5 fast pasta recipes you can turn around in a hurry

Here's what to have on hand if you want to make these memorable noodles in a snap.

Here's what to have on hand if you want to make these memorable noodles in a snap

(Photo: David Bagosy, Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

You may find that menu planning and shopping for the week comes naturally to you, and if it doesn't, our ready-made grocery lists can help. But if you always make sure to have certain ingredients in the kitchen, that preparedness will pay off — you can turn around a meal without thinking about a grocery shop at all. 

To that end, we've rounded some quick pasta recipes that are easy and quick to make, great-tasting, and impressive enough for a special evening too. They rely on ingredients that keep well, like breadcrumbs, garlic and dried herbs, which can always be kept on hand. Plus with the freedom to substitute, you can make them work when you're in a pinch.

Fettuccine Alfredo

(Credit: James Lyndsay)

Here's what you need to have one hand: 
Fettuccine noodles, (double) whipping cream and (single) regular cream, an egg, and truffles or truffle oil if you feel fancy

This silky sauce gets its richness from egg yolk. Cream can have a relatively long refrigerator-life —  just be sure to check the expiry dates and reach for the furthest one out. 

Obviously, you don't need to make the pasta from scratch. Dried will do just as well here, and if you don't have fettuccine, any other long noodle can take its place. 

Skillet Lasagna 

Here's what you need to keep on hand: 
Lasagna noodles
, a jar of strained and pureed tomatoes (passata), ricotta, mozzarella, a fresh tomato or tomato paste

If you make the pasta sauce in an oven-proof skillet (which you'll need for the 'bake' part of the recipe, that's one less dish to wash later. Tip: This is a sauce that would freeze well if you want to make a double batch for next time. 

This recipe calls for a fresh tomato, but a tablespoon or two of tomato paste works too.  If you're opening a new can of tomato paste, freeze what you don't use on a plate, portioned out into tablespoon-sized blobs. Pop the frozen portions off the plate the next day, and store in an air-tight container in the freezer for the next time you need them. 

Dried basil, around 2 teaspoons, can be swapped in for the fresh. 

Dairy-Free Mac n' Cheese

Here's what you need to have one hand: 

Macaroni, yellow potatoes, carrots, onion, coconut milk, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, raw cashews, garlic powder, breadcrumbs, crushed chili flakes

If you're looking for a hearty vegan pasta, this is it. Cashews and nutritional yeast make a creamy, cheese-like sauce that comes together quickly in the blender. Keep bottled lemon juice on hand if you plan on making this a lot, so you don't have to worry if you've run out of lemons. 

You could swap sweet potato in for the yellow potatoes and cauliflower for the carrots, if you've got those on hand instead. You could also leave the carrots out altogether — but keep the potatoes since they help thicken the sauce. 

A Simplified Spaghetti and Meatballs

(Photo: David Bagosy, Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

Here's what you need to keep on hand: 
Spaghetti noodles, a jar of pureed and strained tomatoes (passata), Parmesan cheese

There's nothing faster than adding ready-made elements together, so if you ever get a chance, batch-cook and freeze these meatballs so you always have them around.

But, if you don't have time to make meatballs up front, just leave them out and make a simple yet impressive red sauce spaghetti. Save a bit of the pasta water so you can use that starchy liquid to get the perfect sauce consistency at the end. The fresh basil can be substituted with for dry — try 1-2 teaspoons.

Sweet Potato Macaroni and Cheese

Here's what you need to keep on hand: 
Any type of noodle, sweet potatoes, carrots, milk, garlic powder, cream cheese, cheddar cheese

This dish is great for kids and adults alike. The sweet potato is pureed with cream cheese for a creamy, flavourful sauce (helpful if you need to sneak your vegetables in for picky eaters), and it's thickened by the potatoes — no long process of making a roux. 

Swap the carrot for cauliflower or leave it out altogether, although it does add a sweetness your kids may appreciate. Whichever vegetable you choose, chopping it up fine speeds up the cooking. 

Jessica Brooks is a digital producer and pro-trained cook and baker. Follow her food stories on Instagram @brooks_cooks.

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