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!

4.8 from 24 reviews

One Pot Vegetable Penne Pasta

Prep time
Cook time
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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. 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 🙂

  2. Liese

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

  3. Candy

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

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      yes, shelled 🙂

  4. 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.

  5. Wendy Gerster

    Hi, did you use shelled hempseeds?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      yes, shelled

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

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

  10. 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.

  11. Tom

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

    What am I doing wrong?

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

  13. 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

  14. 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”)

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. Pilar

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

  18. JCB from Wordpress

    Is the olive oil essential?

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.