Learn how to make high calorie pasta! Get tips to make pasta for weight gain, including modifications for special diets (such as vegan). You’ll love this 1000 calorie pasta recipe that’s smothered in a cheesy Parmesan sauce with cracked black pepper. We'll also talk about making protein pasta for gaining weight, which pasta has the most calories, and much more!
Will pasta make me gain weight? Though pasta isn’t a uniquely fattening food, it’s pretty easy to make a 1000 calorie meal with pasta.
For the numbers people, here's why I think you should make pasta meals to increase calories. This list is about how many calories each of these foods provides in the entire recipe (NOT per serving):
- Heavy cream: 75 calories
- Olive oil: 120 calories
- Butter: 200 calories
- Mushrooms: Under 250 calories
- Chicken breast: Under 400 calories
- Parmesan cheese: Under 500 calories
- Pasta: Over 1300 calories
Some sources call grains "nutrient dense," but pasta is a high calorie food. Many of us have trouble stopping at the 2-ounce dry serving of pasta; this is why pasta portion tools exist. Refined grain and healthy whole grain pastas have about the same number of calories by weight.
When you pair high calorie pasta noodles with some high cal creamy Parmigiano Reggiano sauce, you get a high cal dinner. If you consistently maintain a calorie excess, you will gain weight over time. It’s the consistency of your lifestyle that matters, not a single meal.
All of that said, this pasta may not be the best choice for everyone. Diabetics using low carb or keto diets to successfully control blood sugar may want to skip the pasta. Though pasta has a low glycemic index, “eat a huge plate of it and your blood sugar will head into the stratosphere.”
- 📋 How many calories in pasta?
- ⭐ High Calorie Pasta Benefits
- 🥘 High Calorie Pasta Ingredients
- 🍽 Equipment
- 🔪 How to Make High Calorie Pasta
- 🌡️ Reheating Pasta
- ❓ Other Ways to Make High Calorie Pasta
- 🍝 What goes with pasta?
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 👩🍳 Other Easy High Calorie Meals
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
📋 How many calories in pasta?
How many calories in a bowl of plain pasta? A 2-ounce serving of dry pasta (cooked) provides about 210 calories (per USDA). Different pasta shapes (penne, rotini, etc.) of the same type of pasta tend to have about the same number of calories by dry weight.
Please keep in mind that this is a very small serving of pasta. A 2-ounce serving would mean your 1-lb box of pasta will feed 8 people. It’s very common for Americans to eat twice this amount of pasta or more with meals.
One serving of this high calorie pasta meal has 968 calories, 95.7 grams net carbs, and 62.4 grams protein. You can bump up the calories even more by using chicken thighs or sausage in place of chicken breast, and adding more butter, cream, or cheese.
⭐ High Calorie Pasta Benefits
Our food choices are a factor that can have a major impact on what we weigh. Though “junk foods” (soda, candy, etc.) can help with weight gain, the quality of the foods we eat matters as well. Here are a few benefits of this high calorie pasta:
- Nutritious whole foods: Unlike cups of instant noodles and packets of ramen, you’re getting nutritious whole foods in this recipe. Cutting back on ultra-processed food gives us more essential vitamins and minerals within their natural food matrices. Foods closer to their natural state often have phytochemicals, fiber, etc. that are lacking in their highly processed counterparts.
- High protein creamy pasta: Protein may be the most filling macronutrient, but that doesn’t mean you should skip it if you want to gain weight! The chicken, eggs, and cheese here provide plenty of high-quality protein. (Psst... I have tips on making vegan high calorie pasta in the FAQs!)
- Comfort food: Pasta is pretty much the quintessential comfort food, so it gets bonus points for that IMVHO. You can use this dish as a main course or have a smaller portion as a starter or side dish.
- Vegetables: Did you know that mushrooms count towards the vegetable group on the MyPlate? Thus, this tagliatelle ai funghi pasta can be considered a veggie-filled dish. The rich umami flavor provided by the mushrooms also makes it easier to enjoy a big, generous serving.
- Gluten free high calorie pasta: You’re also welcome to use a wheat noodle here, but there are some really good GF pastas that work as well. If you have celiac disease, wheat allergy, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), you can enjoy this high cal pasta.
- Delicious: This indulgent dish of high-calorie pasta is a crowd pleaser. Everyone from kids to grandparents loves it!
🥘 High Calorie Pasta Ingredients
What do you need to make pasta for weight gain? Here's your simple shopping list:
- Mushrooms (dried and fresh)
- Grated Parmesan (go for the good stuff here, Parmigiano Reggiano)
- Olive oil
- Chicken (chicken thighs or chicken breast)
- Heavy cream
- Salt and black pepper
As always, specific quantities of ingredients are located in the recipe card at the bottom of the article!
You are welcome to use your favorite pasta in this recipe. I used Jovial gluten free pasta, an Italian egg pasta that tastes very similar to white flour pasta. It is 220 calories per 2 ounces (dry), a little more than some brands that run 180-200 calories per 2 ounces.
Make sure to follow the cooking directions on the pasta package to cook the pasta to a perfect al dente. Mushy pasta tends not to be well-loved.
For the mushrooms, I used dried porcini mushrooms plus a few packs of fresh assorted gourmet mix mushrooms. If you are on a tight budget, use more portobellos and shiitakes and fewer gourmet mushrooms to save money. The dried mushrooms add a lot of flavor, so don’t skip those.
Don't use a low fat butter or cream substitute for a high calorie recipe. You need high calorie foods to make a high calorie creamy pasta dish!
Here’s the kitchen equipment you need to make high cal pasta:
- A good knife
- Large pot
I also used a stovetop grill pan to cook the chicken. If you’re using leftover cooked chicken, you can skip this. I really prefer tongs for coating the pasta.
🔪 How to Make High Calorie Pasta
Set a pot of water to boil. We’ll come back to this in a bit when it’s time to cook the pasta.
Now prepare the mushrooms. Soak the dried porcini mushrooms by covering them in boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain them (but save that rich mushroom broth to use in other recipes).
While the dried mushrooms soak, chop the fresh mushrooms into ½-inch dice (1.27 cm) and chop the shallot. Put the shallots and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are softened and fragrant (not browned).
Add the fresh and rehydrated mushrooms to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, allowing the liquid to evaporate from the mushrooms. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
While they cook, you can grill the chicken (if it wasn’t previously cooked). My chicken took 7-10 minutes per side to reach the minimum safe temp of 165F (74C). Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Set both the mushrooms and chicken aside while you work on the pasta and Parmesan sauce.
Cook the pasta to be al dente according to the directions on the pasta package. While it cooks, make the cheese sauce by whisking the eggs, cream, and Parmesan together. After the pasta has cooked, drain it quickly and stir in the butter so that the noodles don't stick together.
Working quickly, toss the cheese sauce together with the pasta while the pasta is still hot. The cheese should completely melt from the heat of the pasta so that there is no graininess. Don't forget to add some salt and lots of black pepper (if you want).
Next, stir the mushrooms and chicken into the pasta and serve. That's all there is to it!
🌡️ Reheating Pasta
You can keep leftover high calorie pasta in a covered container in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Reheat leftovers in a microwave on high for 3-5 minutes. (Make sure to use a microwave safe container.)
I don’t recommend freezing this recipe because the noodles will get mushy. If you want to freeze pasta for meal prep, a high protein pasta bake might be a better choice. Pasta bakes generally freeze better than loose pasta dishes.
❓ Other Ways to Make High Calorie Pasta
If you don’t like the high calorie pasta sauce I used here, you have a ton of other options! Here are more ideas for what to put on high calorie pasta:
- Garlic butter
- Make spaghetti carbonara
- Try pasta with peanut sauce
- Curry pasta made with full-fat coconut milk
- High calorie pesto pasta
🍝 What goes with pasta?
Wondering what to eat with pasta? I consider this dish a one-pot meal (well... one pot and one skillet). If you’re really hungry, here are some delicious side dishes for pasta:
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). If you are having trouble gaining weight, you should visit your doctor to rule out any potential underlying health issues. Sometimes something as simple as a medication change may help increase your appetite and make it easier to gain weight.
This recipe, as written, contains over 1,300 calories worth of pasta. If you feel like the amount of food per serving is too much, cut back on the mushrooms. This will decrease the volume of the meal while keeping the calories high.
Protein is the most filling macronutrient and veggies tend to be very low in calories. However, you should still fit these things in your diet for weight gain. While I’d consider pasta good for weight gain, it can’t be the only food in your diet.
There isn’t really a best time to eat pasta for weight gain. You won’t put on a significant amount of body fat overnight from eating pasta. Lasting body composition change (not just weight from undigested food or water retention) takes time.
Does pasta make you gain belly fat? You might get a little bloating after a pasta meal or other big meal, but this isn’t belly fat. You can’t target weight gain to certain body parts by eating pasta.
If you don’t like the chicken in this meal, you can try substituting with sausage, shrimp, or tuna. Of these options, the sausage is highest in calories.
Another common question...
Which is healthier, potatoes or pasta? Plain baked potatoes are considered one of the most satiating foods and provide more vitamin C and fiber than white pasta. That said, which is “healthier” really depends on what your needs are. For those on low carb and keto diets, neither is a great choice.
It’s pretty easy to make high calorie plant based meals based around pasta. For example, you could make a high calorie peanut sauce or a curry sauce made with coconut milk. Use legumes such as chickpeas or tofu for protein.
Pasta is typically only 180-220 calories per serving, but many don’t find this amount filling and eat much more. IMVHO, a double serving is a more realistic and “normal” portion for many people. This provides around 400 calories before we’ve added anything else to the meal.
I have a feeling our Italian friends would be offended by this question! Whole grain pastas (such as whole wheat pasta) are considered a “good” carbohydrate. Refined grain pastas are lower in fiber, but can be included in an overall healthy diet.
Regular grain pastas (including wheat pasta) are the pastas highest in calories. Though awesome for making protein pasta recipes, sometimes protein pasta is a little lower in calories than traditional pastas. The protein pastas made with legumes (such as chickpeas) are also higher in fiber.
Pasta servings listed on packaging are typically in uncooked portions. It’s easier to measure the pasta portion when dry. The weight and volume of cooked pasta can vary depending on how much water is absorbed (how long it’s cooked).
If I wanted a low calorie pasta meal, I would use spiralized veggies or perhaps shirataki for the “pasta.” Though not technically pastas, these pasta substitutes are often only 5-20 calories per serving.
👩🍳 Other Easy High Calorie Meals
Want more high calorie dinner meals? Try these:
You might also want to check out our entire collection of High Calorie Recipes.
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
High Calorie Pasta for Weight Gain (1000 Calorie Pasta Recipe!)
- 12 ounces pasta, dry (340 grams; I used this gluten-free pasta)
- ¾ ounce dried porcini mushrooms (21 grams)
- 1½ lbs. fresh mushrooms (680 grams; I used a mix of portobello, shiitake, and gourmet mushroom blends)
- 2 shallots
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 ounces chicken (340 grams; I used skinless chicken breasts)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cups grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano, if possible)
- 1½ tablespoons heavy cream
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Set a pot of water to boil. We’ll come back to this in a bit when it’s time to cook the pasta.
- Prepare the mushrooms. Soak the dried porcini mushrooms by covering them in boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain them (but save that rich mushroom broth to use in other recipes).
- While the dried mushrooms soak, chop the fresh mushrooms into ½-inch dice (1.27 cm) and chop the shallot. Put the shallots and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shallots are softened and fragrant (not browned).
- Add the fresh and rehydrated mushrooms to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, allowing the liquid to evaporate from the mushrooms. This will take about 10-15 minutes.
- While they cook, you can grill the chicken (if it wasn’t previously cooked). My chicken took 7-10 minutes per side in a stovetop grill pan to reach the minimum safe temp of 165°F (74°C). Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Set both the mushrooms and chicken aside while you work on the pasta and Parmesan sauce.
- Cook the pasta to be al dente according to the directions on the pasta package. While it cooks, make the cheese sauce by whisking the eggs, cream, and Parmesan together. After the pasta has cooked, drain it quickly and stir in the butter so that the noodles don't stick together.
- Working quickly, toss the cheese sauce together with the pasta while the pasta is still hot. The cheese should completely melt from the heat of the pasta so that there is no graininess. Don't forget to add some salt and lots of black pepper (if you want).
- Next, stir the mushrooms and chicken into the pasta and serve. That's all there is to it!