Low-effort pasta recipes for lazy spring dinners

Closeup of a plate of pasta with vegetables and smaller plates with Parmesan and bread.
An easy pasta dinner without the sauce.
(Silvia Razgova / For The Times)

My most shameful secret as a recipe developer is that I don’t really care about pasta. Yes, I know. It’s delicious and easy, but I’m much more of a rice or bread person. Obviously, this is not a popular opinion, one that often gets me silent glares when I choose to share it openly at dinner parties.

That said, the reason I don’t often make it at home is that, just like the typical cook, I fall into a rut where I make the same sauces over and over again, and sometimes I just don’t want to make another sauce for the pasta.

That’s why when I come across new pasta recipes that are blessedly simple and don’t call for making a sauce, I cling to them tighter than a sauce to pasta that hasn’t yet been diluted with cooking water (super-niche pasta humor, sorry).

One such recipe is the Pasta With Tomato Confit and Ricotta from my pal Alexis deBoschnek’s new cookbook “To the Last Bite,” in which DeBoschnek tosses slowly roasted cherry tomatoes with pasta and some dollops of ricotta — and that’s it. It’s so simple I barely have to think about anything beyond boiling the pasta. I feature that recipe, and another for a bright, crisp Carrot Ribbon Salad, in my review last week of DeBoschnek’s book.

Following in that same vein, here are some other so-easy-you’ll-laugh recipes for when you just want a couple of flavor-packed ingredients to punch up a satisfying bowl of pasta.

Maria Zizka’s Midnight Pasta couldn’t be simpler, gilding pasta with nothing more than some garlic, pine nuts and capers lightly warmed in olive oil. Dawn Perry’s Pasta With Garlic & Chile Greens and Toasted Bread Crumbs takes that same formula but adds some nutritious greens to the mix, which wilt down in seconds while the pasta cooks and some crunchy, don’t-skip-’em bread crumbs toast up in the oven.

And if you have a lemon, a handful of mushrooms and a bag of frozen broccoli lying around, you can make my Caramelized Lemon Pasta With Mushrooms and Broccoli, which lets the citrus do all the flavor labor.


Pasta With Tomato Confit and Ricotta

Tomato confit is great on just about everything — topped on pizza, piled high on charred sourdough, swirled in with creamy polenta — but it’s particularly good mixed into pasta with heaps of ricotta.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 20 minutes, plus 2 hours, largely unattended, for tomatoes.

Pasta with Tomato Confit and Ricotta from "To the Last Bite."
(Nicole Franzen)

Midnight Pasta

Spaghettata, a feast of piping hot pasta cooked at home late at night, often after you’ve come home from the bar, is perfect for when you are hungry and not quite ready for bed. Substitutions abound in this recipe. Instead of capers, try using another small, salty ingredient like olives or anchovies. Swap out the pine nuts for a rich, buttery ingredient like chopped walnuts or grated hard cheese.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 20 minutes.

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Pasta With Garlic & Chile Greens and Toasted Bread Crumbs

Homemade super-crunchy bread crumbs — made from the last bits of a leftover loaf — elevate this simple pasta dish, teeming with spicy, garlicky greens. Any pasta works for this dish, but short, tubular shapes are great for catching all those flavorful bread crumbs and cheese.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 30 minutes.


Pasta with Greens, Garlic & Chili
(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

Caramelized Lemon Pasta With Mushrooms and Broccoli

Vegetarian and filling, this pasta dish gets all its zest from tangy caramelized lemon. To make it vegan, simply sreplace the parmesan with a shake of nutritional yeast at the end.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

Caramelized-Lemon Pasta With Broccoli
(Silvia Razgova/For The Times)

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