Make a Gluten-free Whole30 (or vegan) Dinner in Under 30 minutes
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How to Make a Gluten-free, Whole30 (or Vegan) Dinner in Under 30 Minutes

Want dinner on the table in 30 minutes – a main dish that takes one pan, has no gluten, and can be either Whole30 or vegan? Oh, and one that your kids and husband will eat too?

I know how insanely challenging it can be to accommodate multiple dietary preferences (For example, Is your husband is not eating grains? Asking for a friend … 😉 ) in one household. It feels almost impossible to make a single meal that everyone will eat and no one will complain about!

That’s why, when I find a recipe that fits all these criteria – tasty, healthy enough for adults, modifiable for special diets, kid-friendly, quick and easy – I must share it! One-Pan Italian Skillet (OPIS) to the rescue!

One-Pan Italian Skillet

Here are the implied criteria for dinner most nights at my house (along with the person requesting it):

  1. Little/no added sugar (me, DH)
  2. No Grains (DH)
  3. Lots of Carbs! (kids)
  4. Meat (DH)
  5. Ready in under 45 minutes, using as few dishes as possible (me)
  6. Volume – as in, a big pile of food. (me, DH)

Oh, and it has to taste great. So, we’ve got a complex problem to solve here. To be honest, I don’t try to accommodate all of these, every time we have dinner – I do value my sanity.

Here are the steps and strategies to making a meal that can be low on added sugar, low carb, grain free, ready in 30 minutes, with a carb/grain and vegan option – whew!

One: Little to No Added Sugar

Solution: Basic Ingredients, Especially No-Sugar-Added Marinara

No added sugar means that we are using mostly whole foods – think less-processed sausage (or beans if you’re going vegan), fresh veggies, and no-added-sugar marinara sauce.

Marinara Sauce: A few of my favorite no-added sugar marinaras are: Kirkland Signature Marinara Sauce Organic and Safeway Select Garlic Basil Pasta Sauce.

A lot of flavor in one marinara jar

Note: I’m not here to demonize sugar or advocate that you eliminate all sugar from your diet. The point is, I like to get most of my carbs from vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains. Complex carb foods – like veggies, fruits, legumes, whole grains – don’t just contain carbs. They also have essential protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

Two: No Grains

Solution: Substitute Vegetables for Grains

Most of us here “Marinara” and immediately think “pasta”. For the One-Pan Italian Skillet, we are going to skip the pasta and fill in the void with onions, bell pepper (optional), and a lot of broccoli. Broccoli florets have a variety of textures, and they soak up all that marinara sauce – just like pasta would!

Veggies are an antioxidant-rich stand-in for pasta. The bell pepper is optional!

Fresh, frozen, or even canned(!) broccoli all work well for this recipe.

You’ll want to microwave fresh or frozen broccoli before adding it to the skillet. This does two things: 1) it saves time because the broccoli doesn’t have to cook once it’s in the skillet, and 2) for frozen broccoli, microwaving it will release all of the stored water in the vegetable, so it doesn’t water down your main dish.

If you use fresh broccoli, chop it into florets (post on choppin’ broccoli here) and microwave for 2 – 3 minutes before adding to the dish.

If you’re using frozen broccoli, make sure to buy florets and not “chopped broccoli” (or, as I like to call it, “broccoli dust”). Just like the fresh broccoli, you’ll want to microwave frozen broccoli for 3 – 5 minutes or until it’s warm.

Three: Carbs!

Solution: Pasta or Bread on the side

Say you’ve got kids or teenagers and keeping them fed is a challenge. These kids are growing like weeds and running themselves around all day long – they need some carbohydrates!

Quick fixes are to:

  1. Boil some pasta and serve OPIS over it. Even quicker but more expensive: buy pre-cooked pasta and just heat it up.
  2. Serve bread and maybe some butter, too. Rolls, French bread, even sandwich bread will work. Kids don’t care – they need calories.

Four: Meat (or Vegan)

Solution: Italian Sausage (or Beans for Vegans)

Mild (or Hot) Italian Sausage. I usually use bulk sausage, so I don’t have to slice it. Plus, crumbled sausage bits get more evenly distributed in the dish. You can also use sausage links, which you’ll have to slice (or de-case – messy). One time-saving advantage of some linked sausage (Aidell’s for example) is that it’s already cooked.

I like bulk sausage, like this. Pre-cooked links work great if your short on time.
  • Little/No-Added Sugar Sausage: It’s difficult to find sausages with ZERO added sugar. Since none of us are allergic to sugar, if a sausage has 1 gram or less of sugar per serving, I call it “good enough”. My favorite varieties are Hill’s, Hempler’s, Aidell’s.

If you’re going vegan, grab two cans of your favorite beans or whatever you have in the pantry. My favorites for this dish are cannelloni (white beans) or garbanzo/chickpeas. I like using two cans, but you can use just one – just know that the final dish will be thinner and less hearty. Bean tip: For a thicker sauce with more texture, quickly mash 1/3 to 1/2 of your beans with a fork before adding them to the skillet. Breaking up some of the beans in this way will release some of the starch inside the beans and thicken your sauce.

Five: Quick to Make, Easy to Clean Up

Solution: Prep time of 30 minutes (or less); one-pan meal

Quick breakdown of how long this will take, if you do the most labor-intensive version:

  • 5 Minutes: Grab a 12-inch skillet and brown sausage while chopping onion and bell pepper
  • 5 Minutes: Add chopped onion and bell pepper to sausage and continue to cook while microwaving broccoli florets.
  • 3 Minutes: Add fresh garlic to the skillet and stir. Then, add the broccoli and 24 oz of marinara sauce. Stir everything until combined and bring to a simmer.
  • 10 Minutes (up to 30 if you like): Simmer, uncovered, stirring every few minutes. (Make pasta, salad, grab your bread, cheese, etc. while the dish is simmering.)
  • 2 Minutes: Taste and add seasonings, vinegar, more salt and pepper as needed.

Total: 25 minutes

Six: Makes a Lot and Is Filling

Solution: Generous amount of vegetables and protein

With a pound of sausage (or beans), a whole onion, bell pepper, pound of broccoli, and 3 cups of marinara sauce, this is a large quantity of food! I have four big eaters, and we always have leftovers for multiple lunches.

Thanks to the bulky veggies and protein in the sausage or beans, the One-Pan Italian Skillet is super satisfying.

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Italian skillet

One-Pan Italian Skillet

  • Author: Brook Hagen
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: 6 main dish servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


A delicious, comforting Italian-inspired meal that is gluten-free, dairy-free, and on the table in less than 30 minutes.

I like to serve this dish as a standalone entree alongside a salad. My kids like it over pasta and with grated cheese on top. 

Dairy-free and Whole 30-compliant as-is; vegan option listed below.


  1. 1 lb bulk Italian sausage (or links, sliced into 1/4 – 1/2-inch rounds). 
    • Vegan option: sub 2 cans of cannellini (white beans), drained 
  2. 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  3. 1 red bell pepper, chopped (optional – I don’t always have these)
  4. 3 cloves of minced garlic (or a heaping spoonful of the minced jarred kind)
  5. 1 lb or about 4 cups broccoli (florets or chopped, frozen or fresh)
  6. 1 24-oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  7. Optional seasonings and mix-ins:
    • Balsamic vinegar
    • Dried caraway or fennel seeds
    • Garlic powder
    • Fresh or dried rosemary, thyme, basil, and/or oregano


  1. On the stovetop over medium heat, brown the sausage in a 12-inch skillet or large 4-quart saucepan. Immediately after starting the sausage, chop the onion and bell pepper. Add the chopped onion and bell pepper to the skillet and continue to cook the sausage with the chopped vegetables.
    • Note: Don’t try using a smaller skillet or pan – it will probably overflow when you add the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Meanwhile, arrange the broccoli in a microwave-safe plate or dish and microwave it for 2 – 4 minutes, or until it is just tender (for fresh broccoli) or warm (for frozen broccoli).
  3. After the sausage is cooked through (no pink) and the chopped onion and pepper have softened, add the minced garlic to the pan, stir, and let it cook for about a minute.
  4. Then, add broccoli and the entire 24-oz jar of spaghetti sauce to the pan and stir. Turn the heat down and simmer uncovered for a minimum of 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  5. After simmering, taste the dish and add salt, pepper, garlic powder, or any of the mix-ins that you think you might like.


Vegan Option:

  1. Saute the onion and bell pepper in 1 tablespoon of oil or fat for 5 minutes, or until the onions are soft and translucent.
  2. Meanwhile:
    • Arrange the broccoli in a microwave-safe plate or dish and microwave it for 2 – 4 minutes, or until it is just tender (for fresh broccoli) or warm (for frozen broccoli).
    • Drain and rinse the canned beans. If desired, roughly mash the beans with a fork, so that 1/3 or so of them are crushed. 
  3. Proceed to step 3 above, adding the garlic, etc. Follow the rest of the steps above. 


Favorite Mix-ins and Add-ons:

  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, mixed in just before serving, adds depth of flavor and a touch of sweetness.
  • A teaspoon or so of garlic powder. Yes, it already has a lot of garlic, but we really like garlic.
  • Ricotta cheese – my husband loves stirring in a heaping spoonful of this into his serving. No Ricotta? Try sour cream or Greek yogurt.
  • The kids love any kind of shredded cheese on top of their OPIS. 
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Category: Main
  • Method: Skillet


  • Serving Size: 1.5 cups
  • Calories: 340
  • Sugar: 13 g
  • Sodium: 984 mg
  • Fat: 17 g
  • Saturated Fat: 5 g
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Carbohydrates: 22 g
  • Fiber: 6 g
  • Protein: 16 g
  • Cholesterol: 42 mg

Keywords: Gluten-free, dairy-free, Whole30, vegan option, no sugar added, 30-minute meal, one-dish meal, family-friendly


In this post, we’ve learned how to create a delicious, family-friendly meal in about a half hour that can suit an array of dietary preferences. Oh, and you only need one pan!

To recap, here are the key selling points of the One-Pan Italian Skillet: 

  1. Little or no added sugar
  2. No Grains
  3. Lots of carbs with easy add-ons
  4. Meat (or Vegan option)
  5. Ready in 30 minutes, using only one pan
  6. Generous servings

Whether you’re vegan or meat-eater, carb lover or avoider, the One-Pan Italian Skillet has a modification or add-on for you and your family. What’s more, you only need one big skillet (or saucepan) from start to finish.

I hope you try this recipe and one or more of its variations and let me know what you think! Please comment, share photos here or on social media. 🙂 

Related Recipes and Resources: 

How To Get Anyone To Eat Broccoli (Roasted Broccoli Recipe)

One Pan, Double Duty! Pan-Asian Chicken Thighs

Spicy Peanut Stew (Vegan)

Make Your Own Italian Sausage From Ground Pork

Pederson’s Farms – No Sugar Added Meat Products


Make a Gluten-Free Whole30 or Vegan Dinner in Under 30 Minutes