Pasta! It's cheap, hearty, can feed a crowd, and is so. versatile. Forget needing a recipe, build your own pasta using what you have! The whole family will love it and you won't have to go to the store to grab any ingredients for it.

spaghetti on a plate, from Shelf Cooking

There's nothing as simple or delicious as a homemade pasta meal. You can whip it up in a snap and pretty much the whole family will think that you're the best cook, EVER. Songs will be sung about you. Praises will be made in your name. (Or something like that…)

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The hardest part about pasta? Sometimes it's hard to know what meats pair well with the different types of sauces. Never fear, you're about to become a build your own pasta pro! Take these tips to heart and you'll be able to make the pasta dishes of your dreams without having to go to the store. You ready? Let's do this!


It only takes a few ingredients to build your own pasta meal, most of which you likely already have on hand. You'll be on your way to a delicious, home-cooked meal in no time!


At the heart of every pasta dish is… wait for it… PASTA! πŸ˜‰ Go raid your pantry (or fridge/freezer) and see what you have to use. You really can't go wrong with any type. There are even some that you might not have thought of!

  • Plain Pasta – Any of the following will work… Spaghetti, linguini, fettuccini, bowtie, macaroni, the list could go on!
  • Lasagna – Either make your pasta dish into a lasagna or cook your noodles and then cut them up with a pizza cutter to make them your preferred size.
  • Ravioli/Tortellini – Frozen or fresh, they make a delicious base for your dish.
  • Whole Grain/Wheat Pasta – The same goes for any type of whole grain or wheat pasta! It will just take a little longer to cook.
  • Egg Noodles – Those quick-cooking egg noodles are another great base for your pasta dish.
  • Chickpea Pasta – If you're looking for a higher protein, lower carb, gluten-free option, then you've found it!
  • Veggie Pasta – Pasta plus some veggies to get a few extra nutrients in? Yes, please!
  • Veggie Noodles – Zoodles, coodles, swoodles, squoodles, boodles, poodles and toodles… No, we're not talking about cute dogs! If you can't eat pasta, then you should try out these veggie noodles made out of zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, broccoli, parsnip and turnips. Get them from the frozen food aisle at your store or make your own.

Pasta is such a great way to stretch a meal so that you can feed an army! Now that we've got the base of the dish covered, let's move on to the…


lasagna in a pan, from Shelf Cooking

You don't need a lot of meat to pair with pasta, so it's a great way to use that last chicken breast that you have. It's also the perfect way to use up any leftover meat that you need to use up in your fridge!

  • Beef – Ground beef, sausage, steak, you really can't go wrong with any type! It usually pairs best with a red sauce.
  • Ground Turkey – If you need a leaner cut of meat or just want to use up some turkey that's been hanging out in your freezer for a while, then pair it with some red sauce and you've got a meal that your family will love.
  • Chicken – This meat basically pairs well with any type of sauce. Grilled always goes well with Alfredo, while chicken parmesan always pairs well with a tomato sauce. They would both taste good with pesto or butter sauces as well.
  • Shrimp – Here's another meat that also pairs well with any type of sauce, depending on what you're going for and how you cook it.
  • Pork – Ground, whole cuts and even bacon go best with an Alfredo or butter sauce. You won't be sorry that you tried it!

If you've got a meat, then you've got a meal! However, don't fret if you're completely out of meat or you didn't have the time to thaw any. Pasta is one of those meals that doesn't need a meat, but you definitely can't go wrong by adding some!


Okay, on to the goods! Is it really a pasta dish without the saucy sauce? Whether you whip one up from scratch or grab a jar out of your pantry, you can't go wrong with any of these. You can really get creative while you build your own pasta meal with these sauces.

  • Marinara – A simple tomato-based sauce can turn any dish from drab to fab!
  • Alfredo – This creamy white sauce turns heavy whipping cream and parmesan cheese into the sauce of your dreams.
  • Pesto – This delicious sauce may throw you off at first due to its green color (thank you, basil!), but you'll be amazed at how good it is.
  • Butter – You can never go wrong with a good butter sauce. Add some butter straight to your drained pasta and stir it around until it's all mixed together. You can also melt some butter in a pan and allow it to simmer a little bit until it starts browning, then pour it on top of the pasta.

Ummmm, you need to wipe the drool off your mouth. πŸ˜‰


chicken broccoli pasta on a plate, from Shelf Cooking

Put those veggies that are about to go bad to good use. Bonus points for sneaking some extra veggies into your family's meal! Make sure that your veggies have plenty of time to sautΓ© – nobody wants to eat a vegetable that hasn't been cooked long enough!

  • Spinach – You can't go wrong adding some spinach (fresh or frozen) to your Alfredo. Want a little #ProTip? Those fresh spinach leaves are going to wilt down to nothing as they cook, so don't be afraid to keep adding more until you reach how much you'd like. Also, don't forget the salt! It'll make the spinach taste much better.
  • Kale – The same goes for kale! It'll cook down a lot and it'll need some seasonings to keep it from being bland. It also goes best with Alfredo.
  • Broccoli – Winner, winner, pasta dinner! Broccoli is super tasty in an Alfredo or butter sauce. It's best to steam the broccoli before adding it to your dish unless you prefer your broccoli to be on the al dente side of life.
  • Asparagus – You may not have thought to add asparagus to your Alfredo, but you'll never want to go back once you do!
  • Tomatoes – These obviously go well in a red sauce, but they also pair well with an Alfredo or butter sauce, too.
  • Mushrooms – This is probably the most versatile veggie to add to your pasta because it goes well with all 4 types!
  • Onions – Oh hey, onions go well with all of them, too! πŸ˜‰
  • Eggplant – Eggplant parmesan, anyone? It obviously pairs well with a red sauce!
  • Peppers – If you have some bell peppers that you need to use up, throw them in your pasta and enjoy the flavors that they bring to it! They go well with a red or butter sauce.
  • Zucchini – Mmmmm, you can't go wrong adding some zucchini to your red sauce!
  • Squash – Ratatouille, anyone? No, we're not talking about the movie. πŸ˜‰ However, if we learned anything from that cute rat cooking in the kitchen, it's that squash goes well with a tasty red sauce!

Now that you have plenty of ideas for working veggies into your pasta dish, you'll have to experiment and see which type is your favorite!


Have some extra ricotta, cottage or mozzarella cheese sitting in your fridge that you'd like to use in your pasta dish? Turn it into a casserole! Layer your pasta, meat, cheese and sauce in your casserole dish and bake at 350Β° F for 20-30 minutes or until your cheese is the perfect gooey and melty goodness that you were hoping for.


While you're at it, double what you're making a freeze! It's so easy to make double and doesn't take that much more of your time. Add it to a disposable tray, fill ‘er up with the goods, and triple wrap with aluminum foil. Write down what it is on top with a permanent marker, along with the baking instructions and stick it in the freezer.

In just a short amount of time, with hardly any extra effort, you have an easy freezer meal for a busy night. You never know when something is going to pop up that makes you need to reach for an easy meal out of your freezer!


Make your meal go further by pairing it with some vegetables, some fruit (like our favorite fruit salad), and a salad. You can't go wrong adding in those extra nutrients to your family's meal! Some cheesy garlic bread can really take it that extra mile and fill those ravenous teens (or husbands!) up.

Alright, well now you know how to build your own pasta! So what are you waiting for, get to it! πŸ˜‰

Image with text that reads "build your own pasta meal" from Shelf Cooking

Want some more great ideas?

Enjoy your pasta!