Cooking for one is something new I’ve had to learn in college. I really enjoyed cooking back in high school when I was living at home, too, but most things I made were for at least the five people in my family. I also had a big kitchen, a huge selection of ingredients and spices, people to help me clean up the kitchen, and bit more free time. Now that I live in a dorm and cook primarily for just myself, I like to make simple things that don’t require multiple pots and pans or lots of ingredients. During busy weeks, the extent of my cooking may be roasting a few trays of chopped veggies, baking some sweet potatoes, boiling some pasta in my dorm’s kitchen, and making smoothies and microwave oatmeal in my room.
One of my favorite simple meals for one is a pasta bowl with lots of veggies and cheese. It’s more of a method rather than a recipe, but I figured it’s worth sharing if you’re like me and always looking for easy new meal ideas– especially cooking for one!
In my pasta bowls, I include whole-grain pasta, spinach, sautéd veggies like mushrooms and bell peppers, marinara sauce, cottage cheese, and mozzarella cheese. These remind me a lot of lasagna, my absolutely favorite meal, and I’d even go so far as to call this a lazy girl lasagna. (Or just a busy girl lasagna!) Here’s what I do:
Cook 2 ounces of whole-grain pasta according to package directions. You can add a handful of chopped broccoli florets to the pasta pot during the last 3 minutes of cooking, if you’d like.
Place a large handful of spinach in the colander before draining the pasta. The hot water will almost immediately wilt the spinach so I don’t have to cook it separately.
Time to layer! Start with the wilted spinach and noodles.
Next, add leftover sautéd or roasted vegetables. Mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, and zucchini are some of my favorites to use here.
Add cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. Cottage cheese is my preference since it’s higher in protein! Sprinkle on some mozzarella…Top with lots of sauce…
A little more cheese…And pop it into the microwave for 60 seconds or so, until the cheese on top is melted and everything’s heated through. Let me know if you give it a try and put your own spin on it– the variations are endless!
Single-Serving College Girl Pasta Bowl
- 2 ounces whole-grain pasta
- A large handful of spinach, washed
- 1/2 cup sautéd or roasted vegetables, chopped
- 1/4 cup cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
- 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese, divided
- 3/4 cup marinara sauce
- Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse spinach in a colander and drain the pasta directly on top of the spinach to wilt it. Transfer spinach and pasta to a microwave safe bowl.
- Add veggies, cottage or ricotta cheese, 1 tablespoon of mozzarella cheese, and marinara sauce. Top with the remaining mozzarella cheese.
- Microwave for 60-90 seconds, or until cheese on top is melted and everything is heated through. Enjoy!
If you’d like to pin for later:
Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday says
Love this! One of my roommates and I were just talking about cooking for one. It’s so satisfying when you actually do make yourself a meal as opposed to just snacking/microwaving your way through a busy day. We often do something super similar to this but occasionally use pesto in place of (or, hey, in addition to) marinara sauce. Oh, and if I’ve been super proactive, I’ll have roasted garlic cloves lying around to use!
I agree! As much as I love snacking between meals, I really don’t like substituting snacks for meals. And mmm- roasted garlic!
Brie @ Lean, Clean, & Brie says
I love this! I am all about single serve meals for busy days! Cooking in college is so different than cooking at home and definitely has a learning curve but can be a great way to still eat healthy while in college and avoid all the junk out there. I love recipes like this because they take the same amount of time to cook than frozen packaged foods but are SO much better for you!
Getting to cook even just a little bit definitely helps me feel like I’m more in control of my health and makes me feel more at home, even away from home 🙂
This looks delish! Single serve meals are a lifesaver in college, and recipes like this that don’t require too much. This definitely looks better than the pasta at my dining hall too 🙂
Dining hall pasta (at least in my experience…) tends to be so mushy, right?!
Yum! A bowl of pasta is so satisfying! I didn’t mind the caf food when I lived on campus, but the weekends we just plain awful. Definitely could have used this recipe.
I agree, what could be more satisfying than a giant bowl of pasta? I love adding lots of veggies to help bulk it up!
Lauren Lalicon says
Cooking for one was the hardest part of living away from home! Too many ingredients, too little portions, that’s probably the biggest reason I ended up going out to eat a lot. I’m definitely going to try this dish! Does the cottage cheese thicken the sauce or just give it flavor?
The cottage may thicken the sauce slightly, but it mostly just adds a delicious cheesiness to the bowl. It’s one of the parts that reminds me of lasagna!
This really is the perfect college girl meal!
Carol Eiseman says
This is a great idea! I have my own method for microwave mac and cheese that has gotten me through some rough times. I love that every recipe now-a-days has a microwave option. Usually if I want it, no matter how complex, there’s a way to make it in the microwave 🙂
Sounds delicious! Have you posted your mac & cheese recipe on your blog? I’d love to check it out!
Oh YUM. I love how a) this is so simple b) it is single serving and made in one bowl c) hardly any dishes to wash afterwards d) uses two types of cheeeeese. What a brilliant little trick with pouring the hot pasta water over the spinach to wilt it. I love little hacks like this. I need to get myself some pasta sauce!
I’m all for using as few dishes as possible! And I use that spinach trick almost every time I make pasta now since I always have spinach in my fridge for my green smoothies 🙂
Sarah @ BucketListTummy says
I don’t know why some people hate on pasta bowls – they are SO easy, cheap, nutritious and delicious. Love adding tons of veggies to my pasta
So this is weird – I totally use cottage cheese for lasagna, but I have NEVER thought of adding it to my pasta dishes for an extra protein boost. Can you say GENIUS? Totally doing that for dinner tonight since I am on my own!!
Haha glad you like the idea! Such an easy way to make a simple possible taste like a decadent lasagna 🙂
Laura @MotherWouldKnow says
What a great system for making a single pasta bowl. I especially love the tip about wiling spinach with the pasta water. And the end result is so appetizing!
Thanks, Laura! The spinach trick is one of my favorite little cooking “hacks”
rachel @ Athletic Avocado says
Im all about that single serving life especially here in college! Almost all of my recipes make 1-2 servings but none are quite like this (they are mostly breakfast and dessert). So stoked about this!
Oh yeah- I love easy recipes for one or two!
Kerri mcGrail says
I’m all about quick, busy girl meals! I love adding veggies to my pasta- you used some of my favorites! Love adding mushrooms, onion, spinach, and broccoli to pasta- yum! I’m lucky to be out of the dorms and have a full kitchen and lots of ingredients, but I am still cooking for one, and sometimes don’t want a huge batch of leftovers, so meals like these are perfect!
Yes!! Adding lots of veggies to my pasta makes the bowl seem huge!
Jessica @ kiwiyogirunner says
I totally know what you mean about the large fully stocked kitchen at home thing! When I was in NZ it surprised me how much I actually enjoyed cooking and baking! Cooking in my teensy place in Sydney just drives me up the wall hah. I love the look of that pasta! Hope you’re doing well Liv, Im excited to catch up on what youve been doing! (Hope that’s not creepy haha it sounded normal in my head 🙂 )
Jess @hellotofit says
Mmm pasta is one of my FAVES, and I totally did single serving pasta bowls in undergrad!!