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Lemon + Ricotta = A Light and Zippy Dinner
Works best with: Medium-size cuts such as gemelli, shells or mezze rigatoni

While the pasta boils: Combine 2 cups of ricotta, a half-cup of grated Parmesan, the zest of a lemon and juice from half of the lemon. Drain noodles, toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil and add the lemon-cheese mixture, which should soften and melt quickly. Stir in as much of the starchy cooking water as you need to keep the sauce from becoming too thick.
Roasted vegetables

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Goat Cheese + Roasted Vegetables = A Filling and Healthy Meal
Works best with: Tube shapes like penne (ribbed varieties will hold onto the cheese better)

While the pasta boils: Warm 3 cups of cubed, roasted vegetables (which you can make up to 2 days in advance) in a sauté pan sprayed with olive oil. Sweet potatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and onions all work well. Drain pasta, toss with an 8-ounce log of goat cheese that you've broken into pieces and about a cup of cooking water. When the cheese is completely incorporated, stir in the warmed vegetables and top with chopped, fresh herbs, such as parsley or basil.

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Butter + Sage = A Rich and Warming Sunday Supper
Works best with: Orecchiette, gnocchi or ravioli

While the pasta boils: Place a stick of butter in a large sauté pan with 20 or so fresh sage leaves; cook until the butter just starts to brown. Add cooked pasta, enough of the starchy water to ensure the noodles don't stick, 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

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Tomatoes + Heavy Cream = A Familiar Yet Special Dish
Works best with: Spaghetti or angel hair

While the pasta boils: Sauté a diced onion and a chopped clove of garlic in olive oil over medium heat. When it's golden, stir in a 28-ounce can of chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Swirl in a cup of heavy cream and continue to simmer. Drain pasta and add to sauce.
Bread crumbs

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Bread Crumbs + Olive Oil = A Crunchy and Carby Comfort Food
Works best with: Spaghetti

While the pasta boils: Pulse about 3 slices of country-style bread (crusts removed) in a food processor until they are coarse crumbs. Warm a few teaspoons of olive oil in a sauté pan and add bread crumbs. Cook, stirring until crumbs are lightly golden; add 5 chopped garlic cloves and continue cooking another minute or 2. Season with salt and pepper. Drain pasta, toss lightly with olive oil, stir in bread-crumb mixture and finish with minced, fresh parsley.

Next: 6 more sauces that cook while the pasta does