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Vegetarian 20 minute dinner that your kids will love. Use any of their favourite veggies.


This is my-go-to 20 minute dinner for kids when my fridge is empty and they won’t just eat my quinoa and chicken. It’s affordable, quick, healthy and is versatile – use any firm veggies you have on hand/your kids like. Frozen vegetables work too.

Oddly enough my kids love broccoli, not over cooked, just like mama. Cauliflower, carrots and snap peas are great options as well. You could also add grape tomatoes, peas and corn, why not?!


I try to have organic cheese on hand at all times. This time I used low fat mozzarella cheese and the other day I added Colby Jack. My preference: the last one, creamier due to higher fat content. But if you are looking to indulge a bit yourself, using part-skim cheese is the way to go.

I added only 3/4 cup cheese, just enough to make the dish creamy and cheesy. Dried and fresh herbs, tomato sauce and good quality pasta take care of the rest. This dish was creamy and delicious. My oldest one was breathing down my neck for seconds while I was shooting the dish.


Organic whole wheat penne becomes often a pasta of choice because it is widely available and affordable. I used small kamut penne I paid $2 for. It’s high in fiber and protein, and overall makes this dish less waistline unfriendly. I know for kids it doesn’t matter but for moms it’s a big deal.

Though, I love to feed kids whole wheat pasta instead of white one  that has been stripped of nutrients. My kids don’t know any other since they joined this world after we switched to whole wheat products.


The sauce consists of onion, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and tomato sauce. Pasta cooks right in the skillet. That’s right, just add water. If it gets too thick the next day, add more boiled water. I always have it in my kettle.

I discovered one pan pasta technique last year while making Skillet Spaghetti Bolognese for my 30 Clean Quick Dinner Recipes eBook and it totally worked. Saves a pot to wash. Pasta comes out al dente and chewy.


Isn’t it beautiful?! After pasta is cooked, add your vegetables of choice and cheese. We like cooked but still crunchy broccoli but you can increase cooking time for softer vegetables.

This dish makes plenty with leftovers to be taken for lunch the next day or frozen. Super simple, isn’t it?! Be healthy and happy! You can still enjoy majority of foods while eating clean. The key is to use whole foods and in moderation. Whole wheat pasta is one of them. For example, I had less than a cup of this pasta with grilled chicken breast. Kids ate just pasta, where as I had more protein.


Healthy One Pan Penne with Broccoli

Healthy One Pan Penne with Broccoli


  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups or more water
  • 1 + 1/2 tsp thyme, dried
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 2 cups whole wheat or gluten free penne pasta, uncooked (I used organic kamut penne)
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 3/4 cup (3 oz) Mozzarella or Tex Mex cheese, shredded (I used low fat Mozzarella)
  • 1/2 cup parsley/basil, finely chopped


  1. Preheat large deep skillet on medium heat and add olive oil, onion and garlic. Saute until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add tomato sauce, water, thyme, salt, pepper and stir. Add pasta and stir again. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Add broccoli and cheese, cover and cook for 3 minutes for crispy broccoli and 5 - 6 minutes for softer vegetables. Remove from heat and adjust thickness of the sauce with extra boiled water (I use water from a kettle). You can do this at any time since pasta tends to soak up the sauce, especially the next day. Garnish with parsley or basil and serve hot.
  3. Storage Instructions: Refrigerate covered for up to 3 days. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Nutritional Info

Servings Per Recipe: 6

Amount Per Serving = 1.5 cups:
Calories: 216.3
Total Fat: 4.2 g
Cholesterol: 10.0 mg
Sodium: 599.0 mg
Total Carbs: 30.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.5 g
Protein: 9.8 g
WW Points+: 5

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  1. Mira

    I love the simple sauce you created and thanks for another 20 minute recipe! Ever since I discovered whole wheat pasta, regular pasta tastes funny and always seems overcooked so I try not to buy it any more.

  2. Sofie

    I had to write you and thank you, Olena.
    I’ve been loosing wight for the last six month and your blog has been a huge inspiration and help along the way. I love your recipes and thank you so much for the Nutritional Info in every post so I know how much of this delicious food I’m allowed per meal and when to save the rest for a meal to look forward to. I hope you keep this great blog forever 🙂

    • Olena

      Hi Sofie. You are welcome and so rewarding to hear this. It’s important to know what is your food in terms of macros, that way you can control the portions. Learning this for me has been huge as well. Good luck on the rest of your journey.

  3. Deb

    Again, a fabulous recipe! So quick, easy, healthy and delicious!! This is my most favorite place for recipes – and my family loves them all! I’ve been sharing you with my friends and on Facebook – so many of them would like to eat better but don’t really know where to start. This is the place to go!



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