for serving scrambled eggs.