Pantry Pasta

Photo and Recipe: Anna Gorman – Child Programs and Extra Helpings Administrator

The perfect dinner for sheltering in place: warm, familiar, comforting, and can be made with ingredients you most likely already have in your pantry. In fact, pasta and sauce are included in emergency food boxes going out through some partner agencies and community sites. 


  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce (or use whole tomatoes and crush them yourself)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme or dried basil
  • 1 lb dried pasta (long pasta like spaghetti or large tubes like rigatoni work best)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

OPTIONAL: 1 lb ground meat or 1c cooked lentils (turkey, beef, chicken)


IF USING MEAT: Brown the meat over medium heat in a large pot or saucepan, about 6-8 minutes. It may be gray in spots and still slightly pink in the center. Transfer to a bowl or plate.

– Wipe out the pot.

IF NOT USING MEAT, START HERE: Heat oil over medium-high heat and add onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are becoming translucent, about 5 minutes.

– Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

– Add tomato paste and mix into the garlic and onions so that no big clumps of tomato paste remain. Cook until tomato paste has darkened slightly, about 3 minutes.

– Add the can of tomatoes and herbs (and meat/lentils, if using) back to the pot.

– Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 40 minutes or until sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste

– While the sauce is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to the instructions on the bag or box.

– When the pasta is cooked, use a pair of tongs, a slotted spoon, or a fine mesh sieve to move the pasta into the sauce (don’t worry about draining the pasta super well, the starch in the pasta water actually improves the sauce!).

– Combine the pasta and sauce well until there is no extra sauce in the bottom of the pot.

– Serve immediately.