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50 best pasta recipes for easy weeknight dinners

Grab your forks and find new inspiration for pasta night.
/ Source: TODAY

Pasta — in any form — is a dish that everyone loves. There's just something about the warm and cozy feeling of a bowl of baked penne with bubbling mozzarella cheese, or classic spaghetti and meatballs, that makes it the ultimate comfort food. It's no wonder that so many of us turn to it when we can’t think of what else to cook.

From linguine alla vongole to creamy fettuccine alfredo, there are so many classic pasta recipes that never fail to satisfy. But the world of pasta is also ripe for experimentation and customization, so you can easily put your own spin on some Italian-inspired recipes. From basic shapes like rigatoni and fettuccine to less conventional ones such as calamarata and bucatini, they’re simply the perfect blank canvas for a variety of sauces and ingredients.

As a dish, pasta has plenty of range. Gather a few pantry staples and you’ve got a quick and easy weeknight pasta. Have a dinner party coming up? Make the noodles from scratch or find a jazzed up recipe that’s guaranteed to impress your family and friends. It’s also something that can change with the seasons. Serve hearty, cheesy casseroles in the winter, and bright and vibrant pastas tossed with pesto or confit vegetables in warm-weather months when you want to avoid turning on the oven.

Pasta dishes are not only tasty and easy to make — with the right ingredients, they can be a healthy and nutritious meal. With the abundance of vegetables and proteins that pair so well with pasta, it's easy to create a dish that’s both satisfying and wholesome.

This collection of pasta recipes will both delight your taste buds and inspire you to think outside the (spaghetti) box. Whether you opt for a traditional recipe or want to try something new and inventive, these pasta dishes don’t miss.

Cacio e Pepe

Translating to “cheese and pepper,” cacio e pepe is a classic Roman pasta dish that's as simple and delicious as it gets. Because there are just a handful of ingredients — spaghetti, freshly cracked black pepper and Pecorino Romano — this is a recipe that relies on the quality of its ingredients. If you want a stronger bite, coarsely grind the peppercorns using a mortar and pestle. This creamy, salty dish is great as a quick and easy weeknight dinner, but also fancy enough to impress guests at a dinner party.

Red Wine Spaghetti

Elevate your pasta game with an eye-catching red wine pasta that is surprisingly simple to make. The wine infuses into the spaghetti as the noodles cook and pairs beautifully with the garlic and pine nuts, while the tangy feta and zesty lemon juice add a brightness to the dish. Whether you're cooking for a cozy night in or a fancy dinner party, this pasta is sure to impress.

Linguine with Clams

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli puts her touch on spaghetti alla vongole, one of her mom’s favorite pastas. The seaside flavor comes from a sauce made with white wine, clam juice and lemon juice. Fresh Littleneck clams are sauteed in garlic and scallions until fragrant, then combined with the briny sauce, linguine (or spaghetti if that’s what you have), butter and parsley. The dish is light and savory, perfect for a simple summer dinner or special-occasion celebration.

Penne alla Vodka

There is, indeed, a decent glug of vodka in penne alla vodka, a pasta that’s found on the menu of nearly every Italian-American red sauce joint. The booze isn’t just a gimmick — the vodka helps round out the sweetness of the tomatoes and cream. Pancetta adds a salty kick so you get a pasta that’s savory, bright and smoky all at once.

Skillet Lasagna

Want an all-in-one dinner idea that's both comforting and delicious? Look no further than this skillet lasagna. Made with layers of no-boil noodles, marinara sauce and a creamy ricotta-mozzarella mixture studded with peas, it's got everything you love about classic lasagna. Save this recipe for a busy weeknight when you just need a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.

Pancetta or guanciale? Whole eggs or just the yolks? Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino? There’s no agreed upon way to make carbonara, but one thing we can all acknowledge? The Roman pasta is indulgent in the very best way. In her recipe, chef Missy Robbins calls for guanciale, egg yolks and fresh spaghetti, plus a combination of Parm (for richness and nuttiness) and Pecorino (for bite and salinity). Don’t forget to finish each bowl with a hefty crack of freshly ground black pepper.

Baked Broken Lasagna Pasta with Spinach

If you regularly make lasagna, then you probably have a box of noodle odds and ends — aka the broken pieces that aren’t pretty enough for a regular lasagna. This recipe purposely breaks up no-boil noodles to use in a low-effort casserole that’s as simple as “dump and stir.” You get all the ingredients and flavors you love about lasagna in under an hour with so little prep.

Spaghetti aglio e olio translates to "spaghetti with garlic and oil," and that's exactly what you'll find in this recipe. The sauce is made with an ample amount of thinly-shaved garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes, which are sautéed together to create a fragrant and flavorful base for the spaghetti. It’s topped with chopped parsley and toasted panko breadcrumbs for a nice pop of texture.

Baked cheese tortellini with sausage recipe is comfort in a skillet. The dish features Italian sausage (sweet or spicy, depending on your preferences) and cheese-filled tortellini, all baked together in a vibrant marinara sauce. The final touch — a creamy ricotta-mozzarella mixture — on top makes for a satisfying meal that will have everyone asking for seconds.

Baked Gnocchi Alla Vodka

This baked pasta dish and adds a creative twist by swapping the usual penne for pillowy gnocchi. A few shortcuts help make this a weeknight-friendly recipe: Grate the onion and garlic directly into the skillet and boil quick-cooking gnocchi as the sauce simmers. While the saucy gnocchi is great on its own, it’s even better broiled with cheese and panko breadcrumbs.

There are so many reasons to add this one-pot pasta dish to your meal planning rotation. It comes together in just 30 minutes. And, more importantly, the combination of sausage with fennel and lemony pine nuts is downright irresistible.

Lemon Pasta with Brown Butter, Almonds and Arugula

Every home cook needs a pantry pasta recipe in their back pocket. This version has all the hallmarks of a reliable weeknight meal: a rich sauce made with nutty brown butter, crunchy almonds and tangy lemon, plus a healthy helping of greens, grated Parm and red pepper flakes to bring it all together.

This rigatoni pasta dish is perfect for those who love the combination of tangy and creamy. Sundried tomatoes add a burst of intense sweetness, while the burrata cheese delivers a luxurious creaminess. It’ll taste like you put in a lot of effort when everything actually comes together in just 35 minutes.

The combination of rigatoni, sausage and broccoli rabe baked in vodka sauce is sure to satisfy any pasta lover's craving. Since it’s a baked dish, you can easily prep the casserole ahead of time and pop it in the oven whenever you’re ready to eat.

Rotisserie Chicken Stuffed Shells

Rotisserie chicken is truly a weeknight dinner lifesaver. One bird can easily be used for tacos, soup, or in this case, stuffed in shells with broccoli and cheese. Both the filling and cream sauce are amped up with Creole seasoning for an above-average casserole.

Lemon Pasta

With just a handful of ingredients, you can whip up a delicious lemon pasta in no time. The combination of spaghetti and creamy lemon sauce is simple, yet elegant, and pairs beautifully with grilled chicken, shrimp or veggies.

Broccoli floret pesto is by no means traditional, but it’s just as flavorful and even more nutritious than the usual basil version. The cruciferous vegetable gets blitzed with basil, broccoli rabe, garlic, pistachios and cheese to form a bright sauce that pairs wonderfully with pillowy ricotta gnocchi.

This pasta dish comes to us from Italy by way of the South. Combining culinary traditions from the two, it marries tender homemade gnocchi pairs in a rich ragu made from smoky slow-cooked brisket. A red wine sauce ties everything together.

Pasta alla Zozzona

Zozzona loosely translates to “dirty,” a nod to its mashup of two classic pasta dishes: carbonara and amatriciana. A better word to describe pasta all zozzona? Decadent, given that it features sausage and aromatics cooked down in tomato passata and Calabrian chili paste, then combined with egg yolks and crispy pancetta.

Packed with punchy flavor from pantry staples and ready in less than 30 minutes, puttanesca is the ultimate weeknight-friendly sauce. Combine with a package of frozen cheese ravioli to make an easy, budget-friendly meal for four.

The Original Fettuccine Alfredo

Contrary to most recipes, the original fettuccine alfredo didn’t contain heavy cream. Instead, it relies solely on Parmigiano Reggiano, butter and a small amount of pasta water to build its signature creaminess.

Calling all Hamburger Helper fans! This pasta-cheeseburger combo is reminiscent of the American classic and will be just as popular as the packaged version on the dinner table. The recipe takes all the ingredients of a good old-fashioned cheeseburger and packs them into jumbo pasta shells, then bakes them until hot and bubbly.

The recipe for rigatoni all'Amatriciana dates back to the 17th century and it’s still every bit as good today. The trattoria staple is made from four ingredients — rigatoni, guanciale, tomato passata and Pecorino — and comes together in no time, which is just the kind of fuss-free pasta busy cooks need.

As Bobby Flay says, “rigatoni and sausage have been good friends for a really long time.” He takes their friendship to the next level by introducing a new cast of characters — roasted eggplant, dry red wine, tomato sauce and creme fraiche — to the mix, forming a hearty, family-friendly pasta.

There’s so much to love about Katie Lee’s chicken meatball and penne pasta bake. It can be made ahead and then simply baked just before dinner. Feel free to use a mix of pasta shapes and finally finish up some boxes. And she takes a trick from Joy Bauer, which is to roll meatballs with canned pumpkin instead of breadcrumbs for an extra nutritional boost.

This recipe for baked stuffed shells is great for meatless Monday dinners or serving as a vegetarian option during a dinner party. The cheesy ricotta-mozzarella mixture has two unexpected additions: peas and scallions for a mild zing. Be sure not to overcook the shells or they’ll tear as you fill them.

There’s no denying that come fall, all minds turn to pumpkin. This fall twist on vodka sauce mixes a whole can of pumpkin purée into the classic Italian sauce. Herbs like thyme and sage add round out the autumnal flavors.

Crisp autumn nights call for cozy recipes like this penne with roasted butternut squash and sage. The butternut squash is roasted until browned and tender, then tossed with the noodles, pancetta and sage, plus pasta water and cheese, to form a comforting pasta dish.

Recreate the popular lasagna pinwheels from New York City’s Don Angie with this recipe from its chef. The rolled-up twist on classic lasagna is a true labor of love, featuring homemade bechamel, tomato sauce, bolognese and, of course, pasta noodles. You can swap out any or all of these out for store-bought equivalents, but trust us, the work will be worth it.

Savory sausage perfectly complements the acidity of the marinara sauce in this six-ingredient pasta. Top with grated Parmesan and fresh oregano to further enhance the flavors.

Chicken Riggies

If you’re not familiar with the term, “riggies” is slang for a rigatoni dish that hails from Utica, New York. The tube-shaped pasta is paired with juicy chicken breasts and a creamy, pepper-spiked tomato sauce to form a dish that’s both spicy and sweet.

Turn to this quick ragu on days when you don’t have time to spend hours simmering a sauce. Cherry tomatoes add a burst of freshness to the hearty meat sauce while balsamic vinegar lends a rich sweetness. This dish is perfect for busy weeknights when you need a satisfying meal in a pinch.

Kevin Curry’s Thai-inspired shrimp pasta not only comes together in 15 minutes, but it uses pantry staples like peanut butter, coconut milk and red curry paste. Sear the shrimp and fresh snap peas as the pasta cooks to save time, then fold all the ingredients together in a quick cooking sauce.

Hamburger Helper Pasta

Gaby Dalkin elevates Hamburger Helper in this from-scratch version that she lovingly jokes is “extra.” But one bite of the decadent, cheesy skillet pasta will prove that the added work is worth it.


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Endlessly customizable, manicotti can be the starting point for a comforting, crowd-pleasing meal. These large, tube-shaped noodles can be stuffed with a variety of ingredients — fold spicy sausage into the cheesy filling for a meaty twist or use spinach when you want to pack in some greens. Baked with a savory tomato sauce, manicotti is sure to impress at any large gathering.

Spaghetti with Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Spice up your dinner routine with shrimp fra diavolo. The Italian-American classic combines the long noodle with plump shrimp in a fiery tomato sauce, perfect for those who love a little heat in their pasta.

Healthy pasta recipes

 Creamy Vegan Cacio e Pepe

Nutritional yeast is the secret weapon that gives this vegan cacio e pepe its “cheesy” flavor. The powerhouse ingredient is blitzed with raw cashews to form a vegan “Parm” and blended with soaked cashews to make the creamy sauce. This dish is sure to satisfy your cheesy pasta cravings with its luscious, umami-packed flavor.

Zucchini is used two ways in this recipe: It’s spiralized into noodles and blended with basil and pine nuts to make a pesto sauce. The 30-minute meal is a great way to get your family to eat more veggies, especially in the warmer months when summer squash is abundant.

Spaghetti Carbonara with Greens and Herbs

Melissa Clark loads up this one-pan spaghetti carbonara with spinach and herbs to add some brightness to the rich, smoky pasta. It’s a great recipe for using up veggies that have been lingering in the fridge.

Each bite of this zucchini pasta is brimming with bright summer flavor. It’s vegetarian-friendly and comes together in under one hour, so you can serve this any night of the week. Half the zucchini is roasted, while the other half cooks on the stovetop and goes into a zesty pesto sauce. Parm, pistachios and fresh basil finish the veggie-packed weeknight pasta.

Baked Lemony Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta

“I love the combination of broccoli, mushrooms and garlic with the bright lemony flavor and kick of heat,” says recipe developer Yasmin Fahr. Homemade pickled jalapeños help brighten up the rich vegetarian pasta, which gets a nice, crunchy rim from a quick bake in the oven.

Creamy Kitchen Garden Pasta

This fresh pasta is an homage to summer tomatoes. Made with fresh cherry tomatoes, kale, creamy goat cheese, sharp cheddar, and fettuccine, it’s got a great balance of savory and tangy. As cookbook author Gesine Bullock-Prado says, “There’s nothing more special than a sun-ripened tomato, plucked warm from the vine.”

Dylan's Green Noodles

It’s a dilemma many of us have probably encountered: We’re craving pesto, but don’t have any fresh basil. Dylan Dreyer’s solution? Turning ingredients she always has on hand — cheese, spinach, nuts — into a vibrant green sauce that not only scratches the itch, but sneaks some more greens into our diet.

Broccoli Cacio e Pepe

Get your daily dose of greens with this broccoli cacio e pepe. The tops of the blanched broccoli are grated into a “couscous” topping, while the stems are blended into a creamy sauce. The result? A healthy, veggie-packed spin on the classic Roman dish that's easy to make and bursting with flavor.

Indulge in a better-for-you bowl of chicken alfredo that offers your daily serving of veggies with this lightened-up version. The sauce is made with roasted cauliflower that’s blended with almond milk, Parm and pasta water, resulting in a creamy texture without the need for heavy cream. Sautéed chicken breast and asparagus round out the wholesome dish.

Elizabeth Heiskell loads up this lasagna with her homemade ratatouille, which not only gives the casserole great flavor, but all the veggie goodness of eggplants, zucchini and tomatoes. The from-scratch béchamel sauce is thick and creamy, adding a touch of decadence to the vegetarian dish.

This vegan take on classic pasta alla vodka is both spicy and creamy, featuring a sauce that doesn’t lose any of the original, rich flavor or consistency. The crunchy, spicy breadcrumbs add another unique twist.

Asparagus, basil and chives add a spring flourish to this carbonara. A sauce made with egg yolks and pasta water binds it to the pappardelle so you can enjoy its rich silkiness in every bite.

Herby, nutty, sweet and salty — what’s not to love about this unique restaurant-quality recipe? The sauce comes together in a flash, thanks to the use of a food processor, which blends together the spinach, fresh herbs, garlic and lemon. Chopped dates and pine nuts add a nice contrast to the dish, too.

Make a tasty and easy pesto pasta that sings of spring. The combination of vibrant green pesto and sweet peas makes for a beautiful, seasonal dish. For a slightly thicker sauce, you can purée a small amount of peas with the pesto.