21 Italian Recipes Every Beginner Cook Should Master

Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce for Spaghetti
Photo: © Fredrika Stjärne

For those of us who didn't grow up making pasta with our nonna, these classic recipes make an excellent and beginner-friendly introduction to the wonders of Italian cooking. From Spaghetti with Clams and Garlic, Samin Nosrat's perfect Panzanella, and three variations of fluffy Potato Gnocchi to Slow-Cooker Sunday Sauce and crunchy Chocolate-and-Pistachio Biscotti, these Italian appetizers, salads, pastas. mains, sauces, sides, desserts, and drinks are as foolproof as they are pleasing.

01 of 21

Antipasto Salad with Bocconcini and Green-Olive Tapenade

Antipasto Salad with Bocconcini and Green-Olive Tapenade
© Greg DuPree

In 2018, Food & Wine named this recipe from the legendary Nancy Silverton as one of our all-time best. The salad combines crisp iceberg lettuce, creamy balls of mozzarella, spicy-tangy peperoncini, salty olives, and savory salami into a celebration of bold flavor, thrilling texture, and all-around delight.

02 of 21

Italian Wedding Risotto

Italian Wedding Risotto
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

F&W's Culinary Director at Large Justin Chapple marries the best of two Italian favorites — Italian Wedding Soup and Risotto — for a festive flavor bonanza that is worthy of its own celebration.

03 of 21

Spaghetti with Clams and Garlic

Spaghetti with Clams and Garlic
© SIMON WATSON

"I look forward to going to Sicily for many reasons," says chef Frank Castronovo of his biannual trip to southern Italy. "One of them is because I'm amazed at how many times Frank [Falcinelli, his co-chef] can order linguine con vongole." Their exquisite, super-simple version is packed with garlic and a judicious amount of crushed red pepper. If you prefer, shell the clams before tossing them with their juices in the pasta.

04 of 21

Pinzimonio with Tonnato Sauce

Pinzimonio with Tonnato Sauce
© Anna Williams

Raw vegetables take center stage in 2009 Best New Chef Nate Appleman's knock-your-socks-off appetizer that replaces the traditional olive oil dressing with tonnato — a sauce made here from canned tuna, lemon juice, anchovies, mayonnaise, and capers.

05 of 21

Bucatini Carbonara

Bucatini Carbonara
© Anna Williams

Italian carbonara is famously rich, combining pancetta or guanciale, egg yolks, and cheese. Chef Linton Hopkins adds his own Southern accent to the dish with house-cured pork and local eggs.

06 of 21

Slow-Cooker Sunday Sauce on Spaghetti

Slow Cooker Sunday Sauce for Spaghetti
© Fredrika Stjärne

If you don't have a whole Sunday to spend stirring sauce on the stove, Marcia Kiesel's slow-cooker recipe, packed with pork shoulder, sausage, and pancetta. ensures you won't have to sacrifice that long-simmered flavor.

07 of 21

Tomato, Basil, and Cucumber Panzanella with Grated Tomato Balsamic Vinaigrette

Tomato, Basil, and Cucumber Panzanella
Victor Protasio

Got stale bread? Put it to its highest purpose with a glorious panzanella by Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat author and TV host Samin Nosrat. Here, she grates the tomatoes into a gloriously balanced vinaigrette that brings fresh tomato, cucumber, and red onions together in harmony with just-baked croutons and a pop of basil.

08 of 21

Handmade Pesto

Handmade Pesto
© Susan Spungen

Longtime test kitchen assistant David McCann loves to get wild with his pesto, and who could blame him? We've got a plethora of recipes for the pungent, pounded sauce, but start with this basic basil method by former F&W food editor Marcia Kiesel, and branch out.

09 of 21

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Marcella Hazan Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter Recipe
Photo and Styling by Julia Gartland

This butter-laced tomato sauce is as iconic as its author, the late Marcella Hazan, and it's easy enough to make a double batch to freeze for later.

10 of 21

Eggplant Caponata with Golden Raisins

Eggplant Caponata with Golden Raisins
© Michael Turek

Spread it on crostini, serve it with Parmesan, or just eat it by the spoonful. Chef Ben Towill's golden-raisin loaded caponata balances sweetness with the tang of jalapeños, tomatoes, olives, capers, and eggplant that caramelizes in the pan. Make a giant batch and serve it with everything, as an appetizer, or a super-happy snack.

11 of 21

Broccoli-Rabe and Ricotta Frittata

Broccoli-Rabe and Ricotta Frittata

Though frittatas are often served cooled as a first course, they make an equally good main dish, either warm or at room temperature. Here, creamy ricotta mellows the bitter bite of broccoli rabe.

12 of 21

Tuscan-Style Veal Chops

Tuscan-Style Veal Chops

"Grill masters all over the world have noticed that when you grill a piece of meat and then anoint it with some kind of fat, it mixes with the meat juices and creates instant sauce," grilling expert Steven Raichlen says. "At Peter Luger Steakhouse, in Brooklyn, steaks get finished with a pat of butter; other places use beef tallow." In Tuscany, olive oil is the fat of choice for finishing herbed veal chops like these.

13 of 21

Fried Florentine Meatballs

Fried Italian Turkey-and-Cheese Meatballs
© Tara Fisher

This recipe for a Florentine specialty is technically called Fried Italian Turkey-and-Cheese Meatballs, but writer Anya von Bremzen notes up front that just about any meat will do. Yukon Gold potatoes add heft to the mix, and provide a blank canvas for warm, wonderful notes of clove, nutmeg, and garlic. A squeeze of fresh lemon provides the perfect accent.

14 of 21

Spinach Salad with Bagna Cauda Dressing

Spinach Salad with Bagna Cauda Dressing

In the Piedmont region of Italy, the warm anchovy–olive oil sauce called bagna cauda is typically served as a dip for vegetables. Here, chef Justin Smillie turns it into a warm dressing for baby spinach, adding fresh bread crumbs for crunch.

15 of 21

Potato Gnocchi with Butter and Cheese

Potato Gnocchi with Butter and Cheese
© Frances Janisch

American chefs are busy riffing on this Italian classic. Here, former F&W test kitchen editor Grace Parisi shares a traditional recipe with three tasty variations: Carrot-Potato Gnocchi, Roasted Garlic-Potato Gnocchi and Rye-Potato Gnocchi.

16 of 21

Soft Polenta with Mixed Mushrooms and Gremolata

Soft Polenta with Mixed Mushrooms and Gremolata
© Peggy Wong

1999 F&W Best New Chef Suzanne Goin melts down young greens and a mushroom blend (whatever you have on hand) and a generous helping of mascarpone to make a luscious, soul-stirring dish you'll whisk together over and over again.

17 of 21

The F&W Guide to Making Pizza at Home

trio of homemade pizzas
Photo by Christopher Testani / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

F&W's Editor-in-Chief Hunter Lewis became obsessed with mastering the art of at-home pizza, so the team broke down the process into bite-sized pieces, from crust to toppings, with recipes a-plenty. Start with Mary-Frances Heck and Paige Grandjean's classic Cheese Pizza recipe, and soon you'll find yourself a little pizza heaven.

18 of 21

Classic Tiramisu

Classic Tiramisu
© Mark Seelen

"The '90s were a whole vibe when it came to tiramisu," says F&W's Associate Food Director Chandra Ram. We've got a billion variations on the dessert, but start with the basics, a blend of store-bought ladyfinger cookies, mascarpone, strong coffee, and cocoa powder that's a winner every time.

19 of 21

Candied Almond Affogato

Almond Affogato
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Ali Ramee

Technically, all you need for an affogato is gelato and espresso, but why not live a little? This easy, adaptable recipe by recipe developer Liz Mervosh adds almond liqueur (or orgeat if you want to skip the booze), candied almonds, and crushed amaretti cookies for a delightful crunch.

20 of 21

Chocolate and Pistachio Biscotti

Chocolate-and-Pistachio Biscotti
© John Kernick

Top Chef winner Kevin Sbraga varies these wonderful nutty biscotti, sometimes dipping them in melted dark chocolate for an extra layer of flavor.

21 of 21

Campari Spritz

Campari Spritz
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Christina Daley

Recipe developer Jasmine Smith played with the formula of a Aperol Spritz to create this refreshing and slightly more bitter take on the classic sipper. Grapefruit fizzy water, Prosecco, and blood orange juice make the whole thing sparkle and shine.

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