15 Ingenious Ways to Serve Pasta and Ramen

15 Ingenious Ways to Serve Pasta and Ramen

Comforting and versatile, these easy pasta recipes prove that as long as you have noodles in the kitchen, you have options.

Thank goodness for noodles.

If you recently endured an intense and adrenaline-fueled trip to the grocery store in preparation for coronavirus isolation, chances are your thoughtful shopping list fell to the wayside as you settled for whatever supplies were available. Or maybe you loaded up on what you intended, but have now hunkered down for so long, you need to get creative with what food you have left. 

As long as you have some form of pasta—either the classic Italian kind or ramen—you’ll be fine.

You can’t really screw up pasta. In addition to it being filling and tasty, it will be delicious with whatever frozen vegetables, fridge scraps, proteins, canned items, or condiments you throw at it. 

No matter if you’re working with fancy fettuccine or microwaveable noodles in a cup, you have plenty of weeknight meal options. Read on for 15 ingenious ways to play it up.

Classic Italian-style pasta: A chameleon food 

Hear me out: You don’t need pasta sauce. (Although, if you have it, by all means, ladle it over your noodles and feel free to call it a day.)

Just toss your pasta with any form of salt (anchovies, miso, or kosher salt, for example), any kind of fat (olive oil is great, as are drippings from meat you’ve recently cooked, or cheese), and an acid (try lemon juice, briny capers, or glorious tomatoes) to get maximum flavor. If you add these when the noodles are still hot, they will combine nicely.

If you’re not in the mood to make too much of a fuss over your noodles, try simply pairing them with ample olive oil, salt, and sautéed garlic. They're (*chef’s kiss*) really good. And they're versatile: If I’m meal prepping for the week, I like to make big batches of these garlic and olive oil noodles and toss them with cut-up chicken and cooked veggies, sans sauce, and then freeze them.

Tomatoes for your pasta don’t have to be of the fresh variety. Any canned tomato will be excellent, as will a tiny, well-blended smear of tomato paste (try adding a little sugar to round out the flavor). Add fresh herbs and other savory ingredients if you have them, but don’t sweat it if you don’t.

Consider the recipes below to be templates, but don’t feel restricted to them. Skip the Parmesan cheese if you don’t have it, or try another kind (it will still taste great). If you don’t have fresh garlic, swap in the powdered stuff. Add a large egg if you like. You’ve got this!

Beans and Greens Pasta

A picture of a plate of seashell pasta with white beans and wilted greens

Beans and Greens Pasta by Healthy. Delicious

Here’s a way to put a dent in that stockpile of canned beans as well as your stash of pasta. If you don’t have cannellini beans, try red kidney or navy, even chickpeas. Further riffs: This recipe calls for white wine, but if you don’t have vino to spare, try lemon juice or a splash of white wine vinegar. Note that you can swap in any kind of greens. And you are not beholden to putting meat in this pasta dish, although any kind of cured meat—especially bacon or salami—will work in place of pancetta, as will tinned fish.

Caramelized Onion Pasta

A picture of a plate of penne pasta with caramelized onions, Parmesan, and herbs

Caramelized Onion Pasta by Girl Gone Gourmet

Caramelized onions are sweet, slightly chewy, and go very well with noodles. Herbs, cheese, white wine, and vegetable stock take this meal into show-off territory. But truly, if you only used a little salt, a little oil, and the onions, the penne would be incredible. The recipe includes an excellent cooking tip: Before you drain your al dente noodles, save a little of the starchy pasta water to add back later in case you need to loosen up the pasta.

3 Ingredient Macaroni and Cheese

A picture of a pot of creamy macaroni and cheese sprinkled with black pepper and chives

3 Ingredient Macaroni and Cheese by Leite's Culinaria

If you're craving comfort food in the form of creamy pasta, try this super simple recipe for macaroni and cheese. Just combine heavy cream and cheddar (or any shredding cheese you have) and stir it with your chosen noodles (elbow macaroni is the starting point here). If you don't have cream, use milk and add some butter.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

A picture of a plate of linguine coated in sun-dried tomato pesto

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto by Amanda's Cookin'

Maybe you scored a jar of sun-dried tomatoes while you were out on your shopping spree, and now eagerly await their sweet, concentrated flavor in a sauce with linguine. But if not, any canned tomatoes or tomato sauce will do here. If you don’t have almonds, most nuts will be fine (just be sure to toast and then chop them first). Any fresh herb can go in place of parsley, although the recipe would also be yummy without it. And, psst! You don’t have to use linguine; you can swap in any type of noodle.

Busy Day Soup

A picture of a bowl of soup with ground beef, tomatoes, macaroni, green beans, carrots, corn, and peas

Busy Day Soup by Simply Stacie

Could this main dish get any easier? Simply cook packaged onion soup mix with canned tomatoes, water, browned ground beef, and macaroni or your pasta of choice for about 1 ¼ hours. Of course, you could use broth instead of soup mix and water. You could also swap in frozen hamburger patties, chopped up chicken, or whatever protein you want for the hamburger, or leave the meat out entirely. Or skip the tomatoes and turn this into a baked casserole.

Easy Pasta with Olive Oil & Garlic

A picture of a frying pan filled with spaghetti and coated with parsley, Parmesan, and garlic

Easy Pasta with Olive Oil & Garlic by Girl Gone Gourmet

This is the simple pasta dinner I’m talking about! All you need for a satisfying dinner is this straightforward combination of noodles (spaghetti, bow tie, penne, broken lasagna noodles, you name it) with a drizzle of olive oil, some Parmesan, garlic, and black pepper. If you want richness but don’t have cheese, try tossing in an egg when the noodles are hot and mixing it all up. Note that the recipe serves 1 but is easy to multiply.

Fettuccine Alfredo

A picture of a plate of fettucine noodles coated in a creamy sauce

Fettuccine Alfredo by Epicurious

Perhaps you just happen to have the few ingredients you need to make rich and flavorful Alfredo sauce: heavy cream, butter,  and Parmesan—plus salt and black pepper. If that's the case, fire up a big pot of water for the pasta and look no further, because you owe yourself a taste of that creamy sauce. You'll heat the cream and butter in a skillet, add the cooked fettuccine and cheese, and give it a stir. That's it.

Tuna Pasta Puttanesca

A picture of a bowl of bucatini pasta with black olives, chilies, capers, chunks of tuna, and fresh basil leaves

Tuna Pasta Puttanesca by RecipesPlus

For this weeknight dinner, puttanesca, the classic Italian pasta sauce made with tomatoes, anchovies, capers, olives, garlic, and chili flakes, gets a savory, filling upgrade with the addition of canned tuna. If your pantry is short on capers or anchovies, just add some salt. If you don’t have chili flakes, try a little chili powder.

Pantry Pasta

A picture of a frying pan with spaghetti, crumbled sausage, cherry tomatoes, green olives, and red onion

Pantry Pasta by Bon Appétit

More is more. Onions, Castelvetrano olives, Italian sausage, peperoncini, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil—throw it all in! Or, just throw in what you have. Some shredded mozzarella or dollops of ricotta would be a good addition if you're craving something cheesy. 

5-Ingredient Garlicky Shrimp Pasta

A picture of a pan of pappardelle noodles with shrimp, garlic, and red pepper flakes

5-Ingredient Garlicky Shrimp Pasta by Cooking for Keeps

This pairing of pasta (here, pappardelle) with delicious shrimp, butter, 8 cloves garlic, plus red pepper flakes for heat, is classic. That said, you could substitute garlic powder if you don't have the fresh stuff, and maybe some chili powder or hot sauce for the red pepper flakes if need be. If you're thawing and peeling frozen shrimp for this, consider freezing the shrimp shells to use for seafood stock at a later date.

Easy, dreamy ramen dishes

As with Italian-style pasta, packaged ramen noodles lend themselves so well to whatever veggies, proteins, and condiments you may have on hand, and can easily become delicious and complete meals.

Consider addictive Asian instant ramen noodles and their little flavor packets to be fabulous foundations for not only ramen soups, but substantial noodle dishes, sans broth. You can pump up the umami by raiding your condiment supply; soy sauce, tomato paste, hot sauce, and even pickles would be excellent additions to your ramen recipes.

Toss in whatever greens you may have, as well as any frozen, dried or fresh veggies. And try pickling veggies that are on their last legs—a quick 15 minutes in vinegar, salt and sugar will do the trick—to make them last longer and add brightness to your semi-homemade ramen dish. Tinned fish will add umami, as will a perfectly soft-boiled egg. Chicken stock (aka chicken broth) or other broths you may have on hand, especially if you have a low sodium version, will deepen the flavor and balance out the high amounts of sodium in the ramen seasoning packets. Try adding sautéed garlic and onions. Have some toasted sesame oil, chili oil, or sriracha chili sauce? Feel free to serve them on the side at serving time. Even if you don’t add a thing, we all know that ramen is pretty tasty on its own. 

Vegetable Ramen Pad Thai

A picture of a bowl of ramen noodles in a creamy peanut sauce with broccoli florets and pieces of carrot and red bell pepper

Vegetable Ramen Pad Thai by Tablespoon

All you need are peanut butter, frozen vegetables, teriyaki sauce, hot sauce, and a ramen packet to put this delicious pad Thai together. Oh, and 15 minutes total time. How have I never thought of this before?

Campfire Curry Ramen - An Easy Camping Meal

A picture of a large fork lifting ramen noodles from a camping pot

Campfire Curry Ramen - An Easy Camping Meal by The Woks of Life

Though we’re camping out at home these days rather than heading to the great outdoors, it’s a fine time to try out a casual camping-style meal. This one is a definite departure from traditional Japanese recipes, meaning you officially have permission to use beef jerky in your soup! From there add a little curry powder, some onion, oil, and water for a delightful and savory meal. Of course, you can use any kind of meat (or skip the meat altogether). If you don't have curry powder, try another bold spice.

Tuna Ramen with Mushrooms and Sliced Garlic

A picture of a bowl of ramen noodles topped with pieces of chicken, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, and red pepper

Tuna Ramen with Mushrooms and Sliced Garlic by Budget Pantry

The list of ingredients here may look long, but you need only use them as inspiration. Raid your pantry and fridge and add what looks good: In addition to ramen, canned tuna fish, dried shiitake mushrooms, garlic, shallots, soy sauce, fish sauce, cabbage, and carrot—the more, the merrier in this dish.

Homemade Chicken Ramen Noodle Bowls

A picture of a bowl of chicken noodles soup topped with egg halves, shredded carrot, cilantro, sliced green onions, and a squirt of hot sauce

Homemade Chicken Ramen Noodle Bowls by Eating Well

Turn canned chicken noodle soup into a riff on ramen with this genius recipe. You don't need sesame seeds or fresh cilantro for this to taste great, although they will definitely add to the flavor. Consider adding something crunchy if you have it; maybe quickly fry up some onions on the stove and sprinkle them over the top.

4-Ingredient Peanut Chicken Ramen

A picture of a bowl of ramen noodles topped with sliced green onions

4-Ingredient Peanut Chicken Ramen by Tablespoon

Just leftover cooked chicken, peanut butter, soy sauce, ramen noodles, and the optional scallions make up this flavor-packed meal. You can add pretty much any vegetable to this combination—bok choy, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, or carrots—and it would work well. If you don't have the green onions, try sautéed regular onions and garlic to get that kick of savory flavor.

More recipes for quarantine cooking

We're with you at Yummly during the coronavirus to make home cooking as easy and flexible as possible. You'll find lots more ideas in our quarantine cooking collection.