Easy Pantry Pasta with Evaporated Milk

This Pantry Pasta is an easy creamy pasta you can throw together in under 30 minutes! Grab a can of evaporated milk, Italian seasoning, a block of Parmesan and whatever bits and bobs you can find to make this weeknight staple. This endlessly versatile dish is a life saver!

Skillet of Italian Seasoning Pasta with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese on top.

Magical Pantry Pasta

Friends, meet Pantry Pasta, the recipe you didn’t know you needed. It’s creamy, it’s simple, it’s flavorful, and it only needs four core ingredients to come together.

My sister-in-law introduced us to this recipe, and it’s always been a favorite at family gatherings, but I didn’t truly appreciate it until I became a parent.

Do you know what a GIFT it is to have a recipe that I can make quickly and know my kids will actually eat? A recipe where I know I’m pretty much certain I’ll have the ingredients on hand?

This recipe feels a lot like making something out of nothing, and you need it in your life!

Creamy bowtie pasta with zucchini, crab, and cherry tomatoes.

All the Reasons You Might Need a Pantry Pasta Recipe

  • You have a half a box of pasta left in the pantry (annoying).
  • You have produce that’s looking a little suspect in the crisper drawer (urgent).
  • You found a crumpled packet of Italian seasoning shoved in the back of your spice drawer (oops).
  • You haven’t gotten groceries in a bit and didn’t start thinking about dinner until 5 PM (oops, again).
  • You have leftover rotisserie chicken, Italian dressing chicken, garlic green beans, skirt steak, __fill in the blank here__ that needs to be used up. (I’ve got you).

These are just a few of the reasons you’re going to want to keep this Pantry Pasta in your back pocket. Think of this post as less of a recipe and more of a guide for creating your own perfect creamy pasta based on your tastes and whatever ingredients you have on hand!

Key Ingredients:

Parmesan cheese, Italian seasoning packet, evaporated milk, bowtie pasta, zucchini, shallots, and cherry tomatoes on a wood board.
  • Pasta– You can use whatever pasta you want in this recipe! Short, long, twirly, tubular. They’ll all work just fine! We most often use penne, bowties, or rotini, but whatever happens to be in your pantry will work just fine.
  • Evaporated milk– You’ll need 1 cup or 8 ounces of evaporated milk, which is not quite a full can.
    • Pro tip: Save the remaining evaporated milk to revive the leftovers when reheating, or use it in your morning coffee!
  • Italian Seasoning Packet– This is not the Italian herb spice, but the Italian Seasoning blend used to make dressing. Want to get fancy? Make your own Italian Seasoning blend.
  • Parmesan Cheese– Look for the stamped Parmigiano Reggiano on the rind of the cheese to make sure you’re getting the real stuff!
  • Veggies, Proteins, Etc.- Here’s where you can get creative! I like to call this garbage pasta, because you can throw almost anything in here. Give your pantry, fridge, and freezer a look and see what jumps out at you!

How to Make Pantry Pasta with Evaporated Milk

  1. Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to al dente package directions, drain, and return to the pot.
  2. Make the sauce. Add the evaporated milk, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning packet to the pasta, stirring until the cheese is melted.
  3. Meanwhile, saute any veggies you’re using. Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a pan set over medium heat. Add the zucchini and fry, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, then flip and brown the other side. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then remove to a plate (or add to the finished pasta if it’s done).
  4. Add the shallots, tomatoes, and crab to the skillet and saute until shallots are softened and tomatoes are bursting open and releasing their juices. This adds to the lovely sauce! Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir together. Stir all of the vegetables into the prepared pasta, making sure they’re well coated in the sauce. Add fresh herbs, if desired, and serve.

What can I add to my plain pasta? Tips + Ideas

There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating pantry pasta plain, but usually we like to add some kind of vegetable and protein to make it a full meal.

Just remember, veggies cook at different times, so you may need to saute some longer than others.

Frozen veggies can be thrown into the boiling pasta water for the last few minutes, which makes life REALLY simple. Just follow the instructions for boiling time on the veggie’s packaging.

This is also a fantastic receptacle for any leftover roasted or  grilled vegetables you might have in your fridge.

Don’t forget to look in your pantry for things like olives, roasted red peppers, and sundried tomatoes!

Proteins could include chicken, ground beef, chicken sausage, bacon, pancetta, Italian sausage, shrimp, beans, or tofu.

Wooden spoon dipping into a skillet full of pantry pasta with evaporated milk.

Favorite Pantry Pasta combinations:

  • Shallots + Cherry Tomatoes + Zucchini + Imitation Crab– Sauteed cherry tomatoes are one of my all-time favorite pasta toppings. They add sweetness, and the juice helps make the sauce even creamier. And yes, we love imitation crab because we are extremely classy people. This is our go-to combo in the summer, and what you see pictured in this post.
  • Chicken Sausage + Green Beans– Saute fresh beans with the chicken sausage, or toss frozen or canned green beans in with the boiling pasta water, similar to this Parmesan Pasta with Chicken Sausage.
  • Chickpeas or Cannelini beans + Sundried Tomatoes– These just need a quick saute.
  • Broccoli + Italian Sausage– Add frozen broccoli to the pasta water or steam or roast it separately.
  • Pesto– Yeah, just stir some pesto in. It’ll be great!
  • Peas + Bacon (We love a Pasta and Peas combo around here!)- Saute or oven bake bacon, but add the peas to the boiling pasta water.
  • Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach or Other Greens + Garlic- Add the spinach and garlic after the mushrooms are mostly browned and saute until wilted.
  • Shrimp + Corn + Cherry Tomatoes– Another great summer option!

Storage and Reheating Instructions

This pasta keeps well in the fridge in an airtight container for 4-5 days.

Leftover pasta is usually drier, as it’s soaked up the sauce. To reheat, place it back on the stove or in the microwave with some extra evaporated milk to bring back the creaminess.

Bowtie pasta with cherry tomatoes and imitation crab in a skillet.

FAQS

Can I make this vegetarian?

Absolutely! This pantry pasta is vegetarian–just be sure to only add veggies and other vegetarian ingredients to the mix.

Can I make pantry pasta gluten free?

Yes! Substitute the pasta for your favorite brand of gluten free pasta.

Can I double this recipe?

Yes, in fact I recommend it if you want to serve more than 4 people. This feeds our family of two adults + 2 not very big eaters with one serving leftover. If you have a bigger family or want lots of leftovers, double it!

Spoonful of pantry pasta with creamy parmesan sauce.

More Easy Pasta Dinners

Skillet of Italian Seasoning Pasta with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese on top.

Easy Pantry Pasta

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

When you need dinner in a flash, this Easy Pantry Pasta comes through. Made with four staple ingredients, you can mix and match the veggies to create your own perfect creamy pantry pasta!

Ingredients

Basic pasta recipe:

  • 8 ounces pasta, bowties, penne, rotini, etc.
  • 8 ounces evaporated milk
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  • 1 Italian seasoning packet

For the veggies:

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta. Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water according to al dente package directions, drain, and return to the pot.
  2. Make the sauce. Add the evaporated milk, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning packet to the pasta, stirring until the cheese is melted.
  3. Meanwhile, saute veggies and protein. Heat the olive oil in a pan set over medium heat. Add the zucchini and fry, undisturbed, until browned on the bottom, then flip and brown the other side. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then remove to a plate (or add to the finished pasta if it’s already done).
  4. Add the shallots, tomatoes, and crab to the skillet and saute until shallots are softened and tomatoes are bursting open and releasing their juices, about 6-8 minutes. This adds to the lovely sauce! Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir together. Stir all of the vegetables into the prepared pasta, making sure they’re well coated in the sauce. Serve pasta with additional Parmesan cheese, to your preference.

Notes

Here are some other possible combinations and additions for pantry pasta. See the post above for more cooking tips!

  • Chicken Sausage + Green Beans- Saute fresh beans with the chicken sausage, or toss frozen or canned green beans in with the boiling pasta water, similar to this Parmesan Pasta with Chicken Sausage.
  • Chickpeas or Cannelini beans + Sundried Tomatoes- These just need a quick saute.
  • Broccoli + Italian Sausage- Add frozen broccoli to the pasta water or steam or roast it separately.
  • Pesto- Yeah, just stir some pesto in. It’ll be great!
  • Peas + Bacon (We love a Pasta and Peas combo around here!)- Saute or oven bake bacon, but add the peas to the boiling pasta water.
  • Mushrooms + Sauteed Spinach or Other Greens + Garlic- Add the spinach and garlic after the mushrooms are mostly browned and saute until wilted.
  • Shrimp + Corn + Cherry Tomatoes- Shrimp only needs a few minutes to saute. I like to brown it first, then remove it to a plate while I cook the cherry tomatoes.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 409Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 33mgSodium: 488mgCarbohydrates: 49gFiber: 4gSugar: 11gProtein: 20g

Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.

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4 Comments

  1. Great, fast and easy dinner. I added more veggies and served garkic bread and grilled chilcken on the side so that both vegetarians and non-vegetariands could eaat it. Next time, i may add some lemon zest and juice and some chopped sundried tomatoes. Thanks for the great recipe!

    1. So glad you enjoyed the pantry pasta! Thanks so much for coming back to let me know. I think it would be fantastic with sundried tomatoes and lemon.

  2. I want this again for dinner, please! (+ Krab meat, or baby shrimps, or grilled artichokes.) Piada needs to get on this recipe…

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