33 Simple Yet Stunning Pasta Recipes Perfect for Family Dinners

You can't go wrong with these crowd-pleasers, whether traditional Italian or classic all-American.

Mezzamaniche
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 dishBeth 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)

Noodles with Peas (Pasta e Piselli)
The always-comforting combination of peas, bacon, and cheese, which comes from Romeo Salta's The Pleasures of Italian Cooking, comes together in less than half an hour. Get the recipe for Noodles with Peas (Pasta e Piselli) »Matt Taylor-Gross

Apple & Sausage Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and Cheese with Sausage and Apple Casserole
Fresh apples plus hard cider give this easy mac and cheese a double dose of fall flavor. Get the recipe for Apple & Sausage Macaroni and Cheese »Farideh Sadeghin

Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla Vodka
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 »Landon Nordeman

Mezze Maniche All’Amatriciana a Modena

Mezze Maniche All’Amatriciana a Modena
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 »Beth Galton

Lemon-Infused Spaghetti with Oil and Provolone

Lemon-Infused Spaghetti with Oil and Provolone
Cook your pasta in fragrant lemon water. Get the recipe for Lemon-Infused Spaghetti with Oil and Provolone »Matt Taylor-Gross

Pappardelle with Cauliflower and Mustard Brown Butter

Pappardelle with Cauliflower and Mustard Brown Butter
Simple ingredients—chewy, charred cauliflower, fried capers and bread crumbs, and browned butter, bolstered by whole grain mustard—combine for the ultimate late-winter pasta. Get the recipe for Pappardelle with Cauliflower and Mustard Brown Butter »Joseph De Leo

Pasta Alla Norma (Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Eggplant)

Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Eggplant
This simple pasta dish is made with tomatoes and eggplant. Get the recipe for Pasta Alla Norma (Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Eggplant) »Matt Taylor-Gross

Spaghetti alla Primavera

Spaghetti alla Primavera
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 alla Primavera »Todd Coleman

Vegetarian Lasagne

VEGETARIAN LASAGNE
No one will miss the meat in this creamy, vegetable-laden lasagne with perfectly al dente noodles. Get the recipe for Vegetarian Lasagne »Matt Taylor-Gross

Homemade Spaghettio's

Simple Weeknight Meal Spaghettios
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 »Farideh Sadeghin

Pasta with Carrots, Risotto-Style

Pasta with Carrots, Risotto-Style
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 »Farideh Sadeghin

Rigatoni with Pancetta Tomato Sauce (Rigatoni all'Amatriciana)

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

Farfalle with Cavolo Nero Pesto

Farfalle with Cavolo Nero Pesto
In this rendition of traditional Genoese pesto, sweet and nutty cavolo nero (also known as Tuscan kale or Lacinato kale) is used in place of basil and pine nuts. Get the recipe for Farfalle with Cavolo Nero Pesto »Laura Sant

Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese

Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese
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 »Todd Coleman

Shrimp Scampi

Shrimp Scampi
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 »Farideh Sadeghin

Lasagne

lasagne
This hearty lasagne from Rubirosa in New York City is made with sweet fennel sausage and tiny meatballs. Get the recipe for Lasagne »Matt Taylor-Gross

Classic Easy Lasagna

Lasagna
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 Easy Lasagna »Farideh Sadeghin

Chickpea and Pasta Soup

Chickpea and Pasta Soup
This soup is a meal in and of itself, full of lots of vegetables, chickpeas, and pasta. Get the recipe for Chickpea and Pasta Soup »Farideh Sadeghin

Nick Anderer's Spaghetti with Garlic and Olive Oil

bowl of garlicky pasta with cheese and olive oil
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 »Michelle Heimerman

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lamb and Sweet Pepper Ragù

Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lamb and Sweet Pepper Ragù
Lighter than the rich beef and pork ragùs of other Italian regions, this Abruzzo specialty features bell peppers mixed into the sauce and cooked briefly so they retain their shape and lend a pop of sweetness. Get the recipe for Spaghetti alla Chitarra with Lamb and Sweet Pepper Ragù »Marcus Nilsson

Fettuccine Alfredo

bowl of creamy Fettuccine Alfredo
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 »Matt Taylor-Gross

Pasta Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Pasta Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
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 »William Hereford

Turkey Tetrazzini

Simple Week Night Meal Tetrazzini
This version of the American classic has a smattering of colorful vegetables and a sauce enriched by sherry and parmesan. Get the recipe for Turkey Tetrazzini »Matt Taylor-Gross

Fusilli with Scampi, Cranberry Beans, and Peas

Fusilli with scampi, cranberry, beans and peas, Maine picnic
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 Beans, and Peas »Farideh Sadeghin

Pappardelle with Mixed Mushrooms, Ricotta, and Walnuts

Pappardelle with Mixed Mushrooms, Ricotta, and Walnuts
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 »Farideh Sadeghin

Spring Pea Ravioli with Prosciutto & Pea Shoots

Dinner Party, Spring Pea Ravioli
Homemade ravioli is a great weekend project recipe. Make them on a Sunday and freeze them for the week ahead; you can pop them directly in the boiling water from the freezer—they'll just need an extra minute or so to cook. Get the recipe for Spring Pea Ravioli with Prosciutto & Pea Shoots »Farideh Sadeghin

Sausage and Arugula Pasta Salad

Sausage and Arugula Pasta Salad
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 »Farideh Sadeghin

Spaghetti with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Caramelized Fennel

Spaghetti with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Caramelized Fennel
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 »Laura Sant

Trofie Pasta with Pesto

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 Trofie Pasta with Pesto »Michelle Heimerman

Rigatoni with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Spicy Sausage

Rigatoni with Eggplant, Tomatoes, and Spicy Sausage
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 »Helen Rosner

Summer Bolognese

Simple Weeknight Meal, Summer bolognese
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. Get the recipe for Summer Bolognese »Farideh Sadeghin

Orecchiette with Rapini and Goat Cheese

Orecchiette with Rapini and Goat Cheese
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 »André Baranowski

Four-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese

Four Cheese Mac and 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 Four-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese »Michael Kraus

Rigatoni in Tomato Sauce

Rigatoni in Tomato Sauce
Hearty, satisfying rigatoni is tossed in a simple tomato-herb sauce at the cart Artigiano. Get the recipe Rigatoni in Tomato Sauce »Todd Coleman

Gemelli with Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower

Gemelli with Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower
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 »Helen Rosner