One Pot Pasta Formula

Our One Pot Pasta Formula gets dinner on the table using whatever ingredients you have on hand. It’s great any night of the week but especially the nights you just need to grab whatever’s handy in the pantry without worrying about having to run to the store.

text overlay the ultimate one pot pasta formula!; 2 handled pot with dry spiral pasta, zucchini, parsley, slices of green bell peppers, tomatoes, purple onion, and chicken in it; serving spoon and fork in background.

The first time I heard about a one pot pasta dinner I didn’t really believe it was possible. The idea of cooking noodles in their sauce (instead of in water) seemed really odd to me. I was positive that the noodles would turn out pasty or somehow not cook properly.

I was wrong.

One Pot Pasta Dinners work!

After making that first one that I tried, I was a convert. Then I started tweaking the recipe and playing around with it to make it different every time. I did that a lot and eventually came up with a loose formula for myself. I wrote down that loose formula and kept playing around with it until I came up with the formula that I have for you today.

The formula is really and truly amazing. Your entire dinner is cooked in one pot and takes under 30 minutes. The best part is that there is only one pot to wash after you’re done. Oh no, wait. The best part is that it’s delicious!

Here’s the basics on how the One Pot Pasta Formula works:

You’ll find a basic recipe below. In the recipe, it says “see lists below” in a few spots. Below the recipe you’ll find the lists. There’s a list for uncooked proteins, pre-cooked proteins, veggies, seasonings, cheeses, and garnishes.

As you make the recipe, you add things from the various lists as instructed. In this way, you can make this same recipe over and over and never have it be the same way twice!

To inspire you with all the possibilities, in the days ahead we’ll be sharing different versions from this formula. We have spaghetti and meatballs, a lasagna bake, a one pot chicken Parmesan bake, taco pasta, Buffalo chicken pasta, fettucine alfredo, Philly cheesesteak pasta, shrimp scampi, and a pasta primavera. All of those are made in one pot using the basic formula below. See how creative and amazing this formula is?

How to Cook a One Pot Pasta:

First, if you’re using uncooked meat, you put some oil into a big pot and cook the meat in there. Then transfer the meat to a plate so it’s out of the way. Add more oil to the pot and saute some onion and up to two other vegetables (see the list below) until softened.

Toss in some garlic and some seasonings.

Then you stir in stock, cream, salt, and a can of diced tomatoes. Bring that up to a simmer and then add in your pasta. I like to use penne or rotini for this recipe. You can also use linguine or spaghetti but you need to break it into pieces before adding it to the pot.

After adding the pasta, you drop down the stove temperature to just keep the pot at a simmer. Stir the pasta often until it is softened to your desired consistency. It’s going to take about 13-15 minutes to get it there.

If the pasta seems to have soaked up all the liquid and is dry, you can add a bit more stock. This doesn’t usually happen to me but it seems to depend on the type of pasta used. Some just soak up more liquid.

Once the pasta is cooked, you should have a thin sauce coating it. Add in the cheese and stir. The cheese mixes with the sauce and thickens it all up a bit.

At this point you stir in your cooked meat or legumes and stir a moment to heat them through. Then transfer the pasta to dinner plates and top with some garnishes if you’d like.

You seriously get these noodles in a rich and creamy sauce, protein, and veggies too, all from one simple pot!

Below you’ll find the printable recipe for the formula followed by the lists of ingredients that you can use to change it up.


One Pot Pasta Formula

Our One Pot Pasta Formula gets dinner on the table using whatever ingredients you have on hand. It’s great any night of the week but especially the nights you just need to grab whatever’s handy in the pantry without worrying about having to run to the store.

  • Author: Christine Pittman
  • Prep Time: 8 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 Minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 Servings


  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. cooking oil, divided
  • Uncooked protein or pre-cooked protein (see lists below)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Up to 2 more vegetables (see list below)
  •  2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. seasoning (see list below)
  • 33 and 1/2 cups low-sodium stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
  • 12 oz. dried pasta, long strands like spaghetti or linguine broken into 23 pieces
  • 1 and 1/2 cups shredded cheese (see list below)
  • Optional garnishes (see list below)


  1. If using uncooked protein, season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the protein and cook, stirring occasionally until cooked through. Transfer it to a plate. If using uncooked protein, skip this step.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pot. Add the onion along with up to two more vegetables. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic and the seasoning. Cook and stir 30 seconds.
  4. Add 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, stock, cream, and diced tomatoes. Heat to a simmer, stirring frequently, and then immediately add the pasta.
  5. Reduce the temperature to keep it at a low simmer, stirring often until the pasta is cooked, 13-15 minutes. If the pasta has soaked up a lot of the liquid and seems dry, add an extra 1/2 cup of stock.
  6. Once the pasta is cooked, stir in your cooked protein or pre-cooked protein. Heat through. Add the cheese and stir until it melts.
  7. Distribute among dinner plates and top with garnishes, if using.


Uncooked proteins, use 1 pound of:

  • Cubed chicken
  • Ground chicken
  • Ground turkey
  • Ground beef
  • Cubed pork tenderloin
  • Beef strips
  • Sliced Italian sausage
  • Shrimp
  • Salmon chunks
  • Tofu

Pre-cooked protein:

  • 3 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
  • 3 cups leftover cooked cubed chicken
  • 3 cups leftover cubed beef or pork
  • 16 oz. sliced sausages that are bought fully-cooked
  • 2 cans drained canned legumes such as kidney beans, chick peas, or cannellini beans

Extra vegetables:

  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms

Seasonings, use max 2 teaspoons of seasoning total, and max 1 teaspoon of any particular one:

  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Chili powder
  • Paprika
  • Dill
  • Parsley
  • Lemon pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (max ½ teaspoon)

Cheese, 1 and ½ cup of shredded cheese total, unless otherwise specified:

  • Mozzarella
  • Cheddar
  • Colby
  • pepper jack
  • Mexican cheese mix
  • Swiss
  • Provolone
  • Parmesan (max ½ cup)
  • Asiago (max ½ cup)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese in pieces
  • 4 slices provolone cut in pieces.

Optional Garnishes, use two tablespoons of garnish total per person:

  • Chopped green onions
  • Chopped chives
  • Chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Toasted panko bread crumbs
  • Chopped avocado
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Cooked bacon crumbles
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Feta cheese crumbles
  • Sliced black olives
  • Diced fresh tomatoes
  • Chopped capers
  • More shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Crumbled tortilla chips
  • Lemon zest (1/4 teaspoon per serving max)
  • Sour cream
  • Dollop of seasoned ricotta cheese
  • Drizzle of Buffalo wing sauce

One Pot Pasta Formula
One Pot Pasta Formula

Christine Pittman

Christine is the Senior Editor and Owner of The Cookful and of COOKtheSTORY and of the podcast Time Management Insider. Her sites reach over 2 million readers per month, which means that things can get a bit crazy. She's constantly writing, taking pictures, editing, recording, interviewing, managing contributors, and, oh yeah, cooking. To say that she wears many hats is an understatement - there are many hats, and also many shirts, shoes, pants, and even the odd cape!