Sometimes you just have a need for a comforting bowl of pasta without the effort. This is where a few cheats come in. Just keep a few pantry staples in your cupboard, and you will be able to whip up a delicious pasta in no time. Items you should definitely have on hand: pesto (basil, red pepper, or tomato) and canned tuna. With these, you can easily make a quick pasta casserole in less than 30 minutes. Simply combine cooked pasta, two cans of tuna, a jar of pesto, and a handful of cheese. Grill until the cheese melts and enjoy!

You can follow this same method and add other pantry staples like canned sweetcorn, jarred sundried tomatoes, and even chopped tomatoes. The possibilities of pasta casseroles are endless. Make your own versions by simply combining the following: cooked pasta + canned veg (like sweetcorn or peas) + canned tuna or sardines (optional if you’re vegetarian) + sauce (pesto, jarred sauce, etc.) + cheese = delicious pasta bake!

If you want to make pasta a bit more guilt-free but don’t like vegetables, add it in puréed form. Simply cook veggies like celery, carrots, bell pepper (capsicum), and zucchini and process it together with chicken stock and tomato paste. This creates a delicious sauce packed with nutritious veggies!

Your sauces don’t necessarily need to be tomato-based. Experiment with green sauces (broccoli and spinach) and orange sauces (pumpkin and butternut). In fact, next time you can make a creamy pasta without any cream – simply blitz avocado, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and seasoning in a food processor and use as a sauce!

The slow cooker (crockpot) isn’t just good for stews, use it to make pasta! For a hassle-free macaroni cheese, simply add the following to your slow cooker: 14oz macaroni (dried), 7oz cheddar, 7oz mozzarella, 1 can evaporated milk, and 700 mL of water. Cook on high for 1 ½ hours until the pasta is just tender.

When you have a decent collection of trusted pasta recipes, you’ll never run out of ideas for dinner. Pasta dishes are one of the easiest meals to modify and stretch. Tired of the same old pasta recipe? Make it cream-based instead of tomato-based. Want to make it healthier? Add veggie sauces. Want to hide a lot of vegetables? Add cheese sauce. As you can see, the possibilities with pasta are endless!