One Pot Penne Pasta

We love this vegetarian one-pot penne pasta on weeknights. Veggies, herbs, and lemon make the penne burst with flavor. Ready in 20 minutes!

One Pot Vegetable Penne Pasta

Today’s penne pasta recipe is brought to you by…our dishwasher! Here’s what happened:

Our dishwasher recently broke, which has made me realize just how many dishes we (mostly I) use in a day. For example, I start with a big glass of water first thing in the morning before I make a smoothie. Next comes iced cold brew coffee. When it’s time to make lunch, I’m usually too lazy to go upstairs to get my previously used water glass, so I’ll grab another. In case you aren’t keeping track, I’m up to 4 glasses by about noon. There’s also one by my bed, two in the bathroom, and by the end of the day there will be a larger collection at my desk. I know – first world problems.

All of this extra dishwashing led me to try the infamous one-pot penne pasta. It was apparently invented by a French chef and later made internet-famous by Martha. I never considered trying it before because it’s a little too trendy, and I’ve never found it to be a big deal to wash the pasta pot. But by now I was tired of washing dishes, and this recipe seemed incredibly easy. And it was (is).

It’s delicious too. Because the starches from the pasta stay with your pasta, this method creates a creamy sort of sauce that wouldn’t be there if you cooked and drained your pasta.

Vegetable Penne Pasta Recipe ingredients

Penne Pasta Recipe Ingredients

I felt like Martha’s recipe lacked a bit of flavor, so for my version I’ve amped up the herbs & seasonings. Here’s what makes my penne pasta recipe a delicious, easy meal for busy weeknights:

  • Leeks & garlic add a mild, sweet onion flavor.
  • Cherry tomatoes, zucchini & red bell pepper fill it with color, and they make this penne pasta taste like summer.
  • Basil & oregano give it a fresh Italian flavor.
  • Lemon juice & zest brighten it up.
  • Red pepper flakes add a little heat.
  • And toasted pine nuts bring a necessary crunch.

In lieu of freshly grated Parmesan cheese, I made a “cheese-like” hempseed topping. This penne pasta is nicely flavorful on its own, so feel free to use the cheese or “cheese”, or skip both!

How to make vegetable penne pasta

How to Make One Pot Penne Pasta

Assemble your ingredients, and you’re just minutes away from having a big pot of penne pasta on the table. Here’s how you make this yummy one-pot meal:

  1. Chop your veggies, and put them in a large pot with the penne, lemon juice, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and 2 1/4 cups water.
  2. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 8 minutes, stirring once around the 5-minute mark.
  3. When the pasta is tender, remove the pot from the heat, stir, and let it sit for a couple of minutes so the sauce can thicken.
  4. Top it with Parmesan, parsley, pine nuts, and/or my vegan hemp seed “cheese,” and enjoy!

I had a little trouble deciding on the serving size for this recipe. The final pot looked “family size,” but then we ate the whole thing, with Jack going back for multiple helpings. So I’m going to say this penne pasta recipe serves 2 hungry people, and maybe a few more if you have smaller eaters or if you serve this with a protein on the side.

One Pot Vegetable Penne Pasta

Looking for more penne pasta recipes?

Try this Many-Veggie Roasted Vegetable Pasta or this Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Penne!

4.7 from 18 reviews

One Pot Vegetable Penne Pasta

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This one-pot penne pasta is a delicious weeknight dinner! The vegetables cook in the pot with the pasta, so it's easy to make, and cleanup is a breeze.
Recipe type: Main dish
Serves: 2 large or 3 to 4 small servings
  • 6 ounces penne pasta
  • 1½ cups sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1½ cups thinly sliced leeks
  • 1 cup zucchini, sliced into ¼-inch thick half moons
  • ½ cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 3 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus 1 teaspoon zest
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 sprig of basil
  • 2¼ cups water
top with:
  • chopped parsley
  • toasted pine nuts
  • grated parmesan cheese or Vegan Hemp Seed Topping, optional
Vegan Hemp Seed Topping
  • ½ cup hemp seeds
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
  • pinch of sea salt
  1. In a large pot, combine the pasta, tomatoes, leeks, zucchini, bell pepper, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes and basil. Add the water and stir. Bring to a boil, cover, and boil for 8 minutes. Give it a stir around the 5 minute mark to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan and put the the cover back on. At 8 minutes, test the pasta for doneness. Remove the pot from the heat, stir, and let it sit for about 2 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.
  2. Make the Vegan Hemp Seed Topping: In a food processor, combine the hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, sunflower seeds and salt and pulse to combine.
  3. Serve with the chopped parsley, toasted pine nuts and parmesan cheese or Vegan Hemp Seed Topping, if using.



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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. JCB from Wordpress

    Is the olive oil essential?

  2. Pilar

    Amazing recipe!! I wash my dishes and nowadays our sink is broken so…this made my day! Thank you!

  3. I feel your pain. We just replaced our dishwasher after two months without and a couple of months before that of the old one being unreliable. It’s hot and dry here, with watering restrictions, so I would catch the water in a watering can while waiting for it to get hot. (Just one more hassle, but I had too much guilt about cold water running down the drain.) I was in Peace Corps in Africa long ago and had no running water. Let me tell you, one-pot meals are really big then.
    The starch of the pasta making it creamy is the same technique that makes spaghetti/fettuccini carbonara so amazing–there’s no cream, just the cooking water and eggs.

  4. Karen

    Your spoiled! Lol. We rent our house till we can save up fr the down payment of a new house and while we fix our credit. There is no dishwasher here. And we can’t buy one since… There’s no room. And it’s not our house… My life is dishes. And I make almost everything from scratch. Whenever I make supper the kitchen looks like a complete disaster. Sigh…

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Ha, well I did live without one for years – but it sure is easy to get used to having one!

  5. I’m not a huge pasta person, but I think that hemp seed parmesan would convert me! YUM! (And isn’t serving size the hardest to determine? It’s like, “Serves one semi-hungry grown man or one teenage girl after soccer practice”)

  6. Katie from

    My dishwasher broke a while back and it was just the worst! It’s crazy how quickly you get used to having one, they’re a godsend!

    Gotta love a one pot meal though!!

    Katie xoxo

  7. Omg, I mean you seriously had me at one-pot but this pasta looks incred! I seriously have got to make it!

  8. Tom

    Just made this was lovely but it didn’t look anywhere as near as bright as the picture 🙁

    What am I doing wrong?

  9. annie from

    This looks superb! I’m sorry your dishwasher is broken, but I’m glad it lead to this amazing recipe. Hope it gets fixed soon.

  10. You had me at ‘one-pot’. Reading this made me very happy!

  11. Lisa Cox

    I love the creativity of pasta dishes, and this is one of the best that I have seen. We made it as is, and was wonderful!

  12. Shari

    We had this tonight, delish! The veggies came from our garden, thanks for your seasonal and excellent recipes! Much enjoyed! Paired with Four Hands Pinot Grigio.

  13. Jane

    Much like others who have responded you had me at 1 pot. I’m making this tomorrow; will be perfect for a 100 degree day!

  14. Wendy Gerster

    Hi, did you use shelled hempseeds?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      yes, shelled

  15. Urban from

    One Pot Meals are awesome and like this dish. Will be making this tomorrow.

    Sorry to hear about your dishwasher. I live in an apartment, I cook allot and don’t have a dishwasher and it wouldn’t fit if they wanted to fit one in my small kitchen. So I wash everything by hand, many multiple times a day.

  16. Candy

    Hi, I also wanted to know if you used shelled or unshelled hempseeds. Thanks lots! Great recipe!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      yes, shelled 🙂

  17. Liese

    My suggestion would be to add the lemon juice 5 min. before serving …the flavours will be brighter.

  18. Judit

    We don’t have nutritional yeast here. What can I substitute it with?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      You can skip it – this pasta is great on it’s own without the topping.

      • Judit

        Thank you! We ate it without the topping, it was wonderful!!! 😊

        • Jeanine Donofrio

          Yay, I’m so glad you liked it 🙂

  19. Vicki Belovski

    This was great. Even my kids who normally eat regular pasta enjoyed it.
    Thanks and hope you get your dishwasher sorted soon!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad to hear that!

  20. Melanie

    I opted to sautee all of the veggies beforehand. I didn’t want to risk them getting too soggy while the pasta cooked and having them lose all of their nutrients in the water. I love the one-pot concept so I just set the veggies aside and then boiled water in the same pot with all of the sautee flavorings + extra salt. It came out pretty tasty! I love garden veggie filled pasta dishes ♥ Sunflower seeds, hemp, and nutritional yeast were lovely additions but, the flavors of the pasta are also good on their own. I’d make it again!

  21. James

    Great pasta dish. It was pretty good and has a very nice blend of flavors. Thanks for posting, I will be making this again for sure.

  22. Daniella

    This was sooooo good! And so easy! I also made your red quinoa salad for yesterday’s dinner and my husband loved both dishes 🙂

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Daniella, I’m so happy to hear!

  23. stanp

    Going to try this recipe but have to “convert it” to “Non-Gluten” since my type 2 diabetes says NO gluten free recipes.

    Will use wheat pasta..the pics and ingredients really caught my attention… plus.. “one pot” convenience.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I hope you enjoy the recipe!

      • stanp from

        Tried the recipe last Thursday night.

        Was a hit !

        Overdid the crushed red pepper flakes but that was “my bad”…gives me a reason to have again with right amount of red pepper.

        • Jeanine Donofrio

          I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

          • stanp

            Another compliment…

            Had plenty of left over. My wife had some next day for lunch.

            Made a great “cold pasta slad” !

  24. Lola H

    I can’t get over how delicious this recipe is! I have to admit that I was a bit suspicious at first as whenever I get that one vegetarian option at restaurants it’s usually penne with some vegetables and it’s a bland, boiled mess. But oh my goodness, the flavours in this are amazing! I did add parmesan the first time, but it’s really bursting with so much delicious flavor on its own that it’s not really necessary. I also love how easy the prep and cleanup is. I can’t wait to try more of the recipes on your site.

  25. Corey

    Came across this recipe looking for vegetarian one pot meals. Made it tonight, it was amazing! So light, and perfect for a hot summer night.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Corey, I’m so glad you loved it!

  26. Kelly

    I just got home from a long hike and wanted something with penne, tomatoes, and a quick recipe. I’ve been cooking entirely from your cookbook or blog during quarantine and I knew you’d have something delicious! This was perfect. I didn’t have bell peppers on hand, so I used deseeded jalapeños and it was the perfect amount of heat! Thank you!

    • Kelly

      Update: I finished the entire pot by myself. The flavors together were sooooo bright and yummy, I couldn’t help myself! I’m a small, petite person and I usually can’t finish my meals. Well done, Jeanine!

      • Jeanine Donofrio

        I’m so glad you loved it!

  27. Karen

    What a waste of food and time. Looked good but the whole thing was flavorless and mushy. I had to drain the pot which was still very watery and add store-bought pesto sauce to give it any flavor. The pasta was slightly overdone; the zucchini was total mush. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

  28. Jenny

    This meal was soooooo good! It took longer for the pasta to soften, so the next time I will cook the pasta for about 5-7 min before boiling the remaining ingredients with it.

  29. Cheryl Gapinski

    Very good. I didn’t have a leek so used a sweet onion instead. I will make this again.

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.