13 Dishes That Celebrate the Many Faces of Pasta

WAYS TO USE PASTA

Pasta is widely considered the ultimate comfort food. Even gluten-sensitive stomachs previously denied the pleasures of pasta can now enjoy gluten-free rice and quinoa-based pastas of all shapes and sizes. Aside from being delicious and easy to prepare, pasta is also shelf stable and inexpensive. Boxes of pasta that are easily four servings can cost as little as $1. These dishes highlight some favorite ways to use pasta that span many cultures and appeal to all ages.

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ORZO SALAD

While orzo looks like rice, it is part of the pasta family and lends itself particularly well to salads. A traditional Greek salad can become a satisfying main dish when tossed with orzo according to instructions posted on Allrecipes. Using orzo as a base is also a great way to add bulk to a dish for large parties. It works well served warm, room temperature, or chilled.

KASHA VARNISHKES

This classic Jewish dish combines pasta bowties with tender buckwheat for a hearty and flavorful dish. It can serve as a side dish, snack, or the focus of a meal when made with egg and topped with onion and mushroom gravy. A recipe on Epicurious is simple, using a few household staples such as salt, pepper, and onion.

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SPAGHETTI MARINARA

Most everyone from young to old celebrates the marriage of long noodles with tangy, sweet tomato sauce rich in garlic, onion, and herbs. Personalize this classic American-Italian dish by perfecting homemade sauce and fortifying it with additions of your choice, such as sausage, meatballs, roasted mushrooms, or baked fennel.

MACARONI AND CHEESE

The best versions of this family favorite (such as a recipe from Ina Garten) are rich with a mixture of fine cheeses and bathed in a béchamel sauce, then topped with crispy breadcrumbs before heading into the oven. Whether you opt for a fancy lobster-infused version or familiar yellow-powdered cheese sauce, the building blocks remain the same: pasta and cheese -- always delicious.

FETTUCCINI WITH GARLIC AND OIL

Pasta may be the star of many dishes, but sauces and dressings tend to steal the show. When a strong pasta craving is for the noodle itself, use garlic and oil to envelope fettuccini without masking the flavor of the pasta. The pungent flavors of garlic and oil make a simple and delicate seasoning.

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PAPPARDELLE WITH MUSHROOM RAGÙ

Of all the pasta shapes, pappardelle is the one most commonly paired with ragù. The wide, flat noodles make a good companion to the hearty sauce. With a recipe from Eataly, a wine and mushroom ragù takes on impressive depth of flavor, elevating dinner parties or even a low-key night. Yet this dish is surprisingly easy and incredibly satisfying.

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LASAGNA

One of the best aspects of lasagna is the creativity it allows. This layered casserole can be built with classic meats, as in a traditional recipe on Taste of Home, or just as easily with roasted vegetables. Similarly, you can change the sauce from classic marinara to a creamy béchamel for a white lasagna. Combine with noodles and cheese and bake to hot, bubbly perfection.

FUSILLI WITH CAULIFLOWER AND PINE NUTS

This light, vegetarian pasta dish works beautifully as a side or as the primary plate. Combine one pound of cooked fusilli with a quarter cup toasted pine nuts, a small handful of golden raisins, a head of cauliflower cut into florets and roasted with salt and pepper, the zest of half a lemon, and a quarter cup grated Parmesan cheese. Dress with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste and optional chili flakes.

STUFFED MANICOTTI

This simple dish is a favorite during childhood and then tends to fade from the menu. While the humble yet ubiquitous combination of mild cheese, tender noodles, and tangy tomato sauce may not be the height of sophistication, this home-style dish deserves a spot in every home cook's repertoire. Consider a crowd-pleasing version on Allrecipes for a family potluck.

PASTA SALAD

Especially good for picky vegetable eaters, pasta salad is a way to incorporate a host of veggies such as tomatoes and bell peppers into dinner. Sliced deli meats and cheeses such as salami and provolone are other possible additions to a basic version posted on Allrecipes, as are more veggies such as blanched broccoli or asparagus for a more substantial dish.

RAVIOLI

Perhaps the most famous stuffed pasta, ravioli come in many different shapes and flavors. Surprisingly simple to make from scratch with a recipe on Epicurious, ravioli are a fun way to enjoy pasta. The sauce on the outside is usually light, such as olive oil or classic marinara.
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ORECCHIETTE WITH BROCCOLI RABE

The name of this pasta means "little ear," and the slightly curved shape helps it scoop up sauce. The classic combo for orecchiette is bold and bitter broccoli rabe with tangy Parmesan cheese and a hint of spice from red chili. The rich flavors of a Martha Stewart recipe make this dish filling and satisfying yet incredibly simple.

BAKED ZITI

This kid-approved dish is perfect for birthday parties and picnics. Baked ziti has become so popular that it is now a common pizza topping. Build on a simple recipe posted on Allrecipes by adding roasted vegetables, different cheeses, or sautéed meats to make it your own.