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Italian cuisine — and Italian-American cuisine in particular — is the height of comfort food. From baked lasagna oozing with cheese to hearty pasta dishes loaded with alfredo sauce to meatballs cooked to a delicate golden brown, Italians know what they’re doing when it comes to food. Beyond some of the dishes that are better known in the United States, there’s also risotto, polenta, tramezzini and more. Below, we’ve included some of our most beloved Italian dishes to help bring the comfort of nonna’s cooking straight to your dinner table.
Sausage, a protein staple in Italian cookery, makes appearances in sandwiches, pasta dishes and more. Here, the licorice-like tang of fresh fennel complements the fennel seed typically used in Italian sausage and ties the whole meal together.
Manicotti, the quintessential make-ahead meal, is perfect for holidays, potlucks and everything in between. Sort of like an Italian enchilada, manicotti shells are stuffed with a homemade cheese-and-spinach filling and topped with sauce. Toss it into the oven the day of your event and it’ll be fresh and piping hot when you need it.
Chicken piccata is the perfect dinner option for busy weeknights. In this version, mushrooms and chicken are cooked in a sauce made with lemon juice, chicken broth, capers and heavy cream. Enjoy the dish as is or serve it over a bed of rice like this recipe suggests.
If you have Italian relatives you want to impress, make them tramezzini. Despite being hard to find in the U.S., the little sandwiches are easy to make and oh-so-scrumptious. Here, they’re prepared with shrimp, thinly sliced carrots and zucchini delicately placed between two slices of bread slathered with Italian mayonnaise.
Meatballs are featured in different cuisines around the world, but the preparation technique and ingredients vary depending on where you look. In Italy, the iconic dish is typically made by mixing ground beef with breadcrumbs, minced onion, eggs and seasoning.
Some liberties have been taken with lasagna since its inception. You can make it taco-style with cheddar cheese and ground beef or Florentine-style with spinach and chicken. Sometimes, though, the classics are king. This no-frills recipe sticks to the tried-and-true ingredients like red sauce, ricotta and mozzarella.
Buca di Beppo
Although pizza didn’t originate in Italy, the dish is common across the country today. This recipe makes use of classic Italian ingredients, like pancetta, spicy sausage and a balsamic glaze. If you’re short on time, use store-bought crust. If you have the time, try making it from scratch.
Whether you know it as meat sauce or ragu, making traditional bolognese can be a challenge. According to L'Accademia Italiana della Cucina in Italy, this recipe for traditional bolognese ragu is the right way to make the sauce. Wondering what pasta shape you should add to your bolognese? Don’t stray far from tagliatelle or other wide, long noodles—the only shape allowed, according to some purists.
Seafood is an integral part of the cuisine of Italy, which is in the Mediterranean, so much so that entire Christmas Eve dinners are dedicated to serving fish in different ways. In this recipe, clams are the star. Pasta is served with the shellfish and tossed in a homemade, white-wine clam sauce.
Caprese-style denotes any dish made with mozzarella, basil and tomatoes. It can be served in a variety of ways: as a salad, sandwich, skewers or as an entire entree. This griddle-seared chicken is topped with marinated mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.
Of course, no list of Italian recipes would be complete without ravioli. This one serves the beloved cheese-filled pasta in a cream sauce with fresh sage. Serve it with a crack of pepper and fresh grated Parmesan cheese and you’ll feel like you’re at an authentic Italian restaurant.
Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of soup on a cold day and for Italians, that soup is pasta e fagioli. The dish, which translates to pasta and beans, is quite literal. It’s a blend of ditalini macaroni cooked in a pot of chicken broth, plum tomatoes, cannellini beans and seasonings.
Most pizza shops offer calzones, but if you want to make them at home, you can. Once you make the dough, fill your calzones with anything you want. Opt for the classic combo of mozzarella cheese with red sauce and pepperoni or follow along with this recipe, which includes ricotta cheese, a blend of dark greens and a whole lotta garlic.
In the U.S., Italian cuisine is most often associated with pasta dishes, pizza and meatballs. But in reality, it’s much more than that. Delicious salads are also a staple of the Mediterranean country. Panzanella, a chopped salad that originated in Italy, is made by tossing day-old bread with tomatoes, cucumber and oil and vinegar.
Revered by some as one of the most famous pasta dishes in Rome, Spaghetti all'Amatriciana is set apart from the rest by guanciale (cured pork jowl). If the ingredient isn’t available near you, thinly sliced bacon will do the trick.
As implied by the straightforward name, this pasta with tomatoes and basil is made with, well, tomatoes and fresh herbs. The sauce can be prepared with either fresh or canned tomatoes and the pasta choice is up to you.
Similar to manicotti, stuffed shells also fall under the umbrella of pastas stuffed with a ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese filling. This classic holiday fare can easily be made the night before and popped into the oven for convenient, same-day cooking.
Taralli is a popular snack food in the southern half of the Italian peninsula. Here, the Italian pretzels are made with fennel seed and garlic. Enjoy them as-is or serve them as a side with soup and stew.
Farfalle — commonly called butterfly or bowtie pasta by kids — is best served in a red sauce seasoned with garlic and oregano. Pump up the dish with some protein by serving it with marinated chicken or cooked shrimp.
Although jarred pesto is available on grocery store shelves nationwide, nothing beats the homemade stuff. The sauce has been around since Ancient Rome. In this rendition, a paste of garlic, salt, almonds, pecorino cheese and herbs is formed to make pesto alla Trapanese.
Looking for a way to use up leftover chicken? Add it to pasta. This recipe will show you the glory of garlic. Slide the top off the head to expose the cloves and rub them with a little olive oil. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil and bake for about an hour. When done, the cloves will squeeze right out and form a garlicky paste.
Risotto is one of the hardest Italian dishes to master. Get it wrong and it can have the consistency of grits; get it really wrong and it’ll come out like soup. This creamy mushroom risotto is simple enough for home cooks to master and comes together in less than one hour.
Once you get the technique down, it’s easy to customize Polenta. Amplify its creaminess by adding butter, stirring in freshly grated Parmesan, or adding sauteed garlic and mushrooms. Enjoy it as is or chill it and deep fry it once it hardens.
Air fryers are considered a modern marvel. The kitchen appliance can whip up everything from french fries to hot wings. But have we gone too far with chicken Parmesan? Not quite. Your air fryer will birth a perfectly crispy chicken that shines when served with red sauce and melted mozzarella.
With nothing more than the ingredients they could carry in their sacks (dry pasta, cheese and black pepper), shepherds brought cacio e pepe to the forefront 2,500 years ago. Today, it’s one of the most popular Italian dishes and continues to make appearances at the dinner table and in restaurants. It’s also one of many pasta dishes that are ready in about half an hour.
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