This one-pot pasta recipe combines spaghetti with ripe fresh tomatoes and herbs. Nobody likes to clean dishes, so the noodles cook in the same pan as the light and flavorful sauce. It’s an easy dinner any day of the week!
Sometimes you need a quick weeknight meal that’s low stress and minimal mess. That’s where this tasty pasta dish comes in handy. This recipe transforms cherry tomatoes into a fragrant sauce to coat tender strands of spaghetti. What makes this dish easy is that you can cook everything all in one place, and in under 30 minutes.
A gourmet one-pot meal starts with using a combination of fresh ingredients with simple pantry items. The fruit, vegetables, and herbs saute first, then simmer in a savory stock with the dried pasta. I’ll show you the proper ratio for cooking the noodles to get successful results each time. Once you master the base recipe, feel free to throw in any additional chopped vegetables or proteins for extra fiber or protein.
Use fresh tomatoes for the sauce
You can use any type of fresh tomato to make the sauce. I use cherry tomatoes because they are typically very sweet and their skin is thin. When cut in half, briefly sauteed and simmered, their flesh bursts to create a light tomato sauce. The tender skin remains which adds an interesting texture to the dish.
You can use any ripe diced tomatoes you have on hand, just keep them in larger ½-inch chunks. Avoid using the canned version as they sometimes contain calcium chloride which doesn’t break down like we want for the sauce.
Use long and slender types of pasta like spaghetti or bucatini. They both hold up well while boiling and get nicely coated in the sauce. Angel hair will work also and cooks faster. Other shorter cuts like penne are a good option, however, you may need to adjust the water and cook time.
For this recipe, I use 8 ounces of dried pasta. You can easily double that amount, although if you do, increase all of the other ingredients proportionally and keep an eye and adjust the cooking time as necessary.
Water amount needed to cook the pasta
What’s enticing about making one-pot pasta is not having to set up a separate boiling station for the noodles. I always like the idea of not wasting water and having less to clean up. The key is the ratio of water-to-pasta.
For every 8 ounces of dried noodles, you need at least 4 cups (1 quart) of liquid. I use a combination of water and chicken stock for a more flavorful sauce. If you’re making a bigger batch, make sure the pot is large enough to hold the volume of additional liquid, at least 5 to 6-quart sized.
How to make one-pot pasta
To elevate the flavor of the sauce, first saute the onions, garlic, and dried herbs in hot olive oil. If you like a spicier taste, sprinkle in some red peppers flakes as well. Cooking the herbs and peppers in the fat releases more fat-soluble flavor compounds before adding in the liquids.
Saute the cut tomatoes for a few minutes with salt and pepper to soften and season the fruit for better flavor development. Add the pasta, chicken stock, and water then bring the ingredients to a boil. The hot liquids will soften the pasta and cook the tomatoes in about 10 minutes.
Ways to serve this dish
For simplicity, add freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly chopped parsley or fresh basil on top. Plus an extra drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil adds richness to the dish. To get creative, I’ll add in slices of sauteed mushrooms, zucchini, or chicken breast for a nutritious boost. I also like to make chicken parmesan or meatballs to pair for a heartier meal.
How starches help to create a better pasta sauce
There are benefits for cooking all of the ingredients together in one pot. Instead of being left behind in a separate pot of water, the starches released from the pasta remain and swell to become more viscous and sticky. This helps to create a slightly thickened tomato sauce. Frequently stir the pot to keep the noodles from sticking together and evenly distribute the starches for better coating.
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- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ½ cup yellow onion, ¼-inch dice
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, about 3 cups, halved
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounces spaghetti, dried
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup unsalted chicken stock, or broth
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 tablespoon basil, thinly sliced
- Heat a large high sided skillet or dutch oven over medium heat. Add ¼ cup olive oil, once hot add the onion. Cook until fragrant and begins to turn translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Add the garlic, Italian seasonings, and chili flakes (if using), stir, and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook until the tomatoes start to soften, about 2 minutes.
- Add the pasta, water, and chicken stock. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Cook and stir frequently, until the pasta is tender and water has mostly evaporated, keeping a small amount in the pan to create a light sauce, about 10 to 12 minutes. Add more water if needed, ½ cup at a time for a softer pasta. Turn off the heat.
- Add parmesan cheese and basil, stir to combine. Drizzle pasta with a little extra-virgin olive oil.
- Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
- Garnish with more cheese, basil, and black pepper. Divide among plates and serve warm.
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