Our Best Classic Italian Recipes for Red-Sauced, Olive-Oiled Glory

Because pasta can do no wrong in our minds (and stomachs)

Stuck in your rut of sad desk lunches and uninspired weeknight dinners? You don't need to come up with something new—just look to the classics. There's a reason that classic recipes, from the time-honored staples of France to the fatty comforts of America, have kept their staying power throughout the years. They're just that good.

From Italy, such classics include a vast range of iconic plates that draw influences from the country's natural bounty, Europe-meets-Mediterranean culture, and a history of global exploration. Allora, sei pronto? From our favorite red-sauced pastas to hearty, vegetable-laden soups, here are SAVEUR's very best classic Italian recipes for kitchen inspiration whenever, wherever.

Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Parmesan
Chicken ParmesanFarideh Sadeghin

Simply bread your chicken (you could use veal or eggplant instead), fry it, layer with some easy homemade red sauce and mozzarella, and bake. Get the recipe for Chicken Parmesan »

Classic Lasagna

Lasagna
Classic LasagnaFarideh Sadeghin

Lasagna gets a bad rap for being a labor-intensive dish, but with a few shortcuts, like starting with store-bought lasagna sheets, you can make a great version any night of the week. Get the recipe for Classic Lasagna »

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad
Caprese SaladLandon Nordeman

A dish as simple as caprese salad demands the best ingredients: Use firm, in-season tomatoes, the freshest burrata, and dress with pristine olive oil and top-quality balsamic vinegar. Get the recipe for Caprese Salad »

Bread and Tomato Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro)

Bread and Tomato Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro)
Bread and Tomato Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro)Zoe Schaeffer

This thick, porridgelike soup is a hearty way to start a meal. Get the recipe for Bread and Tomato Soup (Pappa al Pomodoro) »

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara
Spaghetti CarbonaraMatt Taylor-Gross

Real Roman spaghetti carbonara is pasta, whole eggs, pancetta or guanciale (cured pork jowl), and pecorino romano cheese—never cream. The sauce should gild, not asphyxiate, the noodles. It can be enjoyed at any hour, but the ideal time is dawn, after a night of revelry. I've found that carbonara is also a foolproof way to a man's heart—unless he's watching his cholesterol. — Mei Chin, from "Roman Art" (March 2007) Get the recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara »

Chicken marsala is an easy weeknight recipe to prepare. Pounding the chicken cutlets before cooking renders them thin and terrifically tender. Deglazing the pan with Marsala and stock after cooking the chicken creates a quick, rich sauce. Get the recipe for Chicken Marsala »

Pasta Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)

Pasta Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)
Pasta Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)Helen Rosner

Less is more in an elemental Roman pasta dish which takes its spiciness from cracked black pepper toasted in oil. Get the recipe for Pasta Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta) »

Classic Meatballs

Classic Meatballs
Classic MeatballsTodd Coleman

The key to making these meatballs is to brown them first in a skillet and then braise them in a sauce of red wine and tomatoes. Serve them with crusty bread or spaghetti to sop up the sauce. Get the recipe for Classic Meatballs »

Veal and Spinach Lasagna

Veal and Spinach Lasagna
Veal and Spinach LasagnaRomulo Yanes

Unlike the heavy red-sauced lasagnas served in America, this Abruzzo-style version relies on an ethereal egg and tomato sauce that puffs when the lasagna is cooked, giving it a soufflé-like appearance. Get the recipe for Veal and Spinach Lasagna »

Sicilian Caponata

Caponata
CaponataWilliam Hereford

The sweet and sour flavors—or agrodolce—of this caponata come from sugar and vinegar, which have historically been used to preserve Sicilian relishes and are typically included in the island's traditional vegetable and seafood dishes. To ensure a well-caramelized eggplant that is still creamy inside, toss it with salt before frying it—this draws out the moisture and concentrates the flavor—then cook it until very soft. Serve it on bread, tossed with pasta, or slathered over roasted meats. Get the recipe for Sicilian Caponata »

Chicken Cacciatore

Chicken Cacciatore
Chicken CacciatoreJoseph De Leo

Chicken braised with wine and tomatoes is easy enough to put together on a weeknight (this recipe is ready in an hour), and you can adapt it for a whole chicken or your preferred mix of breasts, thighs, or drumsticks. Do go for bone-in meat for a richer and more flavorful sauce. Get the recipe for Chicken Cacciatore »

Sometimes called pizza rustica or Easter pie, this savory southern Italian pie—eaten around the holiday—incorporates chopped cured salamis and Italian cheeses into a dense, eggy filling surrounded by a pastry-like crust. It's most delicious eaten warm the same day it's baked, but leftovers (which you are almost certain to have) will keep for 4 to 5 days. Get the recipe for Italian Easter Pie (Pizza Gain) »

Parmesan Polenta with Sausage Ragù

Parmesan Polenta with Sausage Ragù
Parmesan Polenta with Sausage RagùSigne Birck

This simple, comforting dish is a great one to make for dinner parties; the ragù improves over time, so make it the day before, and reheat it just before serving. The polenta can also be made ahead, but you'll need to whisk in a bit of water to loosen it while you warm it on the stove. Get the recipe for Parmesan Polenta with Sausage Ragù »

Ragù alla Napoletana

Ragù alla Napoletana
Ragù alla NapoletanaHelen Rosner

This recipe is based on one that Sandro Manzo, an Italian art dealer who now lives in New York, learned from his mother during his youth in southern Italy. Manzo serves the ragu family style, spooned over ziti, but another tubular dried pasta, such as penne or rigatoni, would make a perfectly acceptable substitute. Get the recipe for Ragù alla Napoletana »

Bellini

Bellini
BelliniNicole Franzen

The traditional Bellini is made with white peach purée and sparkling wine, but the addition of peach brandy intensifies and sweetens the cocktail. Get the recipe for Bellini »

Cacciucco

Cacciucco
CacciuccoTodd Coleman

This Tuscan soup traditionally uses fish considered "bottom of the boat"—those left behind after more valuable fish have sold. The base is octopus, squid, tomatoes, wine, garlic, sage, and dried red chiles; other fish are added at the end of cooking, before the soup is served over garlic-rubbed bread. —Emily Wise Miller, from "Livorno's Pride" (April 2008) Get the recipe for Cacciucco »

Crisp, biscuit-like Italian crackers, taralli taste best baked until dry and golden-brown: the toastiness brings out and complements the flavors of the spices and fruity olive oil. Baking them atop a drying rack helps ensure an even browning all around, but if you don't have one, dry the taralli briefly on clean kitchen towel and bake them on a parchment-lined sheet. You can omit the fennel seed and replace with 1 ¼ tsp. coarsely ground black pepper if desired, or leave the dough plain. Get the recipe for Fennel Seed Taralli »

Ricotta and Egg Gnocchi with Olives, Capers, and Tomato Sauce

Ricotta and Egg Gnocchi with Olives, Capers, and Tomato Sauce
Ricotta and Egg Gnocchi with Olives, Capers, and Tomato SauceCon Poulos

These soft gnocchi from Tuscany are the ultimate version of the kind most commonly served at Italian-American restaurants. The dish is amped up with briny chopped capers and green olives. Get the recipe for Ricotta and Egg Gnocchi with Olives, Capers, and Tomato Sauce »

Pear and Cheese Ravioli (Cacio e Pere)

Pear and Cheese Ravioli (Cacio e Pere)
Pear and Cheese Ravioli (Cacio e Pere)Ingalls Photography

Nothing says love like homemade pasta. Lidia Bastianich's recipe mixes tender, sweet Bartlett pears with sharp pecorino and creamy mascarpone to make a rich filling for ravioli. Get the recipe for Pear and Cheese Ravioli (Cacio e Pere) »

Rigatoni with Pancetta Tomato Sauce (Rigatoni all'Amatriciana)

Rigatoni with Pancetta Tomato Sauce (Rigatoni all'Amatriciana)
Rigatoni with Pancetta Tomato Sauce (Rigatoni all'Amatriciana)David Hagerman

The recipe for this classic pork-enriched pasta dish comes from Salvatore Denaro, the chef at Montefalco's Arnaldo Caprai winery. Get the recipe for Rigatoni with Pancetta Tomato Sauce (Rigatoni all'Amatriciana) »

Fried Mozzarella Sandwiches

FRIED MOZZARELLA SANDWICHES
Fried Mozzarella SandwichesMatt Taylor-Gross

These crisp mini-sandwiches are deep-fried and filled with molten cheese. Get the recipe for Fried Mozzarella Sandwiches »

Scaccia

Scaccia
ScacciaMatt Taylor-Gross

A street food popular in its native Ragusa, scaccia is an exercise in rustic simplicity: A pizza-style dough is rolled super-thin, smeared with tomato sauce, showered with D.O.P. caciocavallo cheese (similar to a spicy provolone), and folded into a lasagna-like loaf. In some versions, yeast is left out of the dough, which results in a more pasta-like dough that gets layered into a thinner, free-form rectangular pie, served cut into squares. But whatever the shape, the pie is best served warm from the oven while the cheese is still gooey. Get the recipe for Scaccia »

Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)

Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)
Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli)Romulo Yanes

Garlic and aromatic vegetables are folded into this brothy beans-and-greens side dish to add body and an earthy depth. Get the recipe for Swiss Chard with Borlotti Beans (Verdure con Fagioli) »

Fried Anchovy-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms

Fried Anchovy-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms
Fried Anchovy-Stuffed Zucchini BlossomsLandon Nordeman

Light and airy, with a subtle squash flavor, zucchini blossoms are wonderful to cook; they make a flavorful, delicate appetizer when stuffed with salty anchovies and fried. Since the blossoms have a short shelf life, use them within a day of purchasing. Be sure to remove the stamens before working with them. This recipe first appeared in our June/July issue along with Sophie Brickman's story "Feast for Life." Get the recipe for Fried Anchovy-Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms »

In western Sicily, couscous is often served as an appetizer. Here, a bounty of local seafood—swordfish, shrimp, calamari, and mussels—is piled on top for a hearty main course. The cooking liquid, a fragrant tomato-seafood broth, is rich and flavorful, so be sure to serve the seafood and couscous doused with plenty of it—the couscous will soak much of it up. Get the recipe for Sicilian Seafood Stew with Almonds and Couscous »

Veal Piccata

Veal Piccata
Veal PiccataMaxime Iattoni

Tender veal scaloppine dredged in flour and sauteed in butter get a boost of brightness from a simple pan sauce made with white wine and a generous squeeze of lemon. Get the recipe for Veal Piccata »

This signature pizza of both Naples' Starita and New York City's Don Antonio pizzerias is at first fried, then slathered in a rich marinara sauce before it is quickly baked to melt the mozzarella. Get the recipe for Fried Pizza with Marinara Sauce (Pizza Montanara Starita) »

Roman Beef Croquettes (Polpette di Bollito)

Roman Beef Croquettes (Polpette di Bollito)
Roman Beef Croquettes (Polpette di Bollito)Matt Taylor-Gross

Crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, these fried croquettes made with braised beef make great party appetizers. This recipe is adapted from Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes From an Ancient City by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill. Get the recipe for Roman Beef Croquettes (Polpette di Bollito) »

Classic Manicotti

Classic Manicotti
Classic ManicottiLandon Nordeman

A little ham added to the ricotta filling for this classic baked pasta imparts an extra layer of richness. Get the recipe for Classic Manicotti »

Pizza Margherita (Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Pizza)

Pizza Margherita (Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Pizza)
Pizza Margherita (Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Pizza)Todd Coleman

This most iconic of pizzas is topped with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves, the colors of the Italian flag. Get the recipe for Pizza Margherita (Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Pizza) »

Penne Bolognese

Penne Bolognese
Penne BologneseTodd Coleman

A hearty take on the northern Italian classic from Bamonte's restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. This recipe first appeared in our Jan/Feb 2013 issue along with Greg Ferro's article Bamonte's. Get the recipe for Penne Bolognese »

Sicilian Vanilla Gelato

Sicilian Vanilla Gelato
Sicilian Vanilla GelatoSAVEUR

The use of cornstarch in this simple gelato base results in a silky-smooth texture. Get the recipe for Sicilian Vanilla Gelato »

Braised Artichokes

Braised Artichokes
Braised ArtichokesTodd Coleman

Earthy and tender, these artichokes are a favorite antipasto at Frankies Spuntino restaurants in New York City. Get the recipe for Braised Artichokes »

Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs
Spaghetti and MeatballsTodd Coleman

Lou Di Palo shared his grandmother's recipe for the meatballs that he sells at his family's store, Di Palo's Fine Foods, in New York City; they're composed of pork, beef, and veal and flavored with four kinds of cheese. Get the recipe for Spaghetti and Meatballs »

Gnocchi al Pesto

Gnocchi al Pesto
Gnocchi al PestoPenny De Los Santos

Tender gnocchi tossed with a classic pesto genovese is a popular first course in Liguria. Get the recipe for Gnocchi al Pesto »

Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto alla Milanese
Risotto alla MilaneseTodd Coleman

Saffron gives this risotto its vibrant color and flavor. Get the recipe for Risotto alla Milanese »

Roast Leg of Lamb with Potatoes

Roast Leg of Lamb with Potatoes
Roast Leg of Lamb with PotatoesTodd Coleman

For this simple Sicilian Easter dish, cosciotto di agnello con patate, a leg of lamb is roasted over a bed of potatoes. Get the recipe for Roast Leg of Lamb with Potatoes »

Braciola

Braciola
BraciolaTodd Coleman

This classic Italian-American dish is made from a lean cut of beef pounded thin, spread with a layer of grated cheese, fresh herbs, prosciutto, raisins, and pine nuts, then rolled, tied, seared, and simmered for hours in tomato sauce. Get the recipe for Braciola »