Our 20 Best-Ever Pasta Recipes

Our 20 Best-Ever Pasta Recipes

Pasta ranks high on the list of universal favorite foods, right up there with pizza, fried chicken, ice cream, and sushi. However, it wasn't always such a common food in the United States. Thomas Jefferson first introduced macaroni to the states in 1789. Jefferson had a penchant for mac and cheese and imported both macaroni and Parmesan for his use at his estate in Virginia. In 1802, Jefferson even served "a pie called macaroni" at a state dinner.

American's love for macaroni and cheese runs deep, but did you know that there are more than 600 different pasta shapes vying for our attention.

The reason there are so many pasta forms is that the weight, texture, size, and shape all contribute to the way in which the build holds onto sauce. For instance, light and creamy sauces cling best to long and skinny pasta strands like spaghetti and linguine, and tubular shapes like rigatoni and penne are better suited for thick, chunky sauces that trap the goodness within their voids.

Whichever shape you prefer, revel in this gift from Italian culture by digging into a bowl of your favorite pasta. Here are 20 of our favorites.

Aglio e Olio With Linguine

In this simple pasta recipe, thinly sliced garlic and red pepper flakes infuse a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil. The flavored oil is then tossed with the al dente pasta and the pasta is sprinkled with breadcrumbs and parsley for garnish. For this recipe, click here.

Beet and Ricotta Gnocchi

These beautiful gnocchi show off the rich red color of the beets, but while the flavor of the gnocchi is earthy, it's not overly beet-flavored. Best of all, the texture is soft, light, and delicate. For this Beet and Ricotta Gnocchi recipe, click here.

Casarecce With Swordfish and Eggplant

Fried eggplant is stirred into a light tomato-based sauce that features sautéed swordfish and grape tomatoes; the pasta is then garnished with red pepper flakes and mint. Click here for the recipe.

Garganelli con Crema di Parmigiano, Prosciutto di Parma, e Radicchio

The Italian town of Parma is known for two very special ingredients: prosciutto and Parmigiano-Reggiano. This dish pays tribute to both and is accented with white truffle oil and sage. Click here for the recipe.

Lemon Ricotta Ravioli

The filling for these ravioli couldn't be simpler: Fresh ricotta, lemon zest, salt, and olive oil are stirred together, spooned into place, and then folded to make bright, creamy, and utterly irresistible ravioli. Click here for the recipe.

Linguine Puttanesca

It's an oft-told story that puttanesca is named for the "working girls" of Naples who had to throw together a meal quickly between customers. But the sauce studded with capers, olives, and tomatoes was so popular that it started to draw in the clientele. Click here for the recipe.

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe

Orecchiette, which means "little ears" (a reference to the pasta's round, concave shape), is a regional symbol of Puglia. These orecchiette are sauced with broccoli rabe that is cooked in olive oil and seasoned with garlic, red pepper flakes, and chopped anchovy, then finished with grated pecorino and fried breadcrumbs. Crumbled sausage may also be added to balance the bitterness of the broccoli. For this recipe, click here.

Paccheri With Pesto Trapanese

This dish is made with ripe cherry tomatoes, plump garlic, and small shrimp. Some people say seafood and cheese don't mix in Italian dishes, but  this recipe is finished with a generous amount of freshly grated grana padano. For the recipe, click here.

Pappardelle alla Boscaiola Recipe

The phrase alla boscaiola translates as "in the style of the woodsman," and here, broad ribbons of pappardelle are tossed with meaty rosemary-scented mushrooms and finished with a snowy shower of pecorino. For this recipe, click here.

Pasta alla Norma

There's no denying the homey, hearty appeal of a plate of pasta with fried eggplant cubes, tomato sauce, and cheese. Get the recipe here.

Pasta Bolognese

A classic bolognese is a sauce layered with big flavors: To start, prosciutto and a soffrito comprising carrots, celery, onion, and garlic are sautéed until soft and fragrant. Then, beef, pork, veal, and crushed San Marzano tomatoes are added to complete the sauce. Bolognese is best served with long, fat ribbons of pasta like pappardelle or mafalda. Click here for this recipe.

Rigatoni Amatriciana

Amatriciana means in the style of the town of Amatrice, near Rome (a town tragically devastated by an earthquake earlier this year). This classic pasta sauce is composed of guanciale (cured pork jowl), pecorino, and tomatoes. A related pork product, pancetta, which is easier to find, is often substituted for the guanciale, as in this recipe. Aromatics like garlic, red pepper flakes, and basil enhance the sauce, making it an incredibly flavorful (but easy) dish to make. For this recipe, click here.

Shrimp and Fettuccine Fra Daviolo

"Fra Daviolo" — literally "Brother Devil" — is a named given to spicy sauces, and, in this recipe, shrimp are cooked in a classic marinara sauce that is elevated with minced garlic, crushed red pepper, white wine, and onion. For this recipe, click here.

Skillet Vegetable Lasagna With Herbed Cheese

Rich, fresh, and healthy: This cheater's recipe for lasagna cuts corners but yields a scrumptious and simple weeknight family dinner. Click here for the recipe.

Slow 'N Crispy Mac 'N Cheese

Gooey macaroni and cheese is topped with a crispy crunchy layer of dried breadcrumbs studded with pine nuts. Get the recipe here.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Carbonara hails from the region of Lazio, near Rome. A key facet of this dish is the guanciale, or cured pork jowl, which is similar to pancetta or bacon. For the Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe, click here.

Spaghetti With Clams

This classic spaghetti is dressed with clams steamed in white wine and then seasoned with garlic and red pepper flakes. For this recipe, click here.

Spaghetti With Ricotta Beef Meatballs and Marinara Sauce

This easy recipe molds sautéed shallots, garlic, fresh ricotta, and ground beef into tender meatballs that are then served with a simple marinara sauce and spaghetti cooked al dente. For this recipe, click here.

Strozzapreti With Sausage, Grapes, and Red Wine

Strozzapreti is a pasta shape whose name translates as "priest strangler" — supposedly because even virtuous priests would find this pasta so delicious that they'd gorge on it and choke. Here, the strange-sounding combination of sausage, sage, and sweet grapes is simply irresistible — but beware of choking. Click here for the recipe.

Tonnarelli With Frutti di Mare

Tonnarelli, spaghetti-like pasta with squared-off sides,  is a shape traditionally made in the Lazio region in Italy. Here, fresh tonnarelli is served in a tomato-based sauce topped with shrimp, clams, and calamari.  For this recipe, click here.