Recipe Spotlight

Dinners for Beginners: 4 Easy Pasta Dishes

Everyone’s cooking journey has to start somewhere. For those of you at the beginning of yours, here are some simple, delicious pasta recipes to help you build confidence and skills. 

Published Oct. 26, 2023.

At Cook’s Country, we are cooks, sure, but more than that we are teachers. Our goal is to share the best techniques in our recipes so that you can learn them, master them, and use them on your own, independent of any recipe. 

Put another way, we put so much effort and testing into our recipes that we want you to follow them exactly, verbatim . . . until such a time that you don’t need to and can improvise and adapt them to suit your personal needs and tastes. 

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10 ingredients. 45 minutes. Quick, easy, and fresh weeknight recipes.

Each of the four recipes below teaches basic skills and flavor combinations that, once you master these recipes, you can apply to other things you like to cook. These recipes are relatively easy, don’t require a lot of special ingredients or equipment, and taste really, really good. We hope you enjoy them—and take the lessons you learn making them along with you on your cooking journey. 

100+ Approachable, Achievable Recipes

Fresh Pasta at Home

Turn homemade pasta into your new favorite kitchen hobby with foolproof methods. You can make incredible pasta (of any shape!) from scratch using the test kitchen’s rigorously tested techniques.

Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil

What could be more simple—or more satisfying—than pasta with lots of sliced garlic and extra-virgin olive oil? (The only other ingredients are red pepper flakes, salt, and parsley.) There is a little technique here: You boil the pasta until partially done, drain it while reserving some cooking water, and then finish cooking the noodles in the reserved pasta water while you stir and fold the pasta with tongs—you’re making an emulsified sauce with oil, starchy water, and elbow grease. 

In a Nutshell: Lightly brown garlic. Cook the pasta in two stages. Vigorously stir the pasta to emulsify the sauce. 


Aglio e Olio (Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil)

Would we be able to create a silky, creamy pasta dish without the added cheese?
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Skillet Lasagna

When is a lasagna not a lasagna? I don’t know the answer to that rhetoric riddle, but I do know that this one is easy and delicious. All it takes is browning some onion in a skillet and adding garlic and then meatloaf mix (a combination of ground beef, pork, and veal—straight up ground beef works just fine here too). Break some raw lasagna noodles and scatter them over the beef and then cover with diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cook until the pasta is tender; top with cheese; and let sit, covered, off the heat so that the cheese softens and the flavors meld. Done. 

In a Nutshell: The lasagna noodles cook right in the sauce with the meat—no boiling and draining required.


Skillet Lasagna

Our goal was to transform traditional baked lasagna into a stovetop skillet dish without losing any of its flavor or appeal.
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Fettuccine with Butter and Cheese

The key to this dish is using (ahem) the world’s greatest cheese: Parmigiano-Reggiano, the “fancy” and not inexpensive Parmesan from Italy. This recipe turns a “free” ingredient, the pasta cooking water, into a sauce by stirring some into the cooked pasta with butter and grated cheese. That’s it: simple, satisfying, and deeply delicious. 

In a Nutshell: It’s just pasta, salt, Parm, and butter, plus a good bit of stirring. 

Gochujang Chicken and Tortellini

This bold, filling dish gets its “oomph” from gochujang paste, a fermented red chili concoction that’s a staple in Korean cuisine. While you are boiling store-bought tortellini, you toss some of the paste (plus honey, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger) with cut-up boneless chicken thighs and cook them in a covered skillet. Stir in the cooked tortellini, shower with grated fontina cheese, and pop under the broiler to melt said cheese. That’s it. 

In a Nutshell: Boil pasta, cook chicken, combine, hit with cheese, and broil. It’s a little spicy, a little sweet, and quite rich. 


Gochujang Chicken and Tortellini

Tortellini and fontina meet Korean chile paste in this kicked-up—and surprisingly quick—take on a pasta bake.
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