Weeknight pasta meals for the whole family

Warning: gluten-free-whole-30-paleo-no-carbs-no-dairy people, this post is not for you. Not that my article about family-friendly pizza spots on the Brown Line was, either. Nor was my article about where to find delicious fall treats in Lakeview and Buena Park, for that matter. Hm. I’m starting to see a pattern here, and that pattern is carbs.

“Brb, Mom. Broccoli Pasta awaits.”

Well, for the few and proud carb-consumers I still have with me (chirp, chirp, chirp), I would like to bestow upon you two of my all-time favorite weeknight pasta meals that don’t involve red sauce. These meals can both be made in 30 minutes or less, and when I say “30 minutes or less” I don’t mean, “30 minutes after you’ve spent 45 minutes chopping vegetables.” I mean, “30 minutes from the moment you look up at the clock and realize that once again your family expects to eat dinner and you’re somehow surprised by this for the 4,000th day in a row.”

So here we go, pasta eaters! Vaya con dios! Oh, that’s Spanish. Allons-y! Nope, French. Is there an Italian phrase that’s suitable here? Maybe. Well, whatever that phrase is, yell that and cook away!

Oven Chicken Risotto

This recipe is great because you can prep everything sequentially: first the risotto piece, then the tomatoes, then while those are in the oven you can dice the mozzarella and shred the chicken and then you’re done! I didn’t know risotto could be made without standing over a stovetop with a screaming toddler at your feet the entire time, but it can! Hooray!

Recipe was slightly modified from the one found here.


2 tablespoons butter

2 ½ cups chicken broth

1 cup uncooked Arborio rice (short-grain)

½ small onion, diced

½ tsp. salt

2 cups chopped deli-roasted chicken (I shred a full rotisserie chicken)

1 (8-oz.) package fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ -inch cubes

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place butter in a 13- x 9-inch baking dish; bake five minutes or until melted. Stir in broth and next 3 ingredients.

Bake, covered, at 400° for 35 minutes. Remove from oven. Fluff rice with a fork.

Meanwhile, halved tomatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes.

Stir in chicken, mozzarella, and tomatoes. Serve immediately.

Turkey Broccoli Pasta

I love this dish because it’s so clever in making use of the pasta water, both in cooking the broccoli with the pasta and in making the pasta dish really come together. There is VERY minimal chopping involved (broccoli and garlic only), and it all comes together in a flash.

Inspired and adapted from this recipe found here.


¾ pound orecchiette, or any other pasta (I use bowties)

2 cups broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 pound ground turkey

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1-2 tsp. Italian seasoning (to taste)

½ tsp. Crushed red pepper (optional, to taste)

Kosher salt

Parmesan, for serving

Lemon zest/juice, for serving (optional, if you have it, which I never do, but it is delicious when you don’t forget lemons at the grocery store)


Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the broccoli during the last five minutes (if using frozen broccoli, use directions for boiling broccoli on package). Reserve ½ cup of the pasta/broccoli water (this is the magic that makes the entire dish really come together, so don’t skip this step). Drain and return the pasta and broccoli to the pot.

Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey, garlic, Italian seasoning, and red pepper and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes; season with ½ teaspoon salt.

Toss the turkey mixture with the pasta, broccoli, reserved pasta water, and the remaining two tablespoons of oil. Serve with Parmesan and some lemon zest and a squirt of lemon juice, if you have it, which again, I never do, but I’m sure other people might be better prepared than I am.

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