Canned Soups That Make The Best Pasta Sauces

When it comes to whipping up a quick meal, few things support innovative cooking hacks better than canned soup. Canned soup is a consistent tool that can breathe new life into a handful of ingredients — and transform a humdrum dinner into a memorable meal everyone will enjoy.

This versatility is especially apparent when it comes to pasta sauces. After all, canned soups often contain many of the same ingredients normally found in made-from-scratch sauces. The difference? You can skip any number of additional cooking steps by simply utilizing a can of soup. Plus, since canned soup brands are generally mass-produced, you can expect the same results time after time.

Now, you're welcome to open a can of soup, thin it slightly, then add it to pasta. But if you incorporate additional ingredients like meat, seafood, veggies, and spices, you can make a good thing even better. There are numerous available avenues to use canned soup to enhance a dish's flavor and elevate a pasta sauce with its addition. If you're ready to start experimenting with canned soup's abilities beyond, well, soup, here are 11 canned soups that make the best pasta sauce.

Tomato soup

When it comes to turning a simple can of soup into something delicious and special, tomato soup is the GOAT. Condensed tomato soup is bursting with both flavor and acid that's more than capable of taking on hearty pasta.

The simplest way to morph canned tomato soup into pasta sauce is with a basic meat sauce. After browning your meat with garlic and onion, add whatever spices you'd like, then pour the can of tomato soup over the meat. Allow the mixture to simmer briefly before serving it over your favorite pasta. Keep in mind the soup is already cooked, so you'll want to avoid using tougher cuts of meat that require a longer cooking time. Of course, that illustrates the beauty of using a can of soup to make pasta sauce: Your meal can be ready in minutes.

Another option for canned tomato soup is using a creamier version to whip up an easy penne a la vodka sauce. Creamy tomato soups often contain dairy, so you'll be able to skip several ingredients (other than a splash of vodka, that is). And since vegan-friendly versions of creamy tomato soup can be purchased, as well, everyone in your family can enjoy it — even one who's lactose intolerant.

Cream of mushroom soup

You don't need to spend hours foraging for wild mushrooms in the forest to enjoy a delicious, earthy mushroom pasta dish. After all, if you've got a can of cream of mushroom soup in your pantry, you're already able to create a delightful mushroom-centric meal. Cream of mushroom soup makes the perfect umami-packed addition to everything from egg noodles to bucatini (and, of course, green bean casserole).

Now, you can always go simply by thinning cream of mushroom soup with a little chicken stock to your desired consistency — but you can easily bump up the flavor. Try adding some vegetables (sautéed in garlic), as well as any fresh mushrooms you may have on hand. A few splashes of Worcestershire sauce make for another great addition, as do herbs like thyme, parsley, and tarragon. Add any dried spices or herbs while you simmer your sauce, then add any freshly chopped herbs on top before serving.

Be sure to save a bit of water when you drain the pasta, too. If your sauce starts to thicken too much, just add some of this reserved pasta water to return it to your preferred consistency.

Cream of chicken soup

Cream of chicken soup is a versatile pantry staple that lets you create elegant and hearty pasta dishes with less fuss. Of course, like other canned soups? Some may prefer to simply simmer cream of chicken soup with chicken stock, herbs, parmesan cheese, and cooked chicken — but there's so much more to this humble little can.

Canned cream of chicken soup can drastically simplify the immensely challenging process of creating spaghetti carbonara, for instance. Rather than risk disaster, you merely need to combine a can of cream of chicken soup with several cups of chicken stock or broth, then cook the pasta in the sauce mixture as it thickens. Once the pasta is al dente, add some crumbled bacon and peas — and serve with plenty of black pepper.

Another great application for cream of chicken soup is in a white-sauced lasagna. You'll want to thin the soup slightly before creating the lasagna layers, but once you do? It works just like a bechamel sauce. Layer noodles with sauce and vegetables (spinach and butternut squash are excellent here) then bake as usual.

Butternut squash soup

True: Many store-bought butternut squash soups are sold in a cardboard box rather than a can. But seeing how it functions in the same way a traditional can of soup would, we think it's the perfect base to create several balanced pasta sauces. Butternut squash soup often offers a creamy and silky texture sans any actual cream, making it ideal for those who want a luxurious sauce without the extra fat and calories.

There are various ways to use butternut squash soup to concoct a beautiful pasta dish bursting with fall-forward flavors. Try stirring a few spoonfuls into risotto instead of (or in addition to) butter, then top the dish with some air-fried sage leaves to kick up the autumn taste. You can create a simplified butternut cream sauce to ladle over ravioli or toss roasted veggies over spaghetti that's been finished in butternut squash soup (and add generous shavings of parmesan and freshly cracked black pepper as desired).

Cream of broccoli soup

Cream of broccoli soup may be comfort in a can. But that doesn't mean you can't transform this basic offering into an elegant pasta dish — and it's the perfect choice to concoct a greener and more nutritious alfredo sauce. Since a traditional Alfredo sauce isn't always the most nutritionally sound option, swapping in this cream-based soup can substantially change that equation.

A ½ cup of Prego classic Alfredo sauce contains 140 calories, 14 grams of fat, and no dietary fiber, for example, while the same-sized serving of Campbell's cream of broccoli soup has only 100 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 1 gram of dietary fiber to boot. In other words, it's a no-brainer why cream of broccoli soup makes for a less detrimental option that doesn't sacrifice creaminess.

Instead of adding heavy cream when an Alfredo recipe calls for it, add a can of cream of broccoli soup (though you may want to thin it slightly with a stock of some sort beforehand). Consider adding some fresh roasted broccoli when serving the final dish, as well, and don't forget to incorporate fresh chopped herbs like parsley for a burst of bright freshness.

Clam chowder

Clam chowder makes a great base for pasta dishes like shrimp linguine and seafood risotto. To make a seafood-elevated cream sauce for shrimp linguine, add some milk to a can of soup (along with parmesan and garlic) then stir it while simmering until smooth. You can make the sauce while the shellfish cooks — grilled shrimp is especially delicious here — and when it's nearly done, just add the shrimp to your sauce for the final few minutes.

Using a can of clam chowder as part of the cooking liquid for a basic risotto is another way to add delicious flavor and texture to a traditional preparation. After you toast your risotto (the first step, of course), sauté the pasta with butter and a splash of white wine while heating the clam chowder and stock in a separate pan. Once the alcohol from the wine evaporates, you can begin to add the clam chowder mixture to the risotto. Stir the rice continually while cooking (keeping an eye on the added liquid as it's absorbed) until the risotto is finished.

Remove the pan from heat and stir in a knob of butter. Add any additional fresh seafood on top (if you like), then garnish with fresh chopped parsley and cracked black pepper. And while cheese and seafood aren't often paired, we think some parmesan is good here, too.

Cream of celery soup

As a vegetable, celery adds a natural bit of crunch alongside a nicely subtle saltiness to every dish it touches. Cream of celery soup provides the same thing flavor-wise, offering a silken texture that seems lighter due to its celery base. It lacks the crunch of fresh celery, of course, but the vegetable's flavor is undeniably present.

If you're looking for a basic, light cream sauce that works with virtually any type of pasta, cream of celery soup is a great choice. It's a perfect blank canvas that's amenable to numerous additional flavors; cook it with some summer squash or zucchini from your abundant summer garden or pair it with roasted root vegetables for a wintertime treat.

Cream of celery soup also makes a great sauce for vegetable-based lasagnas, and you can substitute regular lasagna noodles with thin slices of eggplant to amplify the vegetable base. Regardless of how you tart it up, lemon zest and fresh herbs can keep any cream of celery soup-based pasta dish light and refreshing rather than clunky.

French onion soup

French onion soup is a heartwarming dish. Frankly, it's hard to imagine a world in which a can of French onion soup could compete with a homemade version topped with a thick slice of bread and bubbling cheese. However, when it comes to pasta, canned French onion soup brings all of its flavor and richness to a dish without the work. Adding extra beef broth and a splash of red wine can further deepen the flavor, too, and from there? The possibilities are (nearly) endless.

You can use canned French onion soup when making a rather luxurious version of mac and cheese, for example. Cook the macaroni in French onion soup (which has been combined with beef broth) while making a separate béchamel sauce — or use another can of creamed soup as a stand-in instead. Add several handfuls of cheese to the creamed soup-based cheese sauce and stir until the mixture is melted; combine the drained macaroni with your ad hoc cheese sauce in a prepared oven-safe pan, and bake with breadcrumbs on top.

You can also make a simple one-pot dish with French onion soup. Caramelize several large yellow onions in a pot, then deglaze with a pair of French onion soup cans and 2 cups of beef stock. After the liquid comes to a low boil, add a box of orecchiette. Cook until the pasta is done and the liquid is absorbed, then serve with freshly cracked black pepper and grated parmesan.

Cream of asparagus soup

When springtime rolls around with all of its delicious bitter greens and fresh produce, pasta primavera is on the menu. This bright, light dish is bursting with hopeful flavors after a winter menu filled with heavy root vegetables and dark sauces — and cream of asparagus soup is a tasty and welcome way to create a delectable pasta sauce.

Canned cream of asparagus soup is an excellent option for early spring meals when the nights remain cold ... but fresh asparagus is making its way into the sunshine. Plus, you can create a dish with this soup as you would any other cream-based soup. Cook your pasta until al dente, then add it into a wide, shallow pan with simmering (and thinned) cream of asparagus soup. Remember to reserve some water when draining pasta for your cream of asparagus sauce as needed, too.

Once you're ready to serve the sauce with pasta, a little freshly cracked black pepper makes a great addition, and a little lemon zest can brighten the dish.

Beef stew

Beef stew from a can is a complete meal on its own, so why try to gild the lily by adding pasta? The easiest answer is beef stew is great for experimenting with flavors and dishes that you might not normally try — like a classic Italian beef ragu. While this pasta dish usually takes hours to simmer into the complex sauce it's intended to be, beef stew can drastically shorten that cooking window.

By utilizing a can of beef stew, you can save yourself hours of cooking time and have a tasty dish on the table in less than 30 minutes. Start by cooking white onion, celery, and carrot in a pan until translucent, then add a large splash of red wine to deglaze the pan; add some cooked tomato sauce, too, for a more traditional flavor. Once the wine evaporates, pour in your can of beef stew until the entire mixture is heated thoroughly, and add to cooked pasta. It may not be precisely the same as a slow-cooked ragu, but it's a great approximation in much less time.

Cream of spinach soup

If we're being completely honest? Cream of spinach soup is hardly the most visually appealing soup — on this list or the market. But it packs a good punch flavor-wise and is perfect for several different vegetable-based pasta dishes.

Consider adding cream of spinach soup to a layered butternut squash lasagna or using it as the sauce for cheese tortellini. It can be used to finish up a vegetarian risotto and works well with any kind of pasta that's wide enough to carry a lot of cream-based sauce. You may want to consider heading towards steakhouse flavors, too. You can add a bit of sour cream and fresh spinach for a take on creamed spinach pasta, and top it with sliced flank steak grilled with plenty of pepper.

Cream of spinach soup also makes for an easy pasta bake. Combine cream of spinach soup with a little veggie stock and fully cooked fusilli pasta. Add fresh peas and any other vegetables you like, top it with cheese, and bake it in an oven-safe dish as you would macaroni and cheese. Some spices that finish this sauce beautifully include nutmeg and black pepper, and shaved parmesan adds a much-needed salty bite to this earthy soup, as well.