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Quick and Easy Pantry Pasta

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Pantry pasta can be made with whatever ingredients you have on hand in your fridge and pantry! An easy to customize recipe base that can be ready in about 15 minutes.

Freshly grated Parmesan on top of a bowl of spaghetti

What is pantry pasta?

My husband and I call this “pantry pasta” because it can be made with whatever ingredients we have lying around in the pantry (and fridge). We make sure to keep a supply of the following at all times, so we're always prepared:

  • spaghetti
  • unsalted butter
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • garlic
  • lemons
  • Parmesan (usually a wedge to grate, but sometimes a container of pre-grated)

That's the base we work with, but it's always a little bit different based on what we have and what we feel like doing that day.

What else can you add to pantry pasta?

The options are seriously endless because it can be whatever your little heart has around and desires, but here are some of our favorites:


  • anchovies
  • sardines
  • chicken (especially shredded chicken)
  • crumbled Italian sausage
  • shrimp


  • chickpeas
  • black beans
  • kidney beans
  • white beans


  • spinach
  • kale
  • cherry tomatoes
  • caramelized onions
  • peas
  • artichokes
  • mushrooms
  • corn

Herbs and spices

  • chives
  • green onions
  • parsley
  • cilantro
  • thyme
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • chili powder

How long does pantry pasta take to make?

With my base recipe, about 15 minutes! But it totally depends on what else you add to it, since there might be a little more prep involved with some of the ingredients you decide to include.

Do I have to use spaghetti?

Nope! We've been known to use:

  • rigatoni
  • linguine
  • fettuccini
  • penne
  • cavatappi
  • bucatini

You can even swap the pasta for gnocchi for something more filling.

Fun fact: Contrary to popular belief, gnocchi isn't pasta – it's a dumpling!

How to make pantry pasta

  1. In a large pot, cook your pasta to al dente according to package directions. For spaghetti, the general rule of thumb is 4 ounces of pasta per person.
  2. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain. Toss the pasta in 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, you'll heat oil and cook garlic and other add ins for a couple minutes.
  4. Transfer the cooked pasta to your saucepan, add the reserved pasta water, some more butter and cheese and toss to coat and combine.
  5. Add some lemon juice and zest, toss again to combine, salt and pepper to taste, and serve! I like to add plenty more freshly grated cheese, black pepper and herbs.

If you have a pet that's particularly fond of some of the ingredients (in our case, fishy and cheese), best of luck cooking and eating in peace.

Puck likes to show us that he's very tall, and scream at us so we know he's available for taste testing purposes. We never take him up on it, but I guess you have to admire his persistence.

Freshly grated Parmesan on top of a bowl of spaghetti and sautéed garlic and anchovies

What to serve with pantry pasta

If you're looking to beef up your meal a bit more so people have even more options, try adding one of these to the table, too:

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15-Minute Pantry Pasta

5 from 3 votes
I call this "pantry pasta" because it can be made with whatever ingredients you have on hand in your fridge and pantry! An easy to customize recipe base that can be ready on the table in about 15 minutes.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 2 servings


Base pasta recipe

Optional herb additions

Optional veggie additions


  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, return to a boil, and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 8 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, and drain pasta. Toss pasta in 1 tablespoon butter and set aside.
    8 ounces (226 ⅘ g) dry spaghetti
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • During the last few minutes of pasta cook time, add oil to a large saucepan and heat over medium-high. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add anchovies and red pepper flake and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute.
    1-2 tablespoons (1 tablespoons) olive oil
    2 cloves garlic
    2 ounces (56 ⅔ g) anchovies
    Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Carefully transfer cooked pasta to saucepan of garlic mixture. Add 1/4 cup pasta water, remaining 1 tablespoon butter and Parmesan cheese and cook, using tongs to toss constantly, until liquid reduces and coats pasta, 1 to 2 minutes.
    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1/4 cup (25 g) Parmesan cheese
  • Add lemon juice and zest, and toss to combine (and add more reserved pasta water as needed). Salt and pepper to taste.
    Zest of 1 lemon
    Juice of 1 lemon
    salt and pepper
  • Serve immediately, top with more cheese and/or herbs, and enjoy!
    1 tablespoon chives
    1 tablespoon green onions for topping
    1 tablespoon parsley


Nutrition Facts

Calories: 689kcal | Carbohydrates: 89g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 56mg | Sodium: 258mg | Potassium: 620mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 2409IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 250mg | Iron: 4mg

Nutrition Disclaimer

The provided nutrition information is generated by an automatic API and does not take variations across specific brands into account. This information is provided as a general guideline and should not be treated as official calculations. Learn more here.

Recipe created by Leslie Kiszka

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Always a favorite — even for my little guy! So easy and with the ability to change things up depending on what we have. Almost always have the ingredients and so it’s my go-to “I forgot to plan anything for dinner” meal

  2. 5 stars
    I thought my family was the only one that did this! Such an easy lunch or dinner, we make it a little differently every time.