How To: Step-by-Step Pasta Dinner

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The ideal pasta dinner is made with five key components, including whole grain options. Choose your own combinations and serve your family a delicious budget-friendly meal.

Put together your recipe with these components:

Pasta (1/2 pound)

  • Whole grain pasta
  • Brown rice pasta


  • Lean ground beef, turkey or chicken, cooked and drained (1 pound)
  • Beans, rinsed and drained (1 can or 2 cups cooked)
  • Frozen peas or edamame (soy beans), thawed and drained (2 cups)
  • Chicken or turkey sausage, cooked and sliced (1 pound)

Vegetables (2 cups total, any combo)

  • Spinach, chard, or kale
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Sugar snap or snow peas
  • Zucchini or yellow squash

Sauce (1-2 cups)

  • Marinara
  • Peanut Sauce
  • Canned diced or crushed tomatoes
  • Quick Cheese Sauce
  • Simple White Sauce

Seasonings (optional, to taste)

  • Dried basil
  • Dried oregano
  • Garlic powder or minced fresh garlic




  1. Wash your hands well with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta in a colander.
  3. Cook the protein if needed. 
  4. Cook vegetables by steaming, grilling, roasting, sauteing, or adding to boiling pasta water during the last few minutes of cooking.
  5. In a large pot over medium heat, heat sauce. Add optional spices.
  6. Add protein and vegetables to heat through. Toss with hot cooked pasta and serve. 
  7. Add sauce and toss with pasta and vegetables.
  8. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.



  1. Carefully grate cheese
  2. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together 2 Tablespoons cornstarch and 1 cup non-fat or low-fat milk until smooth.
  3. In a large saucepan over medium heat, add milk mixture. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in cheese.
  5. Add dried mustard, then dried or fresh herbs, starting with 1/2 teaspoon, then to taste.

This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. This institution is an equal opportunity provider.