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Quick and Easy Pasta

Here are some fast, easy recipes for getting a delicious meal on the table in under 30 minutes. Just what you need when you're starving and don't want to wait an hour for dinner.

When you've had a long day at work, the last thing you want to do when you come home is to start cooking. 

But with pasta, you can have a delicious, home-cooked meal on the table in under 30 minutes. Even faster than phoning for a takeaway.

Pasta is convenient for when you want dinner in a hurry. If you keep a few key ingredients in your store cupboard you will always be ready to rustle up something good in no time at all.

Here are some quick recipes to get you started. All recipes serve 4 unless stated otherwise. 

Pesto alla Genovese

This has been called 'the food of the gods and once you taste it, you will understand why; I could eat this every day. Makes enough pesto for 500g of pasta.

50g fresh basil leaves

110 ml extra virgin olive oil

75g pine nuts

2 garlic cloves, peeled

100g grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Simply place all of the ingredients - except for the cheese - in a food processor and whizz to a coarse paste. Tip into a bowl and stir in the cheese. Stir through some tagliatelle or fettuccine and serve with extra Parmesan to sprinkle over. 

Pasta Frittata

A frittata is a bit like an omelette only thicker. My dad used to make this for my brother and me when we were kids. You can use any leftover pasta and sauce or cook some pasta just to make this. Serves 2.

About 150g leftover cooked pasta (with or without sauce)
1 tablespoon olive oil
A knob of butter
2 eggs, beaten
25g grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a non-stick pan until sizzling. Mix the pasta with the eggs, season and stir well. Pour the mixture into the hot pan, lower the heat slightly and cook for about 5 minutes. Lift the edge of the frittata to check that the underneath is brown and crispy then carefully turn it over, using a wide spatula.

Cook the other side for another 5 minutes, sprinkle with the Parmesan and slide onto a warm plate. Cut in half to serve. Nice as a light lunch with some salad.

Tagliatelle with Tomatoes and Olives

This dish has some very intense flavours but only takes 20 minutes to make. It's suitable for vegetarians but if you want, you can add some chopped salami or bacon to the sauce. (Pictured above.)


2 tablespoons olive oil for frying 

1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

400g tin chopped tomatoes

100g black olives, or a mixture of black and green olives

Salt and pepper

A pinch of sugar

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and fry the onion over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes then pour in the tomatoes. Season and add a pinch of sugar if needed. Bring to the boil then leave to simmer while you cook the pasta. 

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water for 8 - 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking together, then drain in a colander. Tip the pasta into the pan with the sauce, halve the olives and stir through until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. 

Serve on warmed plates with some garlic bread. 

Macaroni with Bacon and Onions

This is a quick recipe for when you want dinner fast. Smoky, crispy bacon, sweet onions and a hint of chilli.

350g short macaroni
150g smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons tomato puree
A pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and pepper
Grated Parmesan to serve

Bring a large pan of water with a teaspoon of salt added to the boil. Tip in the macaroni, stir and lower the heat slightly. Cook for about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a separate pan and fry the onion and bacon over a fairly high heat. You want the onions to go very brown at the edges and the bacon to be crisp. Lower the heat, add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes.

Drain the macaroni in a colander, not too thoroughly as you want to keep back some of the starchy water the pasta was cooked in. Tip the bacon and onions into the pan holding the pasta, add the tomato puree, and season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Stir well so that the tomato puree coats the macaroni thoroughly.

Serve in warmed bowls generously sprinkled with the Parmesan cheese.

Penne with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola

This is a delicious, creamy, pasta dish that is quick to make and a pleasure to eat. The sauce almost makes itself. You can use any type of blue cheese if you don't like Gorgonzola; dolcelatte is a good alternative.

350g penne or rigatoni pasta
150g Gorgonzola, cut into pieces
175ml double cream
250g chestnut mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
1 - 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
25g butter
50g Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
A tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley

Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling, salted water for about 8 - 9 minutes or until soft to the bite but with a little resistance, then drain in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pan and when it's melted and sizzling, add the sliced mushrooms. Lower the heat to medium and stir occasionally as the mushrooms cook until softened and browned. Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes. Pour in the cream, add the Gorgonzola and half the Parmesan then tip the cooked pasta into the sauce.

Stir the pasta and sauce over a low heat until the cheeses have melted. Season with salt and pepper, and serve on warmed plates with the parsley sprinkled over, and the rest of the cheese handed around for people to help themselves.

This just needs a simple green salad to offset the richness of the sauce.

Linguine with Courgettes, Chilli and Lemon

This is a lovely, light, fresh-tasting dish. The flavours work so well together. Serves 2.

1 medium courgette, sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 small fresh red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped (optional)

Zest and juice of half a lemon

2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

35g grated fresh Parmesan cheese

25g toasted pine nuts

Salt and pepper

150g linguine

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain in a colander, reserving some of the cooking water. 

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan and fry the courgette for about 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and chilli (if using) and fry for 2 minutes. 

Tip the drained pasta into the pan of courgettes, add the lemon zest and juice, half the Parmesan and the seasoning and stir until well combined. You may need a little more olive oil, or add a little of the reserved cooking water to loosen the pasta before serving.

Serve on warmed plates, garnished with the pine nuts and the remaining Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over. 

Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic

This is a very quick and simple dish but light and tasty. Feel free to add as much garlic and chilli as you like. Serves 2.

150g spaghetti

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

25g butter

1 small red chilli, sliced

2 - 4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced

Salt and pepper

Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling water until tender. Drain, reserving a little of the cooking water.

Heat the olive oil and butter in another pan and fry the garlic and chilli gently for about 5 minutes. Add the pasta and use tongs to toss the spaghetti so that it gets well coated with the oil. Season with salt and pepper and serve in warmed bowls.

You can sprinkle over some grated fresh Parmesan if you want