In Rome’s beloved version of pasta all’amatriciana, the crushed tomatoes and their juices are simmered in lard or the rendered fat of guanciale, a cured pork jowl that also garnishes the dish Beth Galton
Fast and easy dinners are always welcome in our home (we need something to balance all the fun
project cooking after all). But if we can avoid sacrificing flavor or quality of ingredients along the way, that’s all the better.
It’s nothing new that pasta is a classic and respectable go-to when you’re in a time crunch or you (or your kids) just have a hankering for comfort food. It’s affordable, feeds a crowd, and can get a gourmet meal (hear us out) on the table in an instant. But strategic Italian-inspired choices like buying the
best-quality dried pasta (or, if you have time, making your own), garnishing with fresh herbs or premium cheese, and starting with top-notch extra-virgin olive oil can go a long way in delivering a superlative dish.
Whether hearty and cheesy baked macaronis, vegetable-driven noodles, or simply sauced stuffed pastas, these family-friendly pasta recipes are perfect for weeknight cooking yet creative enough to save you from a dinner rut. Best of all, they’ll be ready before you can even say “pesto.”
Noodles with Peas (Pasta e Piselli)
Mac and Cheese with Sausage and Apple Casserole
Whether or not this dish of tube-shaped penne pasta lavished with a peppery, vodka-laced cream and tomato sauce was created in Italy is a matter of heated debate in some quarters; some say it was the result of aggressive marketing on the part of vodka importers. Whatever the case, it has become firmly entrenched as an Italian American classic.
Get the recipe for Penne alla Vodka »
Along with spaghetti and bucatini, mezze maniche rigate, a ridged tube akin to a half rigatoni, is traditional with amatriciana in Rome, but fusilli, which Bottura uses as an alternative, is great for lapping up the sauce.
Get the recipe for Mezze Maniche All’Amatriciana a Modena »
Cook your pasta in fragrant lemon water.
Get the recipe for Lemon-Infused Spaghetti with Oil and Provolone »
Pappardelle with Cauliflower and Mustard Brown Butter
Chef Sara Jenkins of New York City’s Porchetta gave us the recipe for this spicy, comforting pasta dish, inspired by one made by Italian chef Salvatore Denaro.
Get the recipe for Pasta Alla Norma (Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Eggplant) »
I believe it started in 1975, when I visited Prince Edward Island with a number of colleagues, including Craig Claiborne of the New York Times. To eat we had only lobster and wild boar. After a week of this, everyone said, “Can we have some pasta?” I set out to make two dishes, one with vegetables, one Alfredo style. But in the end I mixed it all together, vegetables with spaghetti and cream.
Get the recipe for Spaghetti Primavera »
No one will miss the meat in this creamy, vegetable-laden lasagne with perfectly al dente noodles.
Get the recipe for Vegetarian Lasagne »
The childhood classic gets a makeover with ring-shaped
anelletti pasta and a simple sweet sauce made rich by a dollop of tomato paste and onions cooked down in butter. Get the recipe for Homemade Spaghettio’s »
We adapted this recipe from The Minimalist Cooks Dinner by Mark Bittman (Broadway Books, 2001). If you can’t find the short, twisted “twin” pasta called gemelli, use penne instead.
Get the recipe for Pasta with Carrots, Risotto-Style »
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) »
Farfalle with Cavolo Nero Pesto
Chef Terrance Brennan of the Manhattan restaurant
Artisanal uses penne instead of the standard elbow macaroni for his take on the dish, which is topped with a crisp panko-Parmesan crust. Get the recipe for Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese »
An Italian-American classic, shrimp scampi is a simple dish of sauteed shrimp tossed with a sauce of white wine, garlic, lemon juice, and butter, then served with pasta.
Get the recipe for Shrimp Scampi »
This hearty lasagne from Rubirosa in New York City is made with sweet fennel sausage and tiny meatballs.
Get the recipe for Lasagne »
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 cheesy version any night of the week.
Get the recipe Classic Easy Lasagna »
This soup is a meal in and of itself, full of lots of vegetables, chickpeas, and pasta.
Classically Roman, this garlicky pasta dish—as interpreted by Nick Anderer of Maialino and Marta in New York City—is brightened with pepperoncino and a handful of vibrant parsley. It gets a hit of salt from grated Grana Padano and roundness from extra-virgin olive oil.
Get the recipe for Nick Anderer’s Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil »
Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lamb and Sweet Pepper Ragù
This extra-rich version of fettuccine Alfredo is impossible to resist. Boiling the pasta until it’s just al dente allows it to soak up plenty of the creamy sauce.
Get the recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo »
Pasta salad is a Virginia country-store staple, to which Mason Hereford applies his signature culinary move: elevating humble dishes without sacrificing their essence. Al dente penne gets decked out with lemony buttermilk dressing, sweet peppers, and crunchy seeds.
Get the recipe for Pasta Salad with Buttermilk Dressing »
We whipped up this tasty dish during a trip to Venice, using fresh ingredients we found at the local markets. You won’t find Venetian scampi in this country; substitute good-quality baby shrimp.
Get the recipe for Fusilli With Scampi, Cranberry, and Peas »
A mix of sautéed mushrooms, toasted walnuts, ricotta, thyme, honey, and pappardelle, this pasta dish needs only a green salad on the side.
Get the recipe for Pappardelle with Mixed Mushrooms, Ricotta, and Walnuts »
Spring Pea Ravioli with Prosciutto & Pea Shoots
Pasta salads are essential summer food: they travel well; they’re easy to adapt to whatever produce you have on-hand; and they’re simple to make in large portions, making them perfect dishes to carry to parties, picnics, and barbecues.
Get the recipe for Sausage and Arugula Pasta Salad »
We like to serve this pasta topped with a little shaved bottarga, the dried salted roe of tuna or gray mullet; a sprinkle adds a briny, salty note that beautifully offsets sweet, oven roasted plum tomatoes.
Get the recipe for Spaghetti with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Caramelized Fennel »
Pesto and Trofie Pasta
In Genoa, pesto is most commonly tossed with trofie, a short, twisted pasta, or trennete, a thin, flat noodle. Never heat pesto on its own—the pasta will warm it—and add it sparingly (around ½ cup pesto per pound of pasta).
Get the recipe for Pesto and Trofie Pasta »
For a riff on classic
pasta alla norma, try adding spicy Italian sausage to pasta laden with eggplant and sweet tomatoes. Get the recipe for Rigatoni with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Spicy Sausage »
This recipe for summer bolognese has the classic comfort of bolognese, but without the heaviness of a red sauce, instead embracing the summer’s bounty of gorgeous tomatoes and fresh basil.
Slightly bitter rapini (also known as broccoli rabe) marries well with tangy goat cheese in a pasta recipe that’s ideal for summer picnics and potlucks.
Get the recipe for Orecchiette with Rapini and Goat Cheese »
This ultra-creamy, decadent mac and cheese—with sharp white cheddar, Gruyère, blue cheese, and, yes, a touch of Velveeta—is one of the best we’ve ever tried.
Get the recipe for Four Cheese Mac and Cheese »
Hearty, satisfying rigatoni is tossed in a simple tomato-herb sauce at the cart
Artigiano. Get the recipe Rigatoni in Tomato Sauce »
Cauliflower roasted until sweet with garlic and cumin gets tossed with toothsome gemelli pasta, golden raisins, and slivered almonds for crunch.
Get the recipe for Gemelli with Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower »