Food

Master One-Pot Pastas

Cooking noodles and sauce together delivers delicious results for hardly any effort— if you do it right. Here’s how.

Imagine that you could streamline dinner—and save on cleanup time—by combining pasta, vegetables, seasonings, and liquid all in a single pot. By the time the pasta is perfectly al dente, the liquid has thickened into a creamy sauce. It’s not just a fantasy. Not only does this method work, it serves up your pasta enveloped in a lush, velvety coating that feels decadent without extra oil, butter, or cream. The secret: the starchy pasta-cooking water that forms the base of the sauce.

Use our mix-and-match guidelines to make a masterpiece one-pot pasta, or try this technique with our stovetop mac and cheese first .

Picking the Perfect Pot

The wrong cooking pot can ruin a dish. The right size allows optimal absorption and evaporation of liquid so the pasta is done just as the sauce reaches the ideal texture. A wide pot works best. Choose either a 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan or a large Dutch oven or stockpot, and stir frequently to make sure the pasta cooks evenly and doesn’t stick together.

Mix-'N'-Match One-Pot Pasta
 

Choose one item (or more) from each section, plus 1 tablespoon of oil for every 4 servings. Follow the cooking process outlined at left for the mac and cheese recipe, using your choice of ingredients. The WeightWatchers Recipe Builder can help you find the SmartPoints value.
 

Pasta Liquid Seasoning Vegetables Protein

(2 oz per serving)
Quick Cooking
(pair with delicate vegetables
that you add toward the
end of cooking)
Angel hair
Vermicelli
Capellini
Elbow macaroni
Orzo

Sturdy
(pair with sturdy vegetables
that take longer to soften)
Linguine
Fettuccine
Spaghetti
Rigatoni
Fusilli
Farfalle
Gemelli

Use 100 percent broth
or dilute one of the other
options with water for a
total of ¾ cup to 1 cup
liquid per serving. Start
with the lesser amount
of liquid, and add more
f the pasta starts to stick
to the pot before it’s
cooked. When using milk,
simmer, don’t boil, or your  
sauce may curdle.

Low-sodium
chicken, beef, or
vegetable broth
Low-fat (1%)
milk
(dairy or nondairy)
Tomato or
vegetable juice
Wine
Citrus juice

Garlic
Salt and pepper
Red pepper
flakes
Dried herbs and
spices

(add at the
beginning)
Fresh herbs
(add at the end)
Capers
Olives
Bacon or
pancetta

(cook first, then
drain)
Fresh ginger
Reduced-sodium
soy
sauce
Hot sauce
Sun-dried
tomatoes
Juicy
(use a little less
cooking liquid)
Fresh or canned
tomatoes
Zucchini
Mushrooms
Onions

Sturdy
Carrots
Butternut
squash
Eggplant
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Bell peppers
Celery

Delicate


(add toward the
end)
Leafy greens
Asparagus
Frozen peas
Snow peas
Artichoke hearts

(frozen or
canned)
Scallions
Chop raw protein
into bite-size
pieces and cook
in the pot first.
Transfer to a
plate while you
cook the pasta,
then return to the
pot toward the
end.
Skinless
boneless
chicken breast
Ground turkey
breast
Ground
extralean (10%
fat or less) beef
Shrimp
Chicken sausage
Ham
Canned tuna or
salmon
Canned beans

(rinsed and
drained)
Diced tofu
Shredded
cheese