The perfect pasta night spread is within reach; below you will find recipes for the best pasta evening ever. Mix and match to your needs – you don’t have to make pasta from scratch, but you may want to. Maybe you’ll combine it with the sauce you have in the freezer, or maybe you’ll grab a fun new pasta shape from the market and match it with a sauce you’ve never tried before. You may want a tart, vinegary salad alongside the meal, or crusty, buttery garlic bread. Tell us your perfect pasta dinner menu in the comments!
Like I said, you don’t have to make your own pasta. But if you have the time and will, it can be a fun experiment! If you don’t feel like making your own pasta, you can skip this section and go straight to sauce ideas.
Fresh egg pasta for lasagna, shown. Yes, this is “for lasagna,” but you can use this recipe from cookbook author Domenica Marchetti to make all kinds of shapes, including ravioli.
Fresh Spinach Pasta For Lasagna† As above, but in a beautiful green color thanks to spinach.
Basic Buckwheat Pasta† Want to try something different? This dough uses buckwheat to impart a rustic, earthy flavor.
Cavatelli Pugliesic† This is one of the easier shapes to make by hand, with ribbing for sauces. Use a ridged gnocchi board, a sliced cavarola board, or a more common kitchen tool like the small hole side of a grater or even a Microplane.
Ligurian Corzetti† Consider these “paste coins” – after you’ve made and rolled out the dough, you can use a corzetti stamp or some other type of embossing tool to create a design, then use a cookie cutter to cut round shapes.
Ricotta Gnocchi With Leek And Peas† Potato gnocchi can be harder to get right, but ricotta gnocchi is a much simpler introduction to making these little pasta dumplings.
Gluten Free Pappardelle With Mushrooms† No gluten? No problem! Take the gluten-free pasta recipe nestled in this dish and use it for whatever you want.
A detour… for fillings!
Once you have a pasta dough, you may want to try making ravioli or other filled pastas. What can you enter there? So many things! Consider filling with Creamy Fresh Ricotta, or if dairy doesn’t work for you, make a vegan version like this Tofu Ricotta or flavorful Vegan Artichoke Tofu Ricotta. You might also consider roasting and mashing pumpkin for a filling, flavoring however you like. Pesto would work too! This is an opportunity to get creative – experiment with spices, zests and/or herbs to create a filling you’ll enjoy. Flatten a sheet of pasta, add a tablespoon of filling every few inches, place another sheet on top, press gently around the filling and cut out your ravioli shapes.
Tomato sauce III by Marcella Hazan, shown. Marcella Hazan is the go-to for classic Italian recipes for a reason. This sauce is arguably the platonic ideal for a tomato-based red pasta sauce.
Big-Batch Pantry-Friendly Tomato Sauce† Make an absolutely massive amount of pasta sauce that you can freeze for so many uses.
Classic Basil Pesto† We had to add pesto! This sauce has a genuine, devoted fandom. If you’re a basil pesto purist, this classic iteration sticks to tradition. And if you’re not? Try something different, like Dandelion Greens Pesto or Mustard Greens + Pecan Pesto. Or take the middle route and make summer tomato and basil pasta with pine nut sauce, which essentially uses a deconstructed pesto.
Pasta Romesco With Spinach† Romesco sauce in pasta? We say yes, because it is so delicious. Mix roasted red peppers with garlic, tomato paste, almonds and a few more ingredients for this delicious sauce.
Penne Alla Vodka With Chicken† Pasta alla vodka has been in and out of the trend cycle for a while now. A flash in the 90s made it a popular dish then Refinery29 published a piece in 2017 about how the pasta can lead to romantic activity. And then it made another comeback on social media when model Gigi Hadid posted an Instagram story last year showing people how she makes her spicy version of pasta alla vodka. We can’t get rid of this sauce, and frankly, it’s so good, we don’t want it. Feel free to omit the chicken if you don’t want it.
30 Minute Spaghetti and Meatballs, pictured above. We can’t leave out spaghetti and meatballs! How else do you experience your “Lady and the Tramp” moment?
Our best meatball recipes with beef, turkey, chicken, mushrooms and more
Shrimp and Linguine Fra Diavolo† Spicy, tomato-juicy shrimp atop linguine from none other than the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ina Garten? How could you resist, really?
Classic Ragu Bolognese† Writer Leslie Brenner was on the hunt for her perfect ragu Bolognese. This one is it. But if you want something different, try this delicious braised lamb ragu or this much more weeknight-friendly turkey and kale ragu.
Spaghetti Puttanesca With Cannellini Beans† Salted with anchovies, olives and capers, puttanesca is a versatile and delicious sauce to have in your arsenal. Add beans for extra protein, or skip them! That’s your choice.
Creamy Cannellini Bean Rigatoni† If you want a creamy sauce but don’t do dairy, creamy white cannellini beans are your answer!
A detour for… pan sauces!
Sometimes you don’t want a thick layer of sauce on everything – a quick sauté of vegetables, possibly with pulses, held together with a little emulsion of pasta water and the fat in the pan is what you want. In that case, consider following the instructions in these recipes for Pasta e Lenticchie (Pasta and Lentils), Cascatelli With Green Olives, Calabrian Chilies and Tuna Lemon, Pasta With Italian Sausage, Tomatoes and Eggplant or Pasta With Caramelized Pears and Gorgonzola. Or maybe you want something that feels a little more broth-like, but isn’t very hearty as a soup? Make Linguine alle Vongole (Linguine with Mussels).
we said a scatter and we meant it! This series of recipes includes salad recipes to add fresh crunch to the plate, as well as a few protein-packed side dishes to counter veggie-loaded pastas and, of course, garlic bread. We love garlic.
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Nancy’s Italian Chopped Salad, shown. This blend of bitter greens, umami-rich salami, chickpeas, red onion and more in a tangy red wine vinaigrette will leave you wanting more.
Retro Caesar Salad† It’s a classic salad for a reason! Have a simple Caesar at the table, a nod to red sauce joints.
6 Caesar salad recipes that range from the classic to the unexpected
Muffuletta salad† This briny, olive-laden salad will make a lovely addition to the table.
Herbs And Their Stems Salad† A light buildup of fresh herbs will be a delicious, bright counterpoint to a rich pasta.
roasted garlicsoup† Start your meal with a warm cup of garlic soup. Why not?
White Bean Soup With Calabrian Chili Oil† This creamy white bean soup has a spicy drizzle of chili oil on top.
Spring Vegetable Soup† A light celebration of the best of spring starts your meal off right.
Triple Garlic Bread† Not just garlic bread. We’re tripling the garlic here with fresh, roasted, and powdered garlic that packs a punch.
Garlic Broccoli And Beans With Pesto† This pesto-seasoned bean casserole is super quick thanks to a handy kettle blanching trick.
Mashed Broad Beans With Crostini† Fresh fava beans make this lovely light green spread for crostini. You can also top your toast with other creamy toppings; think of Whipped Ricotta Toasts With Green Garlic, Peas and Prosciutto or Sweet Pea Toasts With Feta. You could even make a flavorful Mushroom Pate!
Shrimp and White Bean Bruschetta† All you need for this recipe is a baking tray and mixing bowl! Toast your toast (up to two days in advance), then toast your shrimp, beans, and tomatoes together and top those toasts.
Go ahead and take a break before browsing your dessert menu. Sometimes, even after a rich, filling meal, you may still want to satisfy your sweet tooth, and who are we to stand in your way? We’ve provided options that range from bright and light to decadent.
Summer fruit Semifreddo, shown. If you want the vibe of ice cream without all the work, you can make semifreddo with some good quality fruit. This one relies on summer fruits, so bookmark it for the day when stone fruits and berries are ripe and ready.
Tiramisu† When tiramisu is good, it is sublime. If it’s bad… it’s really bad. Luckily, this fluffy, rich dessert is phenomenal.
Ricotta Cream† Listen. Don’t make cannoli from scratch. Leave that to the professionals. However, make the ricotta cream inside and use pizzelle cookies as a means of scooping it up.
Amaretti christened in Ruby Ganache† These cookies are simple and gorgeous — and an excellent option for dipping into an after-dinner cup of coffee. If you don’t feel like chasing ruby chocolate, go ahead and use whatever chocolate you like.
Bombolonia† These small, round little Italian donuts are the ideal end-of-meal sweetness.
Grilled Peaches With Basil Mascarpone† Light, aromatic and juicy, these gorgeous grilled peaches are a bright way to end your evening without sending you straight to bed.
Granita di Caffea† An iced coffee-based granita can be just what you need after a hot meal.