Pasta is often dismissed as an unimpressive, juvenile meal—something you cook on those clean-out-the-pantry weeknights when you don’t feel like doing more than boiling a pot of water and cracking open a can of tomato sauce. But pasta doesn’t have to be the realm of amateur chefs or college kids. To prove it, we offer seven mouthwatering pasta recipes that look as gourmet as they taste. We’re talking risotto with mushrooms, shrimp and pasta stew, and homemade (!!) gnocchi. But we’ll let you in on a little secret: all of these recipes take minimal time and effort, so you can wow your dinner guests without laboring away in the kitchen (because what fun is that?).
We gotta say, low-maintenance risotto is a weeknight go-to. (Done in less than an hour! Minimal stirring!) But what if we told you that you could have the goodness of risotto in even less time? It’s possible, thanks to this recipe for spinach and lemon “orzotto.” In place of rice, we cook orzo (small rice-shaped pasta) in a similar style to risotto for creamy results in just 30 minutes. Add a poached egg on top and you’re golden.
We get it: Constantly stirring risotto is not high on your list of priorities. (You have emails to send, homework to help with and Netflix shows to binge-watch, for crying out loud.) Your time is precious, so we’re here to help. In this recipe, we still add the broth to the rice one cup at a time as in the traditional method, but we save the stirring for the very end to create that coveted creamy texture. So all you have to do is keep an eye on the pot as the risotto simmers and do what you do best: multitask.
Pasta with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil and Ricotta
Cherry tomatoes are the stars of this basic-yet-showstopping dish. Sauté a couple of pints with sweet onions and garlic, then add that goodness to spaghetti. Finish each plate with a sprinkling of fresh basil and a healthy dollop of ricotta cheese for a meal that’s simply delicious.
A Lighter Take on Chicken Parm
Through extensive research (and by “research,” we mean eating), we’ve found that certain comfort foods are equally as delicious baked as they are fried. So we thought why not change up chicken parmigiana next? Our version of the Italian classic starts with thin chicken breasts, which we stuff with a cheese-and-spinach filling, roll up into bundles and coat lightly with bread crumbs. Then we bake the chicken–along with homemade tomato sauce and, of course, more cheese–for about 30 minutes. In the name of said research, we’re prepared to have seconds.
Pasta with Peas, Artichokes, Lemon & Mint
Amidst all of the winter comfort foods, this lightened-up pasta takes like a breath of fresh air. We add fresh peas and marinated artichokes to the noodles, then skip the marinara and make a “sauce” using grated cheese and lemon juice. Top it all off with a sprinkling of mint, lemon zest and black pepper, and you’ve got a dish that looks–and tastes–like it took hours, not 30 minutes.
Deep in your cabinet, wedged between a fondue pot and a bamboo steamer, probably lies the pasta-maker attachment you’ve used exactly never. You now have permission to regift it to your mother-in-law, because you’re just a quick mix, roll and cut away from no-gadgets-needed homemade pasta. Here, ricotta, egg and Parmesan come together to make light and fluffy gnocchi. Finish with brown butter and sage, then get ready to plate second helpings.
The word “stew” always seems tedious, doesn’t it? In fact, we bet you’re already thinking about a long-simmering dish that will require a separate trip to the market and take you half a day to make. But that’s hardly the case when the two main ingredients are shrimp and pasta, both of which absorb tons of flavor and cook super quickly. This recipe comes together in just about 30 minutes on the stove, and the addition of bright tomato, parsley and lemon make it an easy and hearty wintertime staple.
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