Pasta & Noodle
Whether you’re looking for a quick meal or something extra special, pasta and noodle dishes are a great place to start. Be inspired by some of our favorites!
Sometimes it’s the simple dishes that are most satisfying. And sometimes those simple dishes aren’t as simple as they look. There’s a reason pasta and noodle dishes are beloved, not just in their countries of origin, but across the world. As flexible as they are filling, both can be thrown together in ten minutes for a quick meal or slaved over all afternoon for an extra-special occasion.
While a pack of dried pasta and a jar of sauce might be fine for quelling those carb cravings, it’s worth learning to make a good sauce from scratch. Doing so is well worth the effort even if cooking for one, but you’ll be ready to host dinners at the drop of a hat too. Something as simple as a homemade pesto doesn’t just taste tantalizingly fresh, it’s also a guaranteed talking point that will allow you to wallow in compliments!
These recipes won’t cover making the pasta itself fresh, but if you do want to go that extra mile, we’ve covered homemade pasta before in our blog. Here you’ll discover the right flavors for bringing out the best in these most deceptively simple of food families, and suggested ways to elevate them to the centerpiece of your dinner party. These are great places to start for anyone getting into cooking, but also essentials for experienced chefs.
Basic but buonissimo
There’s no better place to start than with the aforementioned homemade pesto. Like so much Italian cuisine, pesto is incredibly easy to make—when you know how! Just picking up the ingredients and improvising will almost certainly result in your guests grimacing through mouthfuls of leafy oil. It’s important to find a recipe you like and master it.
Most newcomers to Italian cooking will learn to make a tomato-based sauce first, but the advantage of pesto is how well it pairs with practically any type of pasta. This traditional recipe uses penne, but feel free to use whatever you have available, so long as it’s not too scrawny (avoid pastinas, which are suited to broths).
Some would argue that pine nuts are the unsung heroes of pesto—others say it’s all about the right cheese (go for parmesan, pecorino or grana padano). However, what elevates this pesto above store-bought is the freshness of the basil used. You may even want to consider growing your own (or maintaining a store-bought basil plant). It’s also worth investing in good olive oil if you really want to knock it out of the park.
Pasta and pesto is a match made in heaven, but if you really want to jazz it up, cooked chicken, green beans or even boiled potatoes make great additions.
A taste of Napoli
While pesto may be perfect for a sunny lunchtime, Napoli’s heartier flavors lend themselves brilliantly to an evening with family or friends. Spaghetti Napoli combines tomatoes, black olives, and red wine for a mouthwatering intensity not usually associated with vegan dishes. Of course, non-vegans may want to throw in chunks of mozzarella in prior to serving!
It only takes 25 minutes to make Spaghetti Napoli, but if you’re really aiming to impress people, blow their minds by serving fresh-baked bread for mopping up all that leftover sauce. You don’t have to limit yourself to just the one course either. Napoli is on the coast, so serve this as a precursor to fish, or simply start dinner with an antipasto board of anchovies, artichokes, and/or cured meats.
Make sure you have a playlist of Neapolitan mandolin music prepared and tell your guests to bring plenty of red wine!
The way of the Dragon
A couple of good pasta dishes are essential parts of any home chef’s repertoire. Not only do they taste great, but knowing the ins and outs of pasta provides a gateway to other cuisines. Variations of pasta have existed across Europe and Asia for centuries—its most famous relation, of course, being noodles. In fact, the word “noodle” comes from Nudel, the German word for pasta.
Noodles have existed in China for millennia, and like they’re cousin pasta, owe their popularity to their versatility, even if it’s not always obvious just how versatile they are. People know that tortellini is a type of stuffed pasta, for example, but few think of wontons or jiaozi as stuffed noodles.
Noodle recipes can be banquet-levels of elaborate, but this delicious vegetarian stir-fry takes less than half-an-hour to create. It makes a great healthy meal for all the family, but you can also build a dinner party around it too. Try starting with homemade spring rolls or throw in a nod to the Italian connection by serving Chinese Artichoke.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of pasta and noodles, you’ll probably want to branch out and started experimenting, whether it’s creating tortellini from scratch, broadening your culinary horizons across Asia, or making your noodles from vegetables for that extra health kick.