Quick pasta recipes for busy nights

Sometimes you just don't have lots of time to spend in the kitchen prepping dinner. That doesn't mean you need to resort to handing out microwaved meals to the family, though, and it doesn't mean your only choice is a few cold sandwiches, either. If your family loves pasta, you're in for a treat: There are a whole bunch of amazing — and amazingly easy — recipes that will have you sitting down to a good meal in 30 minutes or less. Being busy doesn't mean you have to compromise on a good meal, it just means working efficiently in the kitchen. These recipes have you covered!

Bruschetta chicken pasta salad

There's so much to love about this super-simple, super-fast recipe that it's sure to be one of your favorites, and here's why. Not only does this one dish from Cafe Delites pack in your veggies and healthy meat in the form of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but it's the perfect meal for a busy night because it's equally good served hot or cold. While it's not going to take you too long to cook up some pasta, cook your chicken, and toss in with some garlic, red onion, Roma tomatoes, and Parmesan cheese, it also does double duty as a cold dinner — so you're ready to go if tomorrow's another busy day. 

Vegan pumpkin cream sauce

If you love a bit of pumpkin flavor and you've never thought about using it on your favorite pasta, you're seriously missing out. This Gal Cooks has whipped up an amazing pumpkin cream sauce that she uses not just on pasta, but over pretty much anything you can think of. Not only is it vegan, but it only takes about 15 minutes to prepare and no matter how busy you are, you can find 15 minutes for this completely unique sauce that will make you look at pasta in a whole different way.

If you've ever looked at the pasta in your cupboard and thought that you were sick of the same old thing, this is the anything-but-ordinary recipe for you.

One-pan orecchiette with chickpeas and olives

As much as you might wish it weren't so, cooking time usually includes clean-up time. No one likes it, but with this recipe for a tasty orecchiette from Martha Stewart, you're not only going to be spending minimal time putting the meal together, but you're going to have just one pan in the sink when it comes time to do those dreaded dishes.

After cooking up a batch of orecchiette in a sauce of chickpeas, tomato paste, rosemary and pepper, you're done. All that's left to do is dish up your meal and grab your utensils. The red pepper flakes give this one a little extra heat, while the olives and chickpeas add a flavor that will make you think you're in the Mediterranean... if only for a few minutes, before you're up and out the door again.

Penne all'arrabbiata

If you're looking for something with a vibrant color and a flavor to match, then a site called No Recipes, ironically, has the recipe you're looking for. The name of the sauce says it all here, because "sugo all'arrabbiata" literally means "angry sauce".

You can make this one as spicy as you like, with options to swap out some peppers that won't just change the taste, but will also change the fiery red color. Not only is there no way to go wrong here, but it's a dish that lends itself to some major experimentation... all during the estimated 20 or so minutes it'll take you to get this one on your plate.

Pizza mac and cheese

There's no one on the planet that doesn't like pizza in one form or another, and the same goes for mac and cheese. But have you ever considered combining them? If not, you're missing out on a super-easy pasta dish that you can have ready in less than 30 minutes.

Check out this recipe from Delish that calls for a pound of penne and a splash of tomato paste, along with oregano, mozzarella, and mini pepperoni slices for a baked dish that will give you all the hearty goodness of pasta, pizza, and mac and cheese. Cook your pasta at the same time you're preparing your sauce, and then it's just a matter of a quick 10 minutes in the oven before you're ready to eat. For a little variety, you can consider throwing in some of your favorite pizza toppings, too. Diced ham, sausage, or some jalapenos can easily personalize this to your own tastes and, like pizza, it makes great leftovers.

One-pot whole wheat pasta carbonara

If you're looking for something filling, look no further than this one-pot whole wheat pasta carbonara from Mashed's own Jennifer En. It's a go-to dish for her, especially on those days where there just doesn't seem to be enough hours.  

This one is ready to go in around 20 minutes, and even better, you'll only have one pot sitting in the sink by the time you're done. The official version of the recipe calls for all kinds of goodness, like chicken broth, pancetta, shallots, and Parmesan cheese, but if you don't happen to have those in your kitchen cupboards, don't despair. Swap bacon or a bit of sausage for the pancetta, some Pecorino Romano for the Parmesan, or add a dash of hot pepper flakes for a meal you can make all your own.

Meatball and tortellini soup

There's nothing quite like a steaming bowl of soup to warm you inside and out, but soup can take a long time. Most soups, that is, but there's no need to reach for the can when you've got this recipe for meatball and tortellini soup from The Seasoned Mom.

This one takes only 30 minutes to go from ingredients to your bowl, and that's not bad for such a hearty dish that walks the line between soup and stew. It's filled with ingredients you can buy already prepped, like frozen meatballs, diced tomatoes and onions, and three-cheese tortellini. Add in a base of beef broth, some Italian seasoning, garlic, and garnish with some fresh basil and some Parmesan cheese and you'll have a hearty soup that tastes like it's been simmering on the stove for hours. Only you'll know the truth, and you absolutely don't have to tell.

Marmite and pancetta spaghetti

This recipe from BBC Good Food is proof that quick and easy doesn't have to translate to boring or run-of-the-mill. The heart of the recipe is two teaspoons of Marmite, along with Parmesan and cheddar cheese and a healthy helping of pancetta. The Marmite and cheese — along with butter, because everything is better with butter — coats the delicate strands of spaghetti in a way that's absolutely not overpowering for those evenings when you don't just want something quick, but you want something light.

It's not the healthiest dish in the world, thanks to the pancetta, but with a five minute prep time and a cook time of only about 10 minutes, it might just be the perfect, umami-inspired dish to fill you up and get you on your way before you know it.

Cheese ravioli with lemon basil butter sauce

Two Peas & Their Pod knows there's no reason to compromise on flavor, even if you're short on time. Their lemon basil butter sauce recipe is drizzled over pre-made cheese ravioli, and it's a light and tasty meal that will only take about 25 minutes to make. By the time you dig in, you'll forget that part of it came out of the package.

Broccoli and sage pasta

Just because you're in a hurry, that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice anything when it comes to getting a good meal that's good for you. BBC Good Food has this great recipe for a broccoli and sage pasta that's not only ready in only 15 minutes, but it's also a great way to get your vegetables.

This recipe gives meat a miss, but it's a vegetarian option that won't have you missing meat at all. The broccoli and pasta is seasoned with shallots, chilies, garlic, and sage before being topped with a dash of Parmesan, and it's so simple that you'll wonder why you never tried it before.

Shrimp fra diavolo

Nothing says you've spent a lot of time and effort on dinner like a seafood dish, and Serious Eats has a recipe for shrimp fra diavolo that will give you all the kitchen cred with surprisingly minimal effort.

It's based on the much more difficult lobster fra diavolo, but with this shrimp version there's no need to spend hours picking apart lobsters to collect the stock. This is one recipe that's a great example of working smart instead of working hard — it'll be done in about 30 minutes.

Shrimp and clam juice to give this entire meal a well-rounded seafood flavor, red chili flakes add a bit of heat, and traditional Italian spices give it an authentic feel. This is one dish that's definitely going to look and taste like you've spent much longer in the kitchen than you actually did.

Gnocchi and sweet potatoes with hazelnuts

If you're the type that likes to make your own pasta from scratch at least occasionally, picking up a few packages of gnocchi from the grocery store might seem like you're committing some sort of semi-serious betrayal. But sometimes, there's just not time to make anything from scratch, and there's nothing wrong with that. Take this recipe from Real Simple as an example of what a little bit of creativity can do to a package of pre-made gnocchi.  

It takes only about 20 minutes from start to finish, and that start is with boiling sweet potatoes. Saute some butter, garlic, and sage to really bring out the flavors, add a dash of sherry, and another healthy helping of butter and you'll have a hot, hearty meal that's going to fill you up right with flavors reminiscent of early autumn. The entire thing is topped with a sprinkling of hazelnuts, and you'll find you have more than enough time to toast them as you're preparing the main dish for a rich, nutty alternative to a tomato-based sauce.

Kale pesto pasta

Just because you're in a rush to get something on the table, doesn't mean you need to compromise on taste, flavor, or getting a healthy meal. This recipe from Culinary Hill is the perfect reason to experiment with something you may have never tried before: brown rice pasta.

The kale pesto sauce is just as good on regular pasta, but if you've always wanted to try the brown rice variety but you've been a little dubious, the flavor of the pesto is the perfect compliment to introduce you to something new. It's bursting with flavor from kale, basil, and a bit of lemon juice and zest, making it a light but aromatic dish. Add some Parmesan cheese and a handful of toasted pine nuts, and you'll have a light, guilt-free dinner that's ready in only 15 minutes. It's so good, brown rice pasta might just become a staple in your kitchen cupboard!

Ground beef stroganoff

Sometimes, you're not in the mood to try something new. There are some days that just call out for an old favorite, like Mom used to make, and for countless people, that's beef stroganoff. There's no need to spend hours standing over this one, though, and Spend with Pennies has a tasty recipe that's ready in just 25 minutes.

The beauty of this one is that it lends itself to whatever you happen to have on hand, and there's no need to give this a miss because you're short an ingredient or two. Who has time to factor in a trip to the grocery store on short notice? If you're out of ground beef, use ground pork instead. Don't have fresh mushrooms? A can works just as well. You can even swap out the sour cream for some of the Greek yogurt that you usually reserve for breakfast, and you'll still have a creamy, comforting meal at the end. Use whatever pasta you have in the cupboard, garnish with some fresh parsley, and enjoy!