A black skillet filled with cooked pasta, served on a wooden table.

How to Cook Pasta in a Skillet with Sauce – A Detailed Guide

It’s no secret that pasta is a favorite food of many. It’s versatile, easy to make, and can be paired with a variety of sauces. But what about those times when you don’t want to turn on the oven or wait for the water to boil? Enter: the skillet pasta with sauce-tadaa.

In just minutes, you can have a delicious plate of drool-worthy pasta without all the extra work (gosh I’m literally salivating). It’s perfect for busy moms and dads who don’t have time to spend in the kitchen, also the best part is, that there’s no heavy cleanup. All you need is a good ol’ skillet!

How to cook pasta in a skillet with sauce

  1. Start by heating your sauce in the skillet over medium heat
  2. Once the sauce is heated, add the pasta and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  3. Add a little water if the pasta starts to stick to the skillet
  4. Once the pasta is cooked through, serve and enjoy!

More details (video) on how to cook pasta in a skillet at the end of this article.

Why is it called a skillet?

The word “skillet” comes from the Old French word “escuelle”, which means “frying pan” [1]. It’s thought that the word originated in the Latin word “sartago,” which means “to jump or dance”. In other words, the word skillet may have come to mean “frying pan” because of the way food jumps or dances around in it while it’s being cooked.

What is a skillet pan used for?

A skillet is typically made from cast iron, although other materials such as aluminum or copper can be used. Skillet pans are most commonly used for cooking meat, vegetables and pasta.  They have a wide, flat bottom with low sides, making them ideal for browning, tossing, and turning ingredients while cooking.

Skillet pans are also great for serving food directly at the table that is why is a versatile kitchen tool that can be used for a variety of tasks.

A black cast iron skillet used to prepare pasta meal with white sauce, placed on a red and white strip cloth.

Difference between skillet and sauce pan

The main difference between a skillet and a saucepan is the shape of the pan [2]. A skillet has sloped sides, while a saucepan has straight sides.  This means that a skillet is better for cooking food that needs to be flipped or tossed (as mentioned above), while a saucepan is better for making sauces and reduction-cooking.

Additionally, skillets are usually more durable than saucepans, so they can withstand higher heat and get a good sear on your food. So if you’re looking for a multifaceted pan that can do it all, go with a skillet however, if you’re just looking to make some simple sauces, then a saucepan is the way to go.

How do you clean a skillet?

What you will need

  • 1 very dirty skillet 🙂
  • Dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Sponge or scrub brush
A used cast iron skillet, with a soft bristle brush and a red-and-white stripe cloth in the background.

Instructions

  1. Start by removing any food particles from the skillet with a sponge or scrub brush
  2. Next, mix together dish soap and warm water in the sink
  3. Submerge the skillet in soapy water and let it soak for a few minutes
  4. Use the sponge or brush to scrub away any remaining dirt and grease
  5. Rinse the skillet with clean, warm water
  6. Dry the skillet with a clean towel or let it air dry
  7. Repeat as necessary until the skillet is clean, or leave it to “soak some more” meaning wait for someone else to wash it 🙂

Best pan for making sauces

The best pan for making sauces is a saucepan; it has straight sides, which prevents liquid from evaporating too quickly. They also have a smaller surface area, so the sauce has concentration and flavor. Additionally, saucepans are made of thicker metal, which allows them to withstand higher heat without scorching the sauce.

So if you’re looking to make the perfect sauce, reach for a saucepan, the shape allows you to get a good stir on your sauce without making a mess.  It is the best pan for making Bolognese sauce, tomato sauce, and cream sauce.

Best cheeses for pasta sauce

An infographic detailing a variety of cheeses that are used when preparing pasta dishes.
  • Parmesan: Parmesan is a hard, dry cheese with a strong flavor. It is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and has a natural yellowish color. It is one of the most popular cheeses used in pasta sauce because it melts well and adds a rich, nutty flavor. Grated Parmesan cheese is used as a topping for pasta dishes and can also be used in sauces.
  • Romano: Romano is a hard, dry cheese that is also made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. It has a stronger flavor than Parmesan and is often used as a cheaper alternative. It can be used in any pasta sauce recipe that calls for Parmesan.
  • Asiago: Asiago is a semi-soft cheese with a milder flavor than Parmesan or Romano. It too is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and has a natural white color. It is a good choice for pasta sauce if you are looking for a cheese that will melt well but not add too much flavor to the sauce.
  • Pecorino: Pecorino is a hard, dry cheese made from sheep’s milk. It has a strong, sharp flavor and is often used as a cheaper alternative to Parmesan. It can be used in any pasta sauce recipe that calls for Parmesan.
  • Feta: Feta is a soft, crumbly cheese also made from sheep’s milk but it has a milder flavor than other sheep’s milk cheeses. It can be used in pasta sauces to add creaminess and tanginess.
  • Goat cheese: Goat cheese is a soft, creamy cheese made from goat’s milk. It has a mild, earthy flavor and it too can be used in pasta sauce to add creaminess and depth of flavor.
A variety of the best types of cheeses used to make different pasta dishes.
  • Ricotta: It is a soft, cow’s milk cheese with a mild, sweet flavor. Ricotta cheese is usually used as a filling for ravioli and other types of pasta though it can also be used in sauces. Ricotta is a milder cheese that adds creaminess and body to pasta sauce. It’s also a good choice if you’re looking to lighten up your sauce.
  • Mozzarella:  Mozzarella is a soft, white cheese with a mild flavor. It is made from water buffalo’s milk or cow’s milk and has a natural white color. Mozzarella is one of the most popular cheeses used in pasta sauce because it melts well and adds a mild, creamy flavor. Shredded mozzarella cheese is often used as a topping for pasta dishes.
  • Provolone: Provolone is a semi-soft cheese with a mild, smoky flavor. It is made from cow’s milk and has a natural white color. Provolone can be used in pasta sauce to add creaminess and depth.
  • Gorgonzola: Gorgonzola is a soft, blue cheese with a strong, sharp flavor. It is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and has a natural white color with blue veins. Gorgonzola can be used in pasta sauce to add creaminess and deeper flavor. 
  • Cheddar: Cheddar is a hard, yellow cheese with a sharp flavor. It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and has a natural yellowish color. Cheddar can be used in pasta sauce to add creaminess and color.
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano: Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, dry cheese with a strong flavor. It is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk and also has a natural yellowish color. Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of the most popular cheeses used in pasta sauce because it melts well and adds a rich, nutty flavor.
  • Gouda: Gouda is a semi-soft cheese with a mild, sweet flavor. It is made from pasteurized cow’s milk and like the previous two kinds of cheese also has a natural yellowish color. Gouda can be used in pasta sauce to add creaminess and oomph.

So there you have it, a few different types of cheeses for pasta sauce [3]. Each cheese has its own distinct flavor that can add something special to your sauce. Ergo experiment and find the cheese (or combination of cheeses) that you like best.

5 Types of pasta for pasta sauce

Now that you have your cheese, it’s time to choose the right pasta for your sauce. Not all noodles and pasta are created equal and different types will absorb your sauce differently. Here are 5 popular yet different types of pasta and how they hold up to pasta sauce.

  1. Spaghetti – Spaghetti is long and thin with a smooth surface. It’s made from durum wheat and has a high protein content, which helps it to hold its shape and not turn mushy when cooked. Spaghetti will absorb your sauce evenly, making it the perfect canvas for your creation.
  2. Fettuccine – Fettuccine is a flat, wide pasta that’s made from egg and flour. It has a tender texture and will hold thick sauces well.
  3. Rigatoni – Rigatoni is tube-shaped pasta that’s perfect for hearty, meaty sauces. The ridges on the outside of the pasta help to hold the sauce in and keep it from sliding off.
  4. Shells – Shells are a type of pasta that’s shaped like a shell or a cone and they’re perfect for lighter sauces or for baked recipes. The concave shape of the shell helps to hold the sauce in and keep it from running off.
  5. Rotini – Rotini is a type of pasta that’s spiraled or helical in shape and it’s perfect for both light and thick sauces. The twists and turns of the pasta help to hold the sauce in and keep it from rolling off.

Now that you know the different types of pasta available, it’s time to choose the right one for your sauce. Spaghetti is always a good option, but if you’re looking for something with a little more personality, try one of the other types of pastas listed above.

Best wines for pasta sauce

A good rule of thumb is to use red wine for a tomato-based sauce and white wine for a cream-based sauce.

3 bottles of wine, each placed in a wooden case and placed next to each other on a wooden table.

Red wines for tomato-based pasta sauce

  1. Chianti – Chianti is an Italian red wine that is made from Sangiovese grapes with high acidity and low tannins, making it a good choice for pasta sauce.
  2. Barbera – Barbera is an Italian red wine that is made from Barbera grapes and also with high acidity and low tannins.
  3. Pinot Noir – A French red wine that is made from Pinot Noir grapes with moderate acidity and moderate tannins.
  4. Merlot – Merlot is a French red wine that is made from Merlot grapes with low acidity and high tannins.
  5. Cabernet Sauvignon – Another French red wine that is made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with high acidity and high tannins.
  6. Zinfandel – Zinfandel is an American red wine that is made from Zinfandel grapes with high acidity and low tannins, also making it a good choice for pasta sauce.

Reference article: https://www.ehow.com/info_8272886_kind-wine-cooking-tomato-sauce.html

White wines for cream-based pasta sauce

  1. Sauvignon Blanc – Sauvignon Blanc is a French white wine that is made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes with high acidity and grassy flavors, making it a good blend for pasta sauce.
  2. Chardonnay – Chardonnay is a French white wine that is made from Chardonnay grapes with moderate acidity and buttery flavors.
  3. Pinot Grigio – Pinot Grigio is an Italian white wine that is made from Pinot Grigio grapes with high acidity and fruity flavors.
  4. Riesling – Riesling is a German white wine that is made from Riesling grapes with high acidity and sweet flavors.
  5. Moschato – Moschato is a Greek white wine that is made from Muscat grapes with moderate acidity and sweet flavors, also making it a good fit for pasta sauce.

When choosing a wine for your pasta sauce, it is important to consider the other ingredients that you will be using. If you are using strong flavors, such as garlic or chili peppers, you will want to choose a wine that can stand up to those flavors. If you are using delicate flavors, such as basil or thyme, you will want to choose a wine that will not overpower those flavors. FYI: Moschato is a good choice for both strong and delicate flavors.

Reference article: https://food52.com/recipes/87122-best-white-wine-sauce-recipe

Herbs and spices for pasta sauce

  • Basil – Basil is an herb that has a sweet, spicy flavor and it can add flavor without overpowering the other ingredients
  • Oregano – Oregano is an herb that has a bitter, pungent flavor and it can add depth of flavor
  • Rosemary – Rosemary is a herb that has a woody, piney flavor and it can add a touch of sweetness
  • Thyme – Thyme is a herb that has a minty, lemony flavor and it can add a bright flavor
  • Parsley – Parsley is a herb that has a mild, grassy flavor and it can add color as well as freshness
  • Garlic – Garlic is a spice that has a pungent, spicy flavor and it can add depth of flavor. Although bear in mind that fresh garlic is more pungent than dried
  • Onion – Onion is a spice that has a sweet, pungent flavor and it can add sweetness as well as the depth of flavor. Bear in mind here as well, that like garlic, onion is more pungent fresh than dried
  • Salt – Salt is a spice that has an obvious salty flavor and it can enhance other flavors
  • Pepper – Pepper is a spice that has a hot, spicy flavor and t can add heat and zest if you wish it
  • Chili pepper – Chili pepper is a spice that has a hot, fiery flavor and it can add powerful zing to any dish
  • Bay leaf – Bay leaf is a herb that has a woody, earthy flavor and it can add undertones of flavor
  • Celery seed – Celery seed is a spice that has a celery-like flavor and it can add a touch of sweetness
  • Cumin – Cumin is a spice that has a spicy, earthy flavor and it can add a woody taste
  • Fennel seed – Fennel seed is a spice that has a sweet, anise-like flavor and it can add sweetness and tones
  • Nutmeg – Nutmeg is a spice that has a sweet, woody flavor and it can add sweetness and earthiness to your sauce
  • Sage – Sage is a herb that has a strong, earthy flavor and it can add depth
  • Tarragon – Tarragon is a herb that has a sweet, anise-like flavor and it too can add sweetness as well as the depth of flavor

Reference article: https://spice-world.co.za/blogs/news/essential-italian-herbs-for-the-perfect-pasta

10 Common mistakes when cooking pasta

1. Not using enough water

This is the number one mistake people make when cooking pasta and the general rule is to use 1 quart of water for every 1 pound of pasta. You need to use enough water so that the pasta can cook evenly and not stick together.

2. Not adding salt

People are worried about adding too much salt and the general rule is to add 1 tablespoon of salt for every 1 pound of pasta. You need to add salt to the water so that the pasta can absorb it and have flavor.

3. Not stirring the pasta

This is a frequent mistake because people think that they don’t need to stir the pasta once it is in the water. You need to stir the pasta occasionally so that it doesn’t stick together and it can cook evenly. A good trick is to put about a tsp of oil into about 1 quart of water as this will help to keep the pasta separated – you will thank me later 😉

4. Not using a large enough pot

You need to use a large pot so that the pasta has enough room to swell and the general rule is to use a pot that is at least 2 times the size of the pasta.

5. Not boiling the water before adding the pasta

People think that they can just add the pasta to cold water and it will cook but you need to boil the water before adding the pasta so that it will cook properly.

A cook preparing to cook a pot of pasta, using strings of spaghetti in a stainless steel pot.

6. Not checking the pasta regularly

Some people often think that they can just set a timer and forget about the pasta. However, you need to check the pasta regularly so that it doesn’t overcook and the general rule is to check the pasta every 2 minutes.

7. Not draining the pasta properly

You can’t just dump the pasta into a colander and think it will be fine. You need to drain the pasta properly so that all of the water is gone and the best way to do this is to use a colander then put it under cold running water.

8. Not adding enough sauce

You actually need to add quite a bit of sauce so that the pasta is properly coated for you to truly appreciate the dish properly. The general rule is to use 1/2 cup of sauce for every 1 pound of pasta.

9. Not reheating the pasta properly

If you are planning on reheating the pasta, you need to do it the proper way so that it doesn’t turn into a mushy mess. The best way to reheat pasta is to put it in a pan with some sauce and heat it over medium heat until it is warmed all the way through.

10. Not storing the pasta properly

If you have any leftover pasta, you need to store it properly so that it doesn’t turn into a mushy mess. The best way to store pasta is to put it in an airtight container and put it in the fridge, this will last in the fridge for up to 5 days. For dry pasta, also best to store in air-tight food storage containers.

Best skillet pasta recipes

Vegetarian skillet pasta recipe

A brown ceramic plate served with cooked pasta and a generous helping of cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp. x oregano (dried leaves)
  • 1 tbsp. x olive oil
  • 1/2 x red onion, diced
  • 2 x cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups x uncooked pasta
  • 2 cups x vegetable broth
  • 1 jar (24 oz.) x marinara sauce
  • 1 cup x frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 cup x shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup x grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 glass x red wine – optional for the food as well 🙂
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add red onion and garlic and cook until softened (about 3 minutes)
  2. Add uncooked pasta as well as vegetable broth and bring to a boil
  3. Add marinara sauce, spinach, (and wine) mozzarella cheese, and stir until well combined
  4. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through
  5. OR just pop it into an oven or convection microwave oven at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until heated throughout.
  6. Then sprinkle with parmesan cheese when serve.

Chicken parmesan pasta recipe

How to cook pasta in a skillet with sauce using chicken and a variety of cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb.  x boneless, skinless chicken breast, pounded thin
  • 1/2 cup x all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp.  x Italian seasoning/herbs
  • 1/4 tsp.  x garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp.  x salt
  • 1/4 tsp.  x black pepper
  • 1/4 cup x olive oil
  • 8 oz.  x penne pasta
  • 1 jar (24 oz.) x marinara sauce
  • 1 cup x shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup x grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 glass x red wine (optional)
  • Additional herbs-to taste
  • Fresh parsley leaves, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Set a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta
  2. To a shallow bowl, add flour, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Mix well
  3. Working one at a time, dredge chicken in the flour mixture until coated and shakes off any excess
  4. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add chicken and cook until browned and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken to a plate
  5. To the same skillet, add penne pasta and marinara sauce (add wine with the additional herbs or salt to taste). Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes, or until pasta is cooked al dente according to package instructions
  6. Stir in mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese until completely combined
  7. Divide the pasta among 4 plates. Top each with a chicken breast and some of the sauce from the skillet. Garnish with parsley leaves (if desired)
  8. Serve immediately.

Simple and easy Tomato-based Pasta Recipe

Final thoughts

So there you have it, pasta lovers, and your new favorite way to cook pasta. It’s easy, efficient, and the end result is a skillet full of cheesy goodness that will make your taste buds dance with happiness. Give this method a try next time you need a quick, tasty meal solution and don’t forget to share your photos of your creations with us below. So, get cooking good looking!

Profile photo v2
Charlene Gallant

Charlene is a lover of good food. She enjoys nothing more than cooking up a storm in the kitchen and sharing her favourite recipes with her readers. She also enjoys reading a good book.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

8 − 1 =