In times like these, we need to find pleasure in different ways, and what spreads more joy than a bowlful of homemade pasta? While I encourage you to take a stab at making your own pasta from scratch, I’m the first person to admit that buying a high-quality Italian product is just as delicious. If I’ve learned anything from my cooking lessons in Italy, it’s that the art of making a beautiful dish of pasta doesn’t require an artful level of skill – you just need an abundance of love.
Here are some of my easy pasta recipes you can whip up for a mid-week meal or a special weekend treat. Mangia mangia!
Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced, about 1 cup
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 4 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
- ½ cup walnuts, crushed
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1 14-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups cooked brown or green lentils
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 8 ounces spaghetti
- 1 cup sliced fresh basil, optional
- ½ cup toasted pine nuts
- red pepper flakes
- shaved pecorino cheese, skip if vegan
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and pinches of salt and pepper and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, another pinch of salt, and cook until soft, stirring only occasionally, about 8 more minutes.
2. Stir in the rosemary. Push everything to one side of the pan to make room for the walnuts. Add the crushed walnuts and toast them for about 30 seconds, then stir everything together. Stir in the garlic, then add the balsamic vinegar and tamari and stir to incorporate. Add the tomatoes, lentils, tomato paste, sage and fresh cherry tomatoes, and stir.
3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the sauce thickens. Season to taste.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the package, cooking until al dente. Drain and add the pasta to the pan with the sauce.
5. Serve with fresh basil, pine nuts, pinches of red pepper flakes and pecorino cheese, if desired.
- 1 lb ziti noodles
- 1.5 lbs ground spicy or sweet Italian sausage (or removed from casings)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano (or Parmigiano Reggiano) cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for serving
- 8 oz whole milk mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 2 cups)
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the ziti according to the package directions for very al dente, about 7 minutes. (It will continue to cook in the oven so you want to undercook it just a bit.) Drain and add the pasta back to the pot. Set aside.
2. Preheat the oven to 425°F and set the oven rack in the middle position.
3. Heat a large sauté pan (preferably nonstick) over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the pan and cook, breaking apart with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned and just cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked sausage to a plate. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan and set over low heat (if you don’t have enough fat in the pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil). Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until soft but not browned, about 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, sugar and red pepper flakes and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
4. Add the heavy cream, 1/3 cup of the Pecorino Romano, cooked sausage, and basil to the pan; stir until evenly combined. Carefully pour the contents of the sauté pan into the large pot with the pasta and gently stir to combine. Spoon half of the mixture into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the shredded mozzarella and half of the remaining Pecorino Romano. Spoon the remaining pasta mixture on top and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella and Pecorino Romano. Transfer to the oven and bake, uncovered, until the cheese has melted and browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Sprinkle with more basil and serve.
5. Make Ahead: This dish can be assembled and refrigerated, covered, up to 2 days in advance. Since the dish will be cold, the baking time will need to be increased. To bake, cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in a 425°F oven for 25 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly browned and the pasta is hot throughout.
Pasta with Creamy Mushrooms
- 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 lb. mixed mushrooms (such as maitake, oyster, crimini, and/or shiitake), torn into bite-size pieces
- Kosher salt
- 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
- 1 lb. spaghetti or bucatini
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ⅓ cup finely chopped parsley
- Zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- ½ oz. Parmesan, finely grated (about ½ cup), plus more for serving
- Freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium-high. Cook half of mushrooms in a single layer, undisturbed, until edges are brown and starting to crisp, about 3 minutes. Give mushrooms a toss and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until all sides are brown and crisp, about 5 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon, transfer mushrooms to a plate; season with salt. Repeat with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil and mushrooms and more salt.
2. Reduce heat to medium-low and return all of the mushrooms to the pot. Add shallots and cook, stirring often, until shallots are translucent and softened, about 2 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until very al dente, about 2 minutes less than package directions.
4. Using tongs, transfer pasta to pot with mushrooms and add cream and 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Increase heat to medium, bring to a simmer, and cook, tossing constantly, until pasta is al dente and liquid is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
5. Remove pot from heat. Add lemon zest and juice, parsley, butter, ½ oz. Parmesan, and lots of pepper and toss to combine. Taste and season with more salt if needed.
6. Divide pasta among bowls and top with more Parmesan. You can never have enough!
Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce
- 1 medium onion
- 4 garlic cloves
- 4 oz. Parmesan cheese
- 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 4.5-oz. tube double-concentrated tomato paste
- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 oz. vodka
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 lb. rigatoni
- Basil leaves (for serving)
- Kosher salt
1. Fill a stock pot or other large pot three-quarters full with water and heat over high. Toss in a handful of salt and bring to a boil while you do your other prep.
2. Peel and finely chop 1 onion
3. Firmly smash 4 garlic cloves with the flat side of a chef’s knife and remove peel.
4. Grate 4 oz. Parmesan on the smallest holes of the box grater.
5. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a Dutch oven over medium (position it next to pot of water). Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, just until onion is starting to brown around the edges, 5–7 minutes.
6. Add entire 4.5-oz. tube tomato paste and ½ tsp. red pepper flakes and stir until paste evenly coats onion. Continue to cook, stirring often, until paste is deep red and starting to brown on bottom of pot, 5–7 minutes.
7. Add 2 oz. vodka to deglaze pan and stir to incorporate, scraping bottom of pot. Reduce heat to low (any of your favourite brands will do).