30 Impressive (But Still Easy) Pasta Recipes
Pasta may be easy enough to throw together on a weeknight, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be wow-worthy. Make the everyday a little more special with one of these impressive pasta dishes—everyone at the table will appreciate the gesture, even if it doesn’t take much additional effort.
Caramelized Onion, Mushroom and Chicken Penne
Creamy, cheesy, chicken pasta—what’s not to love? This cozy 25-minute meal from The Food Gays is sure to become your new go-to this Fall.
Cavatappi Pasta with Beans and Bacon
Beans, bacon, and pasta come together for a delicious weeknight meal in under 30 minutes. We love adding green beans to pasta—their long shape works well with short, tubular noodles. Bright yellow wax beans add an extra pop of color to this weeknight supper, but if they aren’t available at your market, simply double the amount of green beans.
Pasta with Shrimp and Tomato Cream Sauce
Smaller tomatoes, like cherry or grape, have brighter, fruitier flavors than larger ones. Look for colorful selections such as the orange Sun Gold and the purple Black Cherry. Cherry tomatoes need only a few minutes in a hot pan before they soften and release their naturally sweet juices. For the best flavor, use fresh shrimp, not frozen, and don’t overcook them, or the shrimp will become tough. Tarragon’s anise notes complement the cherry tomatoes and cream, but you can substitute basil or oregano.
Pasta with Miso Cream Sauce
This super creamy pasta dish gets nice umami depth from the miso. Cooking the grape tomatoes in a skillet and then stirring in the milk mixture gives the sauce the perfect texture, and the little bit of liquid that comes out of the spinach lightens it up. This recipe is quite flexible: Cavatappi, penne, or any whole-wheat version would work well. You could also substitute with mini mozzarella balls to save a step and time.
Broken Pasta with Pistachio and Lemon
Here we use a slightly unconventional method for cooking the pasta that takes a little longer than simply boiling it, but the results are well worth the extra time. First, it’s broken into small pieces and toasted in a skillet to give it a rich, nutty flavor. Then, it’s cooked by adding little bits of warm chicken stock at a time—risotto-style—until the pasta is fully tender and super creamy (without adding any cream.) When cooked for 6 minutes, the eggs have a jammy yolk that’s just right for combining with the pasta to create an extra-rich sauce.
Cacio e Pepe
This foolproof method delivers the classic, crave worthy flavors and textures of cacio e pepe—strong peppery backbone (without verging towards too “hot”), earthy saltiness from the Pecorino cheese, and a luscious sauciness that will have you ready to lick the bowl. That said, while our method largely stays true to the iconic dish, one element might catch a traditionalist’s eye: olive oil. Though not exactly typical in cacio e pepe, we found that incorporating olive oil makes emulsifying the delicate cheese sauce a far less finicky process. Grating the cheese (as opposed to shredding) or using a Microplane is also key, as this allows the cheese to melt quickly. And finally, remember that pasta water is your best friend when it comes to making a silky smooth sauce. We developed this recipe for two as it makes for a incredibly impressive—yet budget-friendly—date night dinner when served with a simple green salad and a dry white wine. However, you can easily double the recipe to serve more. We love bucatini for this recipe because the hollow noodle is perfect for capturing the rich sauce, but you can use whatever noodle shape you like; linguine, spaghetti,or fettuccine are all great options.
Spaghetti with Squash, Walnuts and Parmesan
Try this fall-flavored spin on spaghetti made with butternut squash, walnuts, bread crumbs, and Parmesan.
Fettuccine Alfredo with Leeks, Peas, and Bacon
You will never buy jarred Alfredo sauce again when you see how easy it is to make homemade. Pasta with homemade Alfredo sauce is a simple weeknight meal that feels downright indulgent, especially when bacon is involved. Slowly simmer the cream and be sure not to boil it or it will scorch. Cook the vegetables in the bacon drippings for extra richness. To make sure the chopped leeks are free of sand, soak them in a large bowl of cold water for five minutes and then drain.
Pumpkin Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter
Warm Pasta Salad with Tomatoes and Eggplant
Congratulations—You just found your new go-to pasta salad! This veggie-packed beauty is nice and filling, thanks to meaty eggplant. If you can’t find burrata, simply tear 6 ounces of fresh mozzarella into bite-size pieces. Heading to a potluck? Feel free to make this recipe ahead of time; just be sure to let it come to room temperature and toss with an extra drizzle of vinegar and oil before serving. Add a few tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves for an extra layer of flavor.
Creamy Four-Cheese Pasta With Spinach
Pasta night perfection. Four cheeses team up with gluten-free pasta to deliver a wholesome indulgence.
Scallop Pasta with Catalan Romesco Sauce
Coming from the Catalonia region of Spain, Romesco is a versatile sauce made from nuts and red peppers. It works great on roast chicken, grilled vegetables, or this Spanish-inspired pasta adorned with shaved Manchego cheese and slivered almonds.
Spring Vegetable Pasta Alfredo
Our seasonal pasta toss is made luscious and rich with a lighter take on alfredo sauce. Instead of using heavy cream, we employ flour-thickened 2% milk enriched with cream cheese. We also switch from traditional Parmesan to more robust pecorino Romano, which allows us to use less cheese while still achieving the same flavor impact. We love the flavor of Bionaturae brand whole-wheat pasta, which is milder than most other brands we’ve tried and doesn't overpower the vegetables.
Shrimp and Leek Spaghetti
Light and lemony, this pasta provides nearly a third of your daily fiber goal. Thanks to prepeeled shrimp and frozen peas, it’s the epitome of weeknight-fast. Dress it up with a glass of crisp white wine.
Pasta with Green Peas and Almond Gremolata
Chickpea pasta can be a nice change from whole wheat—it has a mild flavor and higher fiber content. The gremolata topping (a chopped herb condiment made with lemon zest and parsley) truly makes the dish. It’s crunchy, herby, fragrant, and citrusy. Serve the pasta immediately for the best texture and taste.
Pasta Aglio e Olio
A riff on the traditional Italian garlic and oil pasta dish, roasted walnut oil adds an unexpected gentle, nutty flavor. Cool the walnut oil slightly before adding the water to avoid splatters. We think bucatini pasta is the best choice for this dish; however, you also could use whole-wheat spaghetti or angel hair pasta to amp up the dish’s nuttiness. For a protein boost, add sautéed shrimp alongside or atop this dish.
One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes
This pasta dinner is a game changer: You use just enough liquid to cook the pasta--no colander needed. Recipe adapted from our sister publication Southern Living. Cost for 4: $8.43
Roasted Tomato, Salami, and Mozzarella Pasta
This recipe gives you all the favorite flavors of a baked pasta dish without heating up the oven. Round out this easy weeknight meal with a simple and satisfying dessert. When a recipe calls for a small amount of an ingredient, such as the cup of arugula in this recipe, save money and buy what you need from the salad bar at your grocery store instead of purchasing an entire package.
Shrimp, Sausage, and Black Bean Pasta
Add a little Cajun flair to your pasta dinner this week. We’ve added shrimpand Andouille sausage to our Slow-Cooker Black beans to mix textures and flavors to this pasta dish. We like the fun, twisty shape of the casarecce pasta because it captures the sauce well, but any short pasta will work in this recipe. You can put the black beans in the slow cooker during the day, and the rest of the dish comes together in under 30 minutes for a quick dinner.
Pasta with Italian Sunday Sauce
Known as “Sunday Gravy” to many, this meaty tomato sauce is like marinara but with a major upgrade. Short ribs and turkey sausage add flavor; whole-wheat pasta brings heart-healthy fiber to the table.
Sausage and Mushroom Pasta With Butternut Squash
How’s this for a hack? Here we slice refrigerated lasagna noodles to get silky pappardelle-style ribbons of pasta that look like they’re homemade. Pick up pre-cubed butternut squash to save yourself peeling and chopping time.
Kale, Tomato, and Pancetta Pasta
Tomatoes need a little extra love during winter. This pasta uses them in two ways: first melted into the pancetta drippings for a saucy base, then sautéed until gently blistered with the kale and garlic. Vary the green depending on what you have on hand; shredded Brussels sprouts, chard, or spinach would work. Orecchiette ("little ears" in Italian) have a catcher’s mitt shape that’s ideal for holding the crispy bits of pancetta. You could also use whole-grain shell pasta or rotini.
Pasta with Charred Broccoli, Feta, and Lemon
Author Colu Henry loves taking vegetables to the edge by roasting until they are deeply browned and caramelized, giving them great texture and amping up their flavor. The feta cheese emulsifies in the pasta water, creating a velvety sauce for the pasta.
Mostly Mushroom Pasta
If you’re a mushroom-lover, this is the pasta dish for you. It’s chock-full of three kinds of fresh mushrooms (2 pounds of them) that contribute their own flavors and textures—meaty, hearty portobello; super savory, tender shiitake; and earthy, chewy cremini. We cook them in stages so the tougher mushrooms cook longer and the more delicate shiitakes cook less so they hold their shape. The touch of crème fraîche in the sauce gives the dish a stroganoff-like flavor; substitute full-fat sour cream if you can’t find it.
Classic Pasta Carbonara
This simple, classic pasta carbonara recipe is the perfect dish when you need a special night in. And with this foolproof method for nailing the signature creamy sauce, you can go into the kitchen with confidence. Traditionally, you would toss your hot pasta with the eggs and cheese right in the skillet you’ve used to cook the pork (over low heat) to create a smooth, emulsified sauce. However, this method takes practice to get right—and crossing the fine line between gently cooking the eggs and scrambling them is all too easy, even for a pro. With this smart test kitchen technique, you essentially create a double boiler to provide just enough heat to melt your cheese and emulsify the silky sauce, without running the risk of breaking it. Finally, drizzling pancetta drippings over the pasta disperses rich porky flavor throughout the sauce even without ever having the pasta in the skillet. We use pancetta for this recipe as it is easily found in most supermarkets, but guanciale is traditional and worth trying if you can find it. Gemelli pasta is a great noodle shape to pair with this rich and saucy dish, but feel free to use whatever noodle you prefer.
Fusilli Pasta with Spinach, Tomato, and Bacon
If your favorite part of a lasagna or baked ziti is the golden crunchy edges, you’ll love this sheet pan pasta. Made with a cheesy Alfredo sauce, bacon, tomatoes, spinach, and a touch of lemon zest for brightness, it gets super crisp and brown on top because it bakes in a sheet pan. Before the pasta goes into the oven, the bacon is cooked on the same sheet pan, for less cleanup, plus added flavor from the drippings.
Pasta with Shaved Asparagus and Pea Pesto
Thick asparagus stalks are best for this dish because they’re easier to shave. The trick to this recipe? We cook the pasta in as little water as possible so the resulting pasta water becomes viscous with starch. Adding a little of the water to the sauce makes it extra creamy and helps it cling to the noodles. Pine nuts can be expensive—a good budget substitute is unsalted sunflower seed kernels.
Garden Greens Pasta
A little bit of pancetta pulls more than its weight in this recipe. Kale and spinach cook in the rendered drippings for rich, salty flavor throughout the dish, and the crisped pork bits make a delicious finishing touch for the pasta. Roasted almonds offer hearty crunch that complements the silky greens and tender pasta; hazelnuts also would be a great choice. For speedy prep, look for pre-diced pancetta near the specialty cheeses in the grocery store.
Tomato, Basil, and Chicken Pasta
Think of this as a lighter, fresher take on chicken Parmesan: We ditch the breading on the poultry and let juicy cherry tomatoes stand in for jarred pasta sauce. A little grated carrot adds just enough sweetness to round out the acidity in the tomatoes. Mini balls of fresh mozzarella, also called ciliegine, melt just enough in the finished pasta so that the dish feels extra cheesy. This would also be delicious with cooked, crumbled Italian turkey sausage or with simply sauteed shrimp.
One-Pan Pasta with Chicken Sausage, Mushrooms, and Collards
Rather than boiling the noodles in a separate pot, we cooked them with the chicken stock and other ingredients. The starch from the pasta thickens the broth, making a surprisingly rich sauce without butter or cream.