The 16 Most Delicious Pasta Dishes Ever
Pasta is a beautiful thing. It’s simple, easy to cook, filling, and so versatile that it’s compatible with nearly any type of sauce. But while just about anyone can boil some spaghetti and open a jar of sauce, a truly great pasta dish can be one of the most delicious foods on earth. These 16 Italian pasta dishes are quite possibly the most delicious ones of all.
This traditional Roman dish takes some practice to get right because it’s so simple: Spaghetti is tossed in a sauce made with bacon or pancetta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, egg yolk, black pepper, and some pasta water, and the end result is creamy and rich. Bacon and eggs, what’s not to like? One ingredient that should never go into carbonara is cream, so ask before you order it.
Native to the region of Lazio, this simple sauce contains guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino cheese, and tomato. Some variants also include onion.
Tagliatelle Con Ragu Bolognese
If you think that Bolognese sauce is just traditional tomato sauce with ground beef mixed in, think again. Real ragu Bolognese, as it’s made in the city of Bologna, is made with a mixture of ground veal, pork, pancetta, and beef, and the sauce only contains a small amount of tomato paste along with olive oil, butter, onions, celery, carrots, milk, white wine, and plenty of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Tossed with some fresh tagliatelle, it’s one of the world’s great comfort foods.
Spaghetti Aglio E Olio
“Aglio e olio” translates to “garlic and oil,” which should give you an idea of how simple this traditional Neapolitan dish is. It’s made by sautéing minced garlic in high-quality olive oil and tossing it with spaghetti, sometimes adding red chile flakes. Garnishing with parsley and pecorino is optional.
Cacio e Pepe
A light dish that comes together quickly and easily, spaghetti pomodoro is made by tossing spaghetti in a sauce made with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and occasionally other fresh ingredients like garlic. If you’re only used to the jarred stuff, one taste of real spaghetti pomodoro can be a revelation (the secret is to finish cooking the pasta in the sauce)
Linguine With Clams
This is a staple of red sauce Italian restaurants, but if you go to Sicily you’ll find a simple and rustic version that truly lets the clams shine. Garlic and crushed red pepper flakes are browned in a skillet, clams and water are added, and spaghetti and parsley are tossed in. Simple and delicious.
Pasta Alla Norma
Gnocchi in Parmesan Cream Sauce
Baked Stuffed Shells
This Italian-American classic is just about impossible to dislike. Shells (called conchiglie) are boiled and filled with a mixture of egg, Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, and ricotta, then arranged in a baking dish and topped with mozzarella and tomato sauce. It all gets golden brown and delicious in the oven.
Penne Alla Vodka
Though the exact origins of vodka sauce are open to debate, this dish took the world by storm in the early 1980s, with a good reason: When done properly, it’s really, really good. It’s made by combining a smooth tomato sauce with Italian herbs, heavy cream, and a small amount of vodka, which emulsifies the cream and acidic tomatoes and brings out alcohol-soluble flavors in the tomato. The sauce also takes well to chunks of chicken or sausage.
Ravioli With Brown Butter and Sage
Marinara sauce can be overwhelming to delicate ravioli fillings, so you’ll often see the ravioli be lightly browned with sage leaves in butter and tossed with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano at fine dining restaurants.
Traditional ragu Bolognese makes two appearances on this list, both in iconic pasta dishes. To make traditional lasagna Bolognese, semolina pasta sheets are layered with Bolognese sauce, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and béchamel sauce and baked until brown and bubbling. It’s rich and comforting.
Seafood Linguine Fra Diavolo
There’s a lot to love about this dish, especially if the freshest seafood possible is used. It’s made by tossing linguine in a spicy tomato sauce made with shrimp, clams, mussels, and calamari. It is addictively good.
Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe and Sausage
Orecchiette is a small, ear-shaped pasta, and it takes very well to a sauce made with chopped broccoli rabe, hot Italian sausage, olive oil, and garlic. It’s a perfect dish for a cold winter day.
Capellini With Basil Pesto
No discussion of pasta dishes is complete without a nod to pesto (“paste”), the most famous of which is traditional pesto Genovese, made by combining basil, olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino, pine nuts, garlic, and salt in a food processor (or a mortar and pestle). This rich sauce is best partnered with a thin pasta like capellini (angel hair) and a glass of crisp white wine. Simple and delicious.