Iconic and much loved staples of Italian cuisine, pasta dishes and pizza recipes can be found just about everywhere these days. Whether you make your own dough, or keep things speedy with store-bought dried pasta, there hundreds of variations when it comes to pasta sauces - ranging from 5-ingredient Roman classics (hello spaghetti aglio e olio), to rich and creamy pasta bakes, or slow cooked ragu served over al dente noodles. The same goes with pizza. You can roll up your sleeves for crisp home-made pizza dough, or skip the arm workout and opt for pre-rolled dough. From there, put your pizza-making hat on (it can be imaginary) and create your dream pizza covered in your favorite toppings.
Let’s look at some of our favorite subsets of these iconic menu items…
Tomato-based pasta dishes
Looking for recipes for classic, comforting tomato sauce pastas? Look no further. From a traditional spaghetti bolognese to a quick, summery cherry tomato pasta, we have you covered. Arrabiata is on the spicy side, while this charry spaghetti all’assassina cooks the pasta in the pan for an unusual, satisfying texture. Tomato-based pasta sauces are popular with kids and adults alike, and you’re sure to find a recipe to suit your whole family. Add bacon or meatballs for a hit of protein and flavor, or keep it simple and plant-based for a cost effective mid-week wonder.
Creamy pasta dishes
Indulgent and delicious, creamy pasta dishes are crowd-pleasing evergreens for a reason. And they don’t even need to contain cream! Creamy sauces can be easily achieved with a good splash of pasta water, some butter and/or luscious beaten eggs.
Make the most of the seasons and use what’s locally available - peas and asparagus in spring, pumpkin or mushrooms in fall and winter greens through the cooler months. Or keep it pared back with a Roman classic like cacio e pepe or carbonara. Using some of the starchy pasta cooking water will thicken up a simple sauce into a smooth, light but creamy coating for your pasta, delivering restaurant level results every time.
Of course there’s always the option of adding cream to achieve an even glossier, creamier result. This simple tomato and basil pasta uses crème fraîche to bind the cheesy, tomatoey sauce. Or this rich quick, creamy tortellini alla panna, thickened with egg yolk and cream for a moment of true decadence.
Pasta bakes and casseroles
Something beautiful happens when soft, cheesy, saucey pasta is baked in the oven to form a pasta casserole. The sauce becomes richer and the cheese melts and crisps into delicious bites. There’s also the added convenience of being able to cook your pasta and sauce ahead of time, preparing your tray bake and leaving it in the fridge (or freezer) until you’re ready to bake and serve.
Choose your own adventure with a wide range of sauces and pasta shapes to keep things interesting. Lasagna recipes are classic for a reason, like this iconic easy italian lasagna with the soft bechamel, layered pasta sheets and thick bolognese. You’ll also find recipes for vegetarian and vegan alternatives, such as this vegan spinach and mushroom lasagna. But Lasagna is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pasta bakes. Experiment with baked gnocchi, tortellini, short pasta (like Rigatoni) or even long noodles like spaghetti.
Crunchy breadcrumbs or a sprinkling of cheese over your pasta bake is essential, so be sure not to skip these finishing touches.
Choosing the right pasta for your dish
Short tubular pasta: Penne, rigatoni etc. These shapes are great for a chunkier sauce, as you will be using your fork to ‘stab’ at the pasta, making it easy to collect chunks of olive or eggplant while you’re at it. The internal cavity also makes a lovely hidey-hole for thick sauces, making this a great choice for a rich tomato sauce.
Short cavernous pasta: Shells, orecchiette etc. Similar to penne and rigatoni, these shapes do a great job of giving ingredients something to cling to on their journey from plate to mouth. A little caper or pine nut can be tricky to fork on its own, so the safe cave of these pasta shapes proves practical in dishes with loose sauces and lots of small chunky pieces.
Long thin pasta: Spaghetti, linguine, spaghettini. These shapes require a good twirl of the fork for successful eating, and thrive when tossed with a light, clingy sauce. Classics like carbonara and cacio e pepe love these shapes, as do sauces with finely chopped ingredients and an almost smooth consistency, like bolognese. Seafood and linguine are also a perfect match, as the protein is lighter than other meats, and balances perfectly with the noodles, while the buttery, silky sauce sticks perfectly to the strands.
Long chunky pasta: Bucatini, pappardelle, fettuccine. These long, thick strands of pasta are well suited to thick, rich meat sauces such as ragu. They offer a denser bite, and may require a combination of stabbing and twirling your fork for the best mouthful. Lighter sauces may not stand up to the chunkiness of these noodles, so be sure to go for something with a little more substance.
Pastina: Ditalini, orzo, stelline. These tiny pasta shapes are perfect or light broths, or added to soups and stews. Essentially any dish that you’d eat with a spoon! They have very little bite to them due to their size, and work well when bolstered by other ingredients.
Homemade pizza is an art form in its own right. Whether you like to make dough from scratch, or prefer to use a pre-made pizza base, the real fun begins with your toppings. A classic tomato paste and cheese combination can be taken in every direction, with deli meats, pantry staples, fresh veggies and herbs all playing a roll. Try this classic Neapolitan-style pizza to get you started. Or, perhaps you prefer a white pizza base? Garlicky, cheesy dough with a handful of seasonal ingredients - what could be better?
How to cook your homemade pizza
The trick is to make sure you get your oven super hot, and cook your pizza for a short amount of time on a baking tray. Put your oven on the maximum temperature, using top and bottom heat and cook for around 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crust is brown.