21 Go-to Pasta Recipes You'll Make for the Rest of Your Life

Cacio e Plantain
Photo: Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Whether you're making your own fresh pasta or using the store-bought variety, nothing beats an excellent bowl of noodles. Cheesy, creamy, super satisfying pasta is the ultimate comfort food. Here, we've gathered together our favorite pasta dishes that you'll find yourself returning to again and again.

01 of 21

Penne alla Vodka

Penne Alla Vodka
Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

While some vodka sauce recipes lean on the creamy side, this version is more tomato-forward, loaded with bits of broken-down tomatoes and onion. The tomatoes are cooked for nearly an hour before the cream is added, concentrating their deep umami flavor.

02 of 21

Spaghetti with Clams and Braised Greens

Spaghetti with Clams and Braised Greens
© Greg DuPree

We didn't think spaghetti and clams could get better than the garlicky classic until chef Ashley Christensen of Poole's Diner in Raleigh, North Carolina, created a version that forever changed the way we look at this dish.

03 of 21

Vegetable and Ravioli Lasagna

Vegetable-and-Ravioli Lasagna
Rick Poon

Fresh spinach ravioli is a clever shortcut for making lasagna: Each ravioli is already a mini layer of pasta, cheese, and vegetable. This recipe is especially fast to make using pre-roasted or grilled vegetables from the deli counter.

04 of 21

Cheese Tortellini with Walnut Pesto

Cheese Tortellini with Walnut Pesto
Christina Holmes

Here's one of the quickest pesto sauces you'll come across. It's a perfect match for cheese tortellini, and you can use other tortellini such as mushroom or meat instead. The pesto is also great with just about any plain pasta.

05 of 21

Cheesy Mixed Pasta Casserole with Mushrooms

Cheesy Mixed Pasta Casserole with Mushrooms
© Lucy Schaeffer

This recipe is ideal for people who have lots of half-finished bags of different types of pasta at home. While the various pasta shapes cook at different rates in the water, they all become tender once baked.

06 of 21

Creamy Tomato Rigatoni

Creamy Tomato Rigatoni
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Torie Cox / Prop Styling by Claire Spollen

A judicious amount of heavy cream enriches this simple tomato sauce, producing a lush texture that clings to the pasta without blanketing richness. Crushing the canned tomatoes by hand creates a rustic mixture of tomato pulp, pieces, and puree.

07 of 21

Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe

spaghetti cacio e pepe
© John Kernick

There's a reason this one's so popular these days. Made with Pecorino Romano, a tangy aged sheep's milk cheese originally from Rome, and lots of freshly ground black pepper, cacio e pepe is a simple yet flavor-packed pasta dish.

08 of 21

Spinach and Ricotta Tortelli with Browned Butter

Spinach-and-Ricotta Tortelli with Browned Butter
© John Kernick

Tortelli is extremely silky and supple, which makes it excellent with the creamy ricotta and spinach filling. If there's any dough left over, cut it into noodles then dry it and store it in bags in the refrigerator to have on hand for last-minute dinners.

09 of 21

Stovetop Mac and Cheese

Stovetop Mac and Cheese
© Fredrika Stjärne

This clever, quick, and easy mac and cheese recipe eliminates the baking time, as well as the need for a white sauce. A combination of panko and Parmesan is sprinkled over the pasta and gets a brief pass under the broiler for a pleasing browned top.

10 of 21

Free-Form Sausage and Three-Cheese Lasagna

Free-Form Sausage-and-Three-Cheese Lasagna
© Quentin Bacon

This rustic and gooey lasagna is packed with cheese and sausage. The style is called free-form because the pasta can be arranged in different ways — for instance, folded over the filling — instead of traditionally layered.

11 of 21

Pasta Bolognese

Pasta Bolognese
© Fredrika Stjärne

A traditional combination of ground beef, pork, veal, and tomato is enriched by smoky pancetta in this Bolognese sauce. It's tossed with penne rigate and finished with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

12 of 21

Macaroni Gratin

Macaroni Gratin
© Fredrika Stjärne

This deliciously moist macaroni gratin is a far cry from American macaroni and cheese. Chef Benoît Guichard cooks the pasta in milk, then cools the cooking liquid down with ice cubes, a technique that keeps the macaroni from drying out.

13 of 21

Cacio e Plantain

Cacio e Plantain
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey / Prop Styling by Audrey Davis

Mildly sweet and super creamy, caramelized plantains and nutty Parmesan form a silky sauce that drapes over spaghetti in this recipe by game-changing chef Eric Rivera. Choose very ripe plantains, with a mostly or completely black peel. Cilantro stems add a pop of crunch and freshness along with their tender leaves; chop them finely for the garnish.

14 of 21

Calabrian Carbonara

Calabrian Carbonara
© Christina Holmes

Chef Andrew Carmellini uses Calabrian 'nduja, the spicy, spreadable sausage, to bring loads of delicious heat and flavor to his silky carbonara.

15 of 21

Pasta with Sausage, Basil, and Mustard

Pasta with Sausage, Basil and Mustard
Tina Rupp

In matching spicy sausage with a creamy mustard sauce and fragrant basil, British cookbook author Nigel Slater created a quick pasta supper with warm, mildly spicy flavors. In 2018, Food & Wine named this recipe one of our 40 best.

16 of 21

Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus

Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus
Andrew Purcell

Ready to go at a moment's notice, this asparagus-embellished classic is not only creamy, quick, and delicious, but it all cooks up in only one pot.

17 of 21

Speedy Baked Ziti

Speedy Baked Ziti
Pernille Pedersen

This is the fastest way to make really good baked ziti. The key is to doctor good-quality jarred tomato sauce with ground meat, onion, garlic, and spices. Once the meat is browned, everything comes together quickly and the dish bakes up to gooey cheesy perfection in just 15 minutes.

18 of 21

Pici Pasta with Roasted Garlic and Tomatoes

Pici with Roasted Garlic and Tomatoes
Photo by Victor Protasio / Food Styling by Micah Morton / Prop Styling by Missie Neville Crawford

If you've never made pasta before, pasta expert Meryl Feinstein recommends starting with pici, a thick, hand-rolled spaghetti from Siena that looks like a plump udon noodle.

19 of 21

Basil Three-Cheese Ravioli with No-Cook Fresh Tomato Sauce

Basil Ravioli
Greg DuPree

Press and seal fresh basil leaves in homemade pasta dough to make three-cheese ravioli that are as beautiful as they are delicious, paired in this recipe with a no-fuss, no-cook fresh tomato sauce that doesn't distract from the delicate pasta. You can make these ravioli ahead of time and keep them in the freezer for a speedy weeknight dinner.

20 of 21

Creamy Vegan Pasta with Greens, Peas, and Lemon Zest

Green Pasta in purple bowls
Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Kathleen Varner / Food Styling by Margaret Monroe Dickey

Quickly blanched greens and sizzling scallions and garlic meet in a surprisingly creamy vegan sauce for pasta, with a touch of white miso for added depth. Feel free to top with your favorite grated plant-based cheese, or just enjoy it all on its own.

21 of 21

Shortcut Baked Rigatoni with Meatballs

Shortcut Baked Rigatoni and Meatballs
Con Poulos

Dry pasta and meatballs get baked with mozzarella and marinara in this genius shortcut recipe. Use store-bought sauce for extra ease.

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