As fall approaches and the weather changes from hot and humid to cool and crisp, there’s nothing more appealing than a bowl of pasta for an easy, quick meal. But you may not quite be ready for a hearty meal of spaghetti and meatballs just yet. These lightened-up pasta recipes are perfect for those who want to keep a bit of that summer feeling, and they’re sure to keep you full and satisfied. Here are five lighter pasta recipes with big flavor that you have to try.
1. Skillet Pasta with Mushrooms, Pancetta, and Wilted Greens
This delicious recipe from Serious Eats reminds us pasta is a great way to use up fresh veggies. The mushrooms and greens add an earthy flavor to this easy one-pot dish, and the pancetta adds that salty, delicious bite you’re craving. This pasta is light enough for summer and still translates well in the fall, so you can enjoy it whenever you’d like.
- ½ tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ¼ pound pancetta, diced
- 2 cups slice shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed
- 1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
- ½ serrano chile, stemmed and minced
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 pound dried fusilli or a short, twisted pasta of your choice
- 1 bunch greens, such as dandelion, mustard, or kale, stems trimmed and leaves cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Parmesan for grating
- Salt and pepper
Directions: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook until the fat begins to render and the pancetta is lightly browned. Stir in the mushrooms and toss with the oil. Stir the mushrooms while cooking until they have browned and the pancetta has rendered most of the fat, about 5 minutes. Stir in shallots and serrano and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and scrape the mixture into a bowl.
Add the stock to the empty saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Stir in the greens with the pasta. Cook for 1 minute longer, and then stir in the pancetta mixture with the rendered fat. Cook until the pasta is al dente, greens are wilted, and the liquid has mostly evaporated and formed a creamy sauce.
Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.
2. Baked Ziti and Summer Vegetables
This dish is hearty enough for even your hungriest nights, and it’s jam-packed with seasonal vegetables that celebrate the last tastes of summer. The recipe, which is from Cooking Light, comes together quickly, too. It’s the perfect dish to share with friends and family as you say goodbye to summer and hello to fall.
- 4 ounces uncooked ziti
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups chopped yellow squash
- 1 cup chopped zucchini
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 2 cups chopped tomato
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
- ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ¼ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- Cooking spray
Directions: Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain the pasta and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil to the pan. Add squash, zucchini, and onion, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomato and garlic, and sauté for 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the pasta with ½ cup mozzarella, herbs, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper.
Combine ricotta, remaining salt, and egg in a bowl. Stir into pasta mixture and spoon everything into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle the top with remaining mozzarella. Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly and browned.
3. Ribbony Shrimp and Pasta Scampi
This delicious meal is a lighter take on classic shrimp scampi. The ribbons is this pasta from Food Network are made from zucchini, and while this may sound like a complicated recipe, it’s super easy. Your friends and family will love the combination of whole-wheat pasta, zucchini ribbons, and herbs in this summery dish.
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti
- 1 yellow squash
- 1 zucchini
- 1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp, tails removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Directions: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions.
While the pasta cooks, trim the top and bottom of each squash. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the squash in ribbons into a colander, turning the squash as you peel. When only the center core of seeds remains, stop peeling the squash. Discard the core and seeds.
Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta over the squash ribbons. Put the pasta and squash ribbons into a medium bowl to evenly distribute them.
Toss the shrimp with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and spread them into a single layer — do not stir while they’re cooking. Cook for 2 minutes, or until they’re just turning pink around the edges. Stir the shrimp and add the tomatoes, garlic, pepper flakes and continue to cook until the tomatoes have softened and the garlic has toasted. Add the pasta and the squash ribbons to the shrimp skillet along with broth and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Cook, tossing until warmed through and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Add the pasta water a bit at a time if the noodles are dry.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with chives.
4. Pasta with Roasted Red Peppers and Almonds
This Real Simple recipe is an easy, elegant meal that incorporates plenty of late-summer flavors, and is still hearty enough to fill you up. The almonds in this recipe are the real surprise here, adding a crunchy element that’s totally addictive. You’ll want to make this meal an end-of-summer staple.
- ¾ pound campanelle or penne pasta
- 4 red or orange bell peppers, seeded and cut into quarters
- ¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives
- ½ cup coarsely chopped roasted almonds
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Kosher salt and black pepper
Directions: Cook the pasta according to the package directions, drain the pasta, and return it to the pot. Reserve ¼ cup of the cooking water.
Heat the broiler. Place the peppers on a baking sheet skin-side up and broil until blackened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Scrape the charred skin from the peppers with a paring knife and wipe clean with paper towels. Cut the flesh into 1-inch pieces.
Add the peppers, olives, almonds, oil, thyme, 2 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper to the pasta and toss to combine. Add more cooking water as needed to loosen the sauce.
5. Avocado Pasta
Just when you thought avocados were reserved for salads and toast, this pasta from Damn Delicious incorporates the heart-healthy fruit into a luxurious sauce. With tomatoes, corn, and basil, it’s a seriously delicious taste of summer. While the recipe calls for canned corn, feel free to use fresh kernels while you can.
- 12 ounces spaghetti
- 2 ripe avocados, halved, seeded, and peeled
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- ½ cup canned corn kernels, drained and rinsed
Directions: In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain well, then transfer to a large serving bowl.
Add avocados, basil, garlic and lemon juice to the bowl of a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. With the motor running, add olive oil in a slow stream and blend until well combined.
Add avocado sauce, cherry tomatoes, and corn to pasta bowl. Toss thoroughly to combine. Serve immediately.