The 16 Most Delicious Pasta Dishes Ever

The 16 Most Delicious Pasta Dishes Ever

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Gnocchi

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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.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

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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.

Find a recipe for spaghetti carbonara here.

Bucatini All’amatriciana

Bucatini All’amatriciana

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Native to the region of Lazio, this simple sauce contains guanciale (cured pork cheek), pecorino cheese, and tomato. Some variants also include onion.

Find a recipe for amatriciana here.

Tagliatelle Con Ragu Bolognese

Tagliatelle Con Ragu Bolognese

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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.

Find an easy Bolognese recipe here.

Spaghetti Aglio E Olio

Spaghetti Aglio E Olio

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“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.

Find an aglio e olio recipe here.

Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe

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Another super-simple pasta, dish “cacao e pepe” translates to “cheese and pepper.” It’s made by tossing spaghetti with black pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese, and some starchy pasta water to bind it all together, and when well-made it’s stunningly delicious.

Find a cacio e pepe recipe here.

Spaghetti Pomodoro

Spaghetti Pomodoro

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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)

Find a recipe for spaghetti pomodoro here.

Linguine With Clams

Linguine With Clams

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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.

Find the recipe here.

Pasta Alla Norma

Pasta Alla Norma

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Originating in the Sicilian city of Catania, pasta alla Norma is made by tossing a tubular pasta like ziti or rigatoni in a sauce made with tomato, eggplant, olive oil, basil, and freshly grated ricotta salata cheese. It’s a vegetarian’s dream.

Find a pasta alla Norma recipe here.

Gnocchi in Parmesan Cream Sauce

Gnocchi in Parmesan Cream Sauce

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Gnocchi’s tender texture takes perfectly to a creamy sauce. Add milk or cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fontina, and maybe some sliced prosciutto and peas to a light roux and toss in some gnocchi and you’re golden. If you really want to gild the lily, shave fresh truffle on top.

Find a recipe here.

Baked Stuffed Shells

Baked Stuffed Shells

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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.

Find a classic stuffed shells recipe here.

Penne Alla Vodka

Penne Alla Vodka

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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.

Click here for a traditional vodka sauce recipe.

Ravioli With Brown Butter and Sage

Ravioli With Brown Butter and Sage

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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.

Click here for a recipe that includes a classic brown butter and sage sauce.

Lasagna Bolognese

Lasagna Bolognese

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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.

Find a great lasagna recipe here.

Seafood Linguine Fra Diavolo

Seafood Linguine Fra Diavolo

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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.

Click here for a linguine fra diavolo recipe from New York’s Patsy’s.

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

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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.

Find chef Cesare Casella’s recipe for orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage here.

Capellini With Basil Pesto

Capellini With Basil Pesto

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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.

Find a recipe for traditional basil pesto here.