What’s easier than a good one-pot meal, right?! Who’s with me? We always have pasta in our pantry for rushed evenings where we need a quick and nutritious meal. These easy one-pot pasta dinners hit the spot for busy weeknights.
Why the dietitian in me loves pasta:
If I were to choose one favourite food, it would most certainly be pasta. And my kids would agree! Some of our favourite dishes centre around pasta — Squash Mac & Cheese, Spaghetti, Lasagna, Green Superhero Pasta and this Greek Pasta Bake, just to name a few! It’s comforting, nourishing and fun to eat. It reminds me of my childhood too, because my mom used to make the absolute BEST pasta dishes that my brothers and I loved. As a registered dietitian who teaches and practices food neutrality, I often reflect on, not only the nutritional value of foods, but also the other values that food brings such as connection, celebration, and creating memories. Pasta is one of those foods that offers multiple values, don’t you think?
A balanced meal, all in one!
One-pot meals are a busy parent’s dream. Not having to worry about a huge mess or multiple dishes to clean, and throwing everything into one pot (making a complete, balanced and nutritious meal!) is the best. To create a balanced meal, you need at least three items: a protein-rich food (like meat, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu), a whole grain or starch (like pasta, rice, barley, oats, bread) and a vegetable and/or fruit).
I suggest having 4-5 items at the table for variety, but 3 is a minimum to make it balanced nutritionally. All of these one-pot pasta dishes are balanced meals! I would add in a veggie tray or salad, and maybe another quick and easy protein option (like nuts, cheese or milk) and you’re good to go!
What about kids that don’t love “mixed dishes”?
Some kiddos don’t love mixed meals (like casseroles, lasagna, chili, soups etc.), especially if they’re still learning to enjoy certain foods (aka going through a picky eating phase). This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t serve them though, because they need multiple positive exposures in order to learn to like a food, but what it means is that they may not take as much as you’d like, AND that you should consider offering a “considerate food” on the table as well so that they have something to eat in the case that they’re not ready to try the mixed dish. What this might look like is having the Mexican mac and cheese, as well as some bread, a salad, and a fruit tray.
Make a point of sitting down and eating yourself
And even if you’re in a rush, don’t forget to feed yourself. Sit down (even for 10 minutes) with your child, and enjoy our food together. Family meals and the best way to model mindful and varied eating, and a great way to bond with your little one too. I often find that if I don’t make a point of doing this, I forget to eat myself and it catches up with me later!
These dishes make great leftovers and school lunch options as well. You can either heat them up in a thermos or serve them cold – my kids like leftovers cold, which I find easier (and more food-safe as well).
Here are my top 3 one-pot pasta dinners for busy weeknights: