What To Put On Pasta When You Have Nothing?

We’ve all faced that moment: staring at a pot of freshly boiled pasta and realizing the pantry is almost bare. But even in times of culinary scarcity, there’s potential for deliciousness. So, what to put on pasta when you have nothing?

With a touch of creativity and a few staple ingredients, a simple pasta dish can emerge from seemingly nothing.

This article offers ingenious solutions and recipes for those moments, ensuring that a satisfying meal is always within reach, no matter how sparse your kitchen may seem.

What To Put On Pasta When You Have Nothing?

We’ve all been there: a craving for pasta but a seemingly empty kitchen. However, with a bit of creativity, you can whip up a delicious pasta dish using minimal ingredients. Here’s how to make the most of what you have:

1. Garlic and Olive Oil (Aglio e Olio)

  • Ingredients: Pasta, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes (optional), salt.
  • Method: Sauté thinly sliced garlic in olive oil until it’s golden but not browned. Add red pepper flakes if you like a bit of heat. Toss with cooked pasta and season with salt.

2. Buttered Pasta

  • Ingredients: Pasta, butter, salt, and pepper.
  • Method: Simply toss your cooked pasta in melted butter. Season with salt and pepper. Grate some cheese on top if you have any.

3. Canned Tomato Sauce

  • Ingredients: Pasta, canned tomatoes, garlic (optional), olive oil, salt.
  • Method: Sauté garlic in olive oil, add canned tomatoes, and let simmer until it thickens into a sauce. Season and toss with pasta.

4. Cheese and Pepper (Cacio e Pepe)

  • Ingredients: Pasta, black pepper, and any cheese you have (ideally Pecorino Romano or Parmesan).
  • Method: Toss hot pasta with cheese and a generous amount of black pepper. The heat from the pasta will melt the cheese, creating a creamy sauce.

5. Tuna Pasta

  • Ingredients: Pasta, canned tuna, olive oil, garlic.
  • Method: Sauté garlic in olive oil, add drained tuna, and toss with cooked pasta.

6. Egg Pasta

  • Ingredients: Pasta, eggs, salt, and pepper.
  • Method: Whisk an egg and pour it over hot pasta, stirring quickly. The heat will cook the egg, creating a creamy sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Frozen Veggie Pasta

  • Ingredients: Pasta, any frozen vegetables, olive oil or butter, salt.
  • Method: Cook your frozen veggies according to package instructions. Toss with pasta, olive oil, or butter, and season.

8. Herb Pasta

  • Ingredients: Pasta, any fresh or dried herbs you have (basil, parsley, oregano, etc.), olive oil.
  • Method: Mix chopped herbs with olive oil and toss with pasta.

9. Lemon Pasta

  • Ingredients: Pasta, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, salt.
  • Method: Combine lemon zest, juice, and olive oil. Toss with pasta and season.

10. Breadcrumbs Pasta

  • Ingredients: Pasta, breadcrumbs, garlic, olive oil.
  • Method: Toast breadcrumbs in olive oil with garlic until golden. Toss with pasta.


  • Always save a cup of pasta water before draining. You can use this starchy water to adjust the consistency of your sauce or to help ingredients come together.
  • Season your pasta water generously with salt. It should taste like the sea. This will ensure your pasta is flavorful.
  • Play with spices! Even if you don’t have fresh ingredients, dried spices can elevate a simple dish.
  • If you have any cheese, even if it’s not typically used for pasta, grate or crumble it on top. Cheese can transform a dish.

What Can I Put In Pasta If I Don’t Have Anything?

If you don’t have many ingredients on hand, you can make a simple pasta dish with basic pantry staples. Cook your pasta as usual, then toss it with olive oil or melted butter, and season with salt, pepper, and any dried herbs or spices you have (such as garlic powder, red pepper flakes, or dried basil). 

If available, grated Parmesan cheese or a squeeze of lemon juice can add extra flavor. It’s a basic but satisfying option when you’re low on ingredients.

What Can I Add To Pasta To Make It Less Bland?

To make pasta less bland, try these flavor-boosting additions:

  • Sauce: A flavorful sauce like marinara, pesto, Alfredo, or garlic butter can transform plain pasta.
  • Seasonings: Add fresh herbs (basil, parsley), minced garlic, red pepper flakes, or grated Parmesan for extra taste.
  • Vegetables: Sautéed or roasted veggies like cherry tomatoes, spinach, or mushrooms provide depth and texture.
  • Proteins: Mix in cooked chicken, shrimp, or sausage for added protein and flavor.
  • Nuts: Toasted pine nuts or chopped almonds can add crunch and a nutty taste.

Bottom Line

Pasta, with its versatile nature, can be the canvas for a myriad of flavors, even when options seem limited. By leveraging basic ingredients like olive oil, garlic, or even just butter and cheese, you can transform plain pasta into a dish that’s both comforting and flavorful. 

The key lies in experimentation and embracing simplicity. So, the next time you’re faced with a near-empty pantry, remember that with a bit of ingenuity, a memorable pasta dish is just a few ingredients away.

Also read: Jumbo Shell Pasta Recipes With Ground Beef

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