Pasta: It’s possibly the world’s most perfect comfort food. What could be more soothing and satisfying than a gooey bowl of mac and cheese or a plate of creamy spaghetti carbonara laced with chewy, smoky bits of pancetta?
It’s also possibly one of the world’s greatest convenience foods. Pasta is quick to cook and can serve as the base of a million and one quick and easy dinners. Just add a bit of protein (leftover chicken, diced ham, a can of chickpeas, or olive oil-packed tuna), some vegetables (frozen ones work great here), and a little bit of sauce (red sauce, pesto, cream, or the quick fresh tomato sauce with basil, garlic, and a few glugs of good olive oil that’s shown here) and dinner is done.
Of course, one of our other favorite things about pasta is that it’s such an excellent vehicle for cheese—fluffy piles of finely grated Parmesan; luscious sauces loaded with cheddar and Gruyère; sweet, creamy dollops of fresh ricotta. But high-quality pasta is truly exquisite even without burying it mounds of cheese, so it’s worth your while to spring for the good stuff. Choose pasta that’s made with 100 percent semolina flour, and look for a rough texture, which will grab the sauce better and is usually an indicator that the pasta has been made in small batches.
There’s also a huge selection of gluten-free and wheat-free pasta in most grocery stores now, made from rice, quinoa, chickpeas, corn, or almond flour. A common complaint about non-wheat pastas is that they can be mushy, so watch that cooking time carefully and begin tasting it a few minutes early so you can drain it as soon as it’s perfectly al dente.
Now, let’s get a pot of water boiling and whip up something delicious for dinner! The recipes ahead are guaranteed to inspire many incredible meals.