We’ve all been there — you’re tired, hungry, and lacking inspiration in the kitchen. Pasta Roni to the rescue! While convenient, the flavor can be lacking. As someone who enjoys cooking and values efficiency, I’ve discovered a few simple ways to boost this dorm room staple’s taste without much effort. This is how I know you don’t need much to make Pasta Roni better!
You can simply add more cheese to Pasta Roni, but you can also explore other options like veggies, sun-dried tomatoes, or herbs and spices, or you can try to make it creamy with milk, broth, or sauce.
If you’re craving comfort food but want more oompf, read on for my tried-and-true hacks to transform your standard box of Pasta Roni into a crave-worthy meal. With a few extra ingredients and a few minutes of your time, you’ll enjoy a bowl of pasta that tastes like it came from your favorite Italian trattoria. So, let’s start cooking!
How to Improve Pasta Roni’s Taste?
These are the five best and simplest ways to transform your basic Pasta Roni into something flavorful. A little goes a long way, so you really don’t have to do much work.
Next time you make a box, give one of these hacks a try. I promise your taste buds will thank you!
Add Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Chopped sun-dried tomatoes add a punch of savory umami flavor to the pasta. Just toss a few tablespoons of the soft, chewy bits in with the cooked pasta, butter, and Parmesan. Their intense tomatoey taste packs a lot of flavor for a few calories.
To make it even more interesting, you can also try adding a few handfuls of fresh spinach as an easy way to boost nutrition. The heat of the just-cooked pasta will wilt the spinach perfectly. Spinach has a mild flavor that pairs great with pasta and absorbs other flavors well.
For extra decadence, stir in a little cream or half and half in addition to the butter.
Amp Up the Flavor with Herbs and Spices
I like adding fresh or dried herbs and spices to make basic Pasta Roni taste like an authentic Italian dish.
- Throw in some basil, oregano, rosemary, or thyme. Just 1/2 teaspoon of any of these herbs adds a ton of flavor to a single box of Pasta Roni. Mix and match your favorites for variety.
- Crushed red pepper flakes give Pasta Roni a kick of heat. Start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more depending on how spicy you want it.
- Garlic powder enhances the savory flavor. 1/2 to 1 teaspoon is all you need for a single box.
- Dried parsley adds an earthy, fresh flavor. 1-2 teaspoons is perfect.
To finish it off, top your Pasta Roni with parmesan cheese, red pepper, basil, or pine nuts. A drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice adds brightness.
Mix in Fresh Vegetables
Frozen spinach and shredded carrots are easy additions that provide nutrition without overpowering the dish. Simply stir in 1-2 cups of chopped spinach and 1/2 cup shredded carrots when the pasta and sauce are done cooking. The spinach will wilt in the heat, and the carrots add texture. Both will make the dish more nutritious.
You can also add broccoli florets, sliced bell peppers, diced zucchini, or butternut squash for extra nutrition and flavor. Sauteing the veggies first in a bit of olive oil or garlic will bring out their flavor before mixing them into the pasta.
Lastly, meaty mushrooms, like cremini or shiitake, are a great way to make a more hearty and satisfying pasta dish. Saute 1/2 to 1 cup of sliced mushrooms in butter or olive oil until tender. Season with salt, pepper, and fresh or dried herbs like rosemary.
Add the mushrooms to the pasta along with their flavorful cooking liquid. The earthy, umami flavor of the mushrooms enhances the dish’s overall taste.
Upgrade the Cheese
To seriously upgrade your Pasta Roni, start with the cheese. The little packet of powdered cheese in the box works in a pinch, but reach for the real thing for maximum flavor.
I like to blend cheeses for extra richness and depth of flavor. Some of my favorites include:
- Grated mozzarella: Melty, gooey mozzarella is a classic pasta cheese. Mix in a few handfuls for some serious ooey-gooey cheese appeal.
- Shredded cheddar: Sharp cheddar adds a punch of flavor. Use mild or extra sharp, depending on how much kick you want.
- Crumbled feta or goat cheese: For a tangy twist, crumble in feta, goat cheese, or chevre. Their creamy and intense flavors pair great with zesty tomato sauces.
- Grated Parmesan: Finely grated parmesan cheese adds a savory, salty finish. Just a tablespoon or two is all you need.
- Ricotta: For extra creaminess, stir in a few spoonfuls of ricotta cheese. Whole milk ricotta works best.
I also like to add the cheese at two stages — stir half the cheese during the last few minutes of cooking so it melts into the pasta. Then remove from heat and stir in the remaining cheese so some stay chunky. The combination of melted and chunky cheese in each bite is simply the best.
Make It Creamy with Milk, Broth, or Sauce
When I make Pasta Roni, I like to jazz it up and boost the flavor.
For extra creaminess, I stir in about 1/2 cup of milk or broth and simmer until the pasta has absorbed most of the liquid. Milk adds richness, while broth provides savory flavor.
Cream cheese melts into the pasta, creating a creamy cheese sauce. Just add a few tablespoons at a time, stirring frequently, until the pasta reaches your desired consistency. Start with 2-3 ounces of cream cheese, and you can always add more.
You can also add butter and Parmesan. I stir in a few tablespoons of butter and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese for a simple creamy pasta. The butter and cheese melt into a rich, decadent sauce. Add the butter a little at a time, stirring frequently, until the pasta reaches your desired consistency.
Which one of these will you be trying out with your Pasta Roni? I would love to see how creative you are in the comments below!