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This article was created in partnership with Barilla® as part of Together at the Table.

If you think spaghetti only has a place on your table if it's served with red sauce and meatballs, allow us to illuminate the possibilities. A box of spaghetti is a blank canvas: Add a few unexpected mix-ins and you've got a knockout meal.

To prove it, we turned to our friends at Barilla® and their recipe builders for inspiration. Then we created seven internationally inspired pasta combos you can whip up with just a few simple ingredients.

To get a steaming bowl of al dente goodness, boil Barilla Collezione Spaghetti one minute less than directed on the package. Next, sauté your ingredients in a pan until cooked through, toss with spaghetti, plate, and serve. Better yet, invite a friend or two to sample your handiwork.

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This article was created in partnership with Barilla® as part of Together at the Table.

It's easy to get overwhelmed when you're planning a dinner party. Do you play up your skills and cook something trés fancy? Do you make multiple entrées to satisfy every diet preference? Yes—but you do it the smart way and make pasta!

Pasta is one of those simple, universal foods that everyone loves. It pairs perfectly with all kinds of ingredients and flavors, and is the ideal staple of any plant-based diet (vegans, pescatarians, and Mediterranean diet lovers, rejoice!). Not to mention it's super easy to get on the table, even on a weeknight.

Since our friends at Barilla® know a thing or two about pasta, we teamed up with Barilla's executive chef, Lorenzo Boni, to create three delicious, crowd-pleasing recipes that don't require hours in the kitchen. In fact, these can all be made in 30 minutes or less (Monday night dinner party, anyone?). Pick your favorite, make them all, or get more recipe inspo here. Then sit back and enjoy all the happy faces around the table asking for seconds.

1. Rigatoni With Meatless Bolognese Ingredients

1 box Barilla® Collezione Rigatoni
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup white onion, chopped
12 ounces brown lentils, cooked
2 cups cremini mushrooms, ground
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Almond flour, toasted (optional)
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta for one minute less than indicated in package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

2. Meanwhile, heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook until softened.

3. Increase heat to medium. Add brown lentils and stir frequently, until heated through.

4. Add ground cremini mushrooms and tomato paste, and cook until softened. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

5. Stir cooked Barilla® Collezione Rigatoni and reserved pasta cooking water into the lentil-mushroom mixture, and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes, until heated through.

6. Remove skillet from heat. Sprinkle with toasted almond flour (if desired) and garnish with Italian parsley before serving.

2. Thick-Cut Spaghetti With Lobster, Cherry Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Bottarga Ingredients

1 box Barilla® Thick Spaghetti
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup garlic, sliced
12 ounces lobster, cut into small pieces
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups zucchini, diced
2 tablespoons bottarga (optional)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta for one minute less than indicated in package directions, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.

2. Meanwhile, heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until softened.

3. Increase heat to medium-high. Add lobster and cook, stirring frequently, until opaque.

4. Add cherry tomatoes and zucchini, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

5. Stir cooked Barilla® Thick Spaghetti and reserved pasta cooking water into the vegetables, and continue cooking for an additional 2-3 minutes, until softened.

6. Remove skillet from heat. Sprinkle with grated bottarga (if desired) and garnish with fresh basil before serving.

3. Quick Seafood Paella With Orzo Ingredients

1 box Barilla® Orzo
4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 white onion, diced
1 quart vegetable broth
6 ounces shrimp
6 ounces mussels
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup red pepper, diced
1 pinch saffron
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta for one minute less than indicated in package directions. Drain Barilla® Orzo when it has finished cooking.

3. Meanwhile, heat extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened.

4. Pour vegetable broth into skillet and add cooked orzo.

5. Reduce heat to low. Add shrimp and mussels, and cook until heated through.

6. Stir in cherry tomatoes, red pepper, and saffron. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

7. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven until thoroughly cooked, approximately 10 minutes.

8. Allow to cool and garnish with fresh basil before serving.

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Though it may not seem like it, not everyone is eating Paleo or ketogenic or Whole30. Some of us prefer not to chow down on all that meat and to chow down on all that pasta. If that describes you, you've come to the right place. These 17 vegetarian pasta recipes are genius riffs on their meaty counterparts. Who's ready to carbo-load?

Photo: Bianca Zapata

Anyone who's accused vegetarian Bolognese recipes of not having enough flavor clearly hasn't tasted this sauce. Loaded with two meatless yet meaty ingredients (red lentils and mushrooms) and a medley of veggies to liven up the tomato base, this protein-packed pasta topper is a perfect last-minute dinner. And better yet: The ingredients freeze well, meaning you can make it in bulk and reap the benefits for many meals to come.

Photo: Diethood

Goodness, gracious, great balls of ricotta! While many vegetarian meatball recipes look to the likes of lentils and mushrooms to beef themselves up (sans beef, of course), this recipe turns to creamy ricotta and grated veggies to create some of the most pillowy meatless balls we ever did dig into. Bread crumbs are used to hold them together, but you can also use toasted quinoa to pump up the protein and make them gluten-free.

Photo: Wendy Polisi

Looking to load up on veggies but can't stomach another salad? Make things more fun (and filling) by stacking layers of veg between piles of cheese and lasagna noodles. The result is a week's worth of leftovers—unless you're hosting a dinner party—and a heck of a lot of flavor. Feel free to add thinly sliced squash in place of the zucchini (or use both!), throw in mushrooms or artichokes for extra heartiness, and experiment with sauces (like spicy arrabiata) to tweak the taste to your liking.

Photo: Well Vegan

Sausage is to pasta what sprinkles are to ice cream. Yes, they're each delicious on their own. But together, now that is something special. Add sun-dried tomatoes and a creamy sauce to the mix, and you've got yourself a real carb-filled sundae. Fortunately for those who don't eat meat, vegetarian sausages are pretty darn tasty and stand up perfectly in pasta dishes like this one. Made creamy with homemade cashew sauce, this vegan dish is capable of convincing anyone that Meatless Monday should be more than once a week.

Photo: Familystyle Food

Do you ever feel like spaghetti noodles don't do sauce justice? How are you supposed to savor every ounce of sauce when the noodle is as small as a string? While that may work for pesto, we appreciate the girth of pappardelle, which is perfect for capturing heaps of ragu in every single bite. The shallots, balsamic vinegar, and chili flakes give it a little boom, kick, pow, and the rosemary and Parmesan are the perfect top-off for a simple yet satisfying meal.

Photo: Happy Veggie Kitchen

White wine and manchego aren't just for tapas nights. This vegetarian version of carbonara uses both to create its light yet still creamy sauce, which beautifully carries the earthiness of asparagus. For extra fiber, sub in whole-wheat pasta and feel free to use whatever type of noodle you have on hand (though hollow ones work best due to their sauce-holding abilities). Who needs bacon, anyway?

Photo: Pasta-based

News flash: The best vegetarian substitute for ground meat isn't a vegetarian protein. It's actually cauliflower florets. (And you thought cauliflower rice was impressive.) Mixed with chopped walnuts and a handful of spices, this meat-free meat sauce is so filling and flavorful we often end up eating it simply by the spoonful. Top on any pasta you fancy and sprinkle with fresh basil and freshly cracked pepper.

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If you're looking to make pasta in bulk (you know you're going to want seconds), bakes are often the way to go. Yes, that means a little more time in the kitchen, but this recipe keeps things simple with store-bought tomato sauce and pre-grated mozzarella cheese. To shave even more time off, opt for pre-cooked lentils or substitute crumbled tofu sautéed with yellow onions and garlic. We love the creaminess from cottage cheese and punchiness from red pepper flakes.

Photo: Bev Cooks

Wait, did we read that right? Does that ingredient list say sour cream? Why yes, yes it does. Nothing quite captures creamy like that ultimate cream sauce. Paired with paprika, garlic, bay leaves, and tomato paste, this pasta sauce is anything but ordinary—which is one of the many reasons we love it. Thinly sliced portobello and chunks of chopped kale are stirred throughout and scooped up with hearty egg noodles that soak up the sauce like none other.

Photo: Naturally Ella

This dish is like digging into life-size mac and cheese shells covered in herb-infused cream sauce—making it perfect for nights when you want to feel like a kid but enjoy the flavors of adulthood. Filled with fiber-rich butternut squash and sweetened with nutmeg and maple, this dish comforts in all the right ways. Pro tip: Add chopped spinach to the squash purée for some hidden greens.

Photo: Spicy Southern Kitchen

What's crunchy, creamy, and dreamy and packed with greens too? Broccoli tetrazzini, of course. Traditionally made with chicken or turkey, this tetrazzini gets its "meat" from none other than sliced mushrooms. Broccoli and cauliflower florets give it extra veggie oomph, and Parmesan cheese and milk create a rich sauce that's perfected with a golden panko topping. It's like biting into a hunk of garlic bread but way better.

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Never heard of pastitsio? A Greek spin on lasagna, pastitsio is baked pasta with meat sauce and béchamel. But who needs meat when you have pumpkin and feta on your side? Bulked up with peas and egg and covered in the classic cream sauce, this vegetarian bake is an amazing antidote for cold days or times when you're craving something a bit more decadent. (Psst... fall is a great time to make it, as you can swap in canned pumpkin purée.)

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But can it really be piccata if it doesn't have chicken? Yes, it can, and when it comes to pasta, it's arguably better without the added protein. Artichokes stand in for meat and prove that few other flavors pair so perfectly with lemon (not to mention that freshly shaved Parmesan cheese). Taking less than 30 minutes to make and requiring only one pot, this dinner is a great way to wind down after a long week.

Photo: Feasting at Home

Broccoli rabe, spicy sausage, and orecchiette is a classic. But just because it's classic doesn't mean it can't (or shouldn't) be tweaked. This recipe skips the meat and uses broccoli to create a blissfully green sauce that makes the pasta feel just as special as the original. Chili flakes and garlic provide the flavor kick you're looking for, and veggie broth makes it that much more savory. Top with Parmesan, lemon zest, or toasted bread crumbs.

Photo: Emiko Davies

Here's a pro tip for navigating an Italian menu: Sugo finto literally means "fake sauce." (And by fake, we mean meatless.) Made with tomatoes, onion, celery, carrot, and red wine, this sauce tastes far from fake. While we love making fresh pasta when the mood strikes, this recipe can be easily adjusted to include any kind of dry noodles.

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While the stuffed dish often turns off novice chefs, this recipe makes things more accessible by stuffing the filling into Ziploc bags and using them to push the ricotta mix into the tubes. Genius. We love the simplicity of flavors—garlic, cheese, and spinach do just the trick—and that our shopping list is fewer than 10 ingredients.

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Everybody loves pasta. Just like gravity and taxes, it’s one of life’s true facts. And, sure, one of the first things that probably comes to mind is a hearty bowlful topped with mounds of cheese and meatballs. But with the right ingredients, pasta dishes can actually be full of healthy vegetables and plant-based protein.

Whether you’re gluten-free, vegan, or trying out the Mediterranean diet, pasta is the fastest, easiest way to get a meal on the table everyone will love. Plus, you can go plant-based without giving up any of your favorite dishes. These nine vegan recipes are seriously good, quick to cook, packed with protein, and make meatless Mondays a walk in the park.

Who needs beef when you have this comforting, meat-free Bolognese? After minimal vegetable chopping, this sauce will simmer on the stove and make your whole kitchen smell like an Italian wonderland. The mushrooms create an umami moment, while walnuts give the sauce its hearty texture.

If someone said, “I don’t like lasagna,” I would tell that person to leave my life and never come back. I've seriously considered taking the Garfield route and living the lasagna-only life. With this dairy-free, plant-based version of the classic dish, I probably could.

A lentil marinara sauce and tofu-cashew ricotta gives you all the protein you need in one serving. Plus, this recipe teaches you how to make vegan ricotta and mozzarella. That said, if you’re in a hurry, you can always swap in store-bought, plant-based cheeses. Just layer everything in a pan, stick it in the oven, and have the loveliest of meals in less than an hour.

Did you know you can make vegan pancetta? Well, you can, and it’s amazing. This recipe uses tempeh, garlic, maple syrup, liquid smoke (optional, we say), and other spices for the pancetta, then calls for cashew cream to mimic that rich vodka sauce flavor. Pair with penne so all the little pasta ridges can absorb the flavorful sauce.

Whether you prefer tempeh or chickpeas, this recipe tells you how to make meatless meatballs from your protein of choice. Surprisingly, these vegan versions come together almost exactly like their meaty counterparts, and they look just like the real thing atop a plate of spaghetti. Plus, there's also a recipe for simple vegan Parmesan—a mixture of ground-up cashews, nutritional yeast, and garlic powder. If you can have dairy, feel free to add some traditional cheese to the dish for extra flavor, then pair with whole-grain spaghetti for a healthy, filling meal.

Sometimes you just want boxed macaroni and cheese. Sadly, that unnaturally orange packet of powder just isn't good for you. But don't worry, there’s a healthy version! This plant-based mac and cheese powder is made from all-natural ingredients and spices. Mix it up in seconds then add a dairy-free milk and pasta of your choice. It won’t be blindingly orange, but it will be delicious.

Kale is a miracle food, but it usually tastes more “healthy” than “OMG, I want some more.” This recipe has all the nutrition of kale but tastes like pesto. Even without the Parmesan, this sauce is a winner. Just mix together kale, olive oil, basil, garlic, lemon, pumpkin seeds, and spices in the food processor and you’ve got a delightful sauce in less than five minutes. If you don’t have pumpkin seeds, you can sub pine nuts or cashews.

Creamy and vegan usually don’t go together. But this ingenious recipe gives you all the creamy goodness of Alfredo sauce with none of the dairy. The cashews, lemon juice, and nutritional yeast (a must for nearly all things vegan and cheesy) give the pasta its Parmesan-like flavor, while the pureéd cauliflower makes the sauce a perfect consistency.

For a more classic homemade mac and cheese experience, try this butternut squash version. The squash gives the dish a natural cheddar color and creates a smooth, creamy texture. If you don’t have nutritional yeast on hand, no problem. This recipe creates the cheesy flavor from a combination of cashews, spices, and Dijon mustard. You’ll forget you’re getting a full serving of vegetables when you bite into this plant-based comfort food classic.

If you love doing the dishes, this is not the recipe for you. This mushroom stroganoff uses only one pot, minimal ingredients, and cooks up in 20 minutes. It’s a plant-based miracle. After chopping up some onions and mushrooms, throw everything in a pot and boil. Soon enough, you'll have a comforting bowl of pasta that doesn’t need a hint of meat to taste amazing.

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It's easy to be tempted by complicated, eye-catching recipes when you're hosting a dinner party. But more often than not, the hard-to-find ingredients, excessive steps, and lengthy cooking time mean you're out of steam before guests even arrive.

Luckily, we found 14 recipes that are simple and effortless but taste like you put your heart and soul into them. And yes, your guests will still be super impressed.

Photo: Donna Hay

Sometimes all you need is a simple—and in this case, purple—topping to take a meal from average to outstanding. But the basil isn't the only impressive item in this dish. The creamy burrata, caramelized balsamic vinegar, and sneaky kick from chili flakes make this spaghetti anything but traditional (or boring). But the best part is it only takes four steps to make—and looks like something out of a gourmet restaurant. Winner winner, spaghetti dinner? We think so.

Photo: Café Delites

Did you know pork chops are incredibly easy to make? It's pretty amazing what a quick season, sear, and simmer can accomplish. Ready in only 25 minutes, these garlicky, herby chops will no doubt wow your guests—and, quite frankly, your own taste buds. For a little extra oomph, add a 1/2 cup of dry white wine after sautéing the garlic and simmer for three minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.

Photo: Sweet and Savoury Pursuits

Remember how we mentioned that toppings can be showstoppers? Well, this pistachio crust is no exception. A simple garlic and honey layer is coated on the salmon before the pistachio gets piled on, giving the heart-healthy fish a subtle hint of sweet and plenty of garlicky goodness. Serve with steamed or sautéed green beans, whip up a simple side salad while the salmon is roasting, or throw some Brussels sprouts in the same pan and let the oven do its magic.

Photo: Endless Meal

Drunk in love? Try drunk on noodles. This Beyoncé-worthy dish uses an entire bottle of wine to give the spaghetti a robust, rich flavor that'll make you rethink eating plain tomato sauce ever again. Paired with spicy chorizo sausage and wilted black kale, the dish delivers on greens, protein, and basically everything you could want out of a pasta dish.

Photo: Damn Delicious

Slow cookers never cease to amaze us. Who knew you could make a pie in them? And we're not talking any pie; we're talking chicken pot pie. The creamy base is made totally from scratch, meaning you get bonus points for being a chef extraordinaire even though it's as simple as throwing the ingredients in and letting it do its thing. (No one needs to know the biscuits are actually store-bought.)

Photo: Happy Kitchen Rocks

Well isn't this a creative way to use lasagna sheets? Instead of ooey-gooey layers, this recipe uses the pasta to bundle asparagus and prosciutto for individual wraps of cheesy heaven. For easy-breezy prep, boil the lasagna and blanch the asparagus the night before. That way all you have to do is wrap, bake, and serve with a big ol' smile on your face.

Photo: Climbing Grier Mountain

A lot of people shy away from puff pastries because they're worried about making dough from scratch. We're here to tell you that there are times when store-bought is better than homemade—and this is one of those times. Simply thaw the dough, roll it flat, prick it a few times to keep it from overpuffing, brush with egg, and bake. The next step is possibly even easier. Coat the pastry with a sneaky mayo and cream cheese base and layer it with fresh tomatoes galore. It's like an adult pizza but better.

Photo: Simply Delicious Food

Speaking of store-bought superstars... let's talk about gnocchi. While making homemade gnocchi is all kinds of fun, whipping up dinner on a weeknight often means you're short on time. This recipe opts for a bag of the good stuff—as in, from-the-grocery-store gnocchi—and lets the sauce do the talking. With a base of bacon grease (umm, yes, please), fresh and canned tomatoes, and a splash of cream or yogurt, this dish couldn't be more comforting. The final step: layering the top with sliced mozzarella and baking until the cheese starts to bubble and brown.

Photo: No. 2 Pencil

We're going to let you in on a secret: Sheet-pan dinners are the key to foolproof, delicious meals. Not only do they look beautiful, but they literally cook on one baking sheet, meaning cleanup is minimal and your home will be looking fab. This recipe makes fajitas a fun and collaborative meal, with all the goodies in the middle and the sides and sauces for guests to customize as they see fit.

Photo: Foodness Gracious

Risotto isn't as needy as some chefs make you believe. While many say constant stirring is nonnegotiable, this recipe argues that the best risotto simply needs a little nudge (and stir) every now and again. Flavored with shallots, garlic, lemon, rosemary, white wine, and Parmesan, this risotto is actually pretty low-maintenance and a no-brainer come entertaining time.

Photo: Lauren Caris Cooks

Curry is another one of those dishes that can't help but impress the socks off guests. With its vibrant color, potent flavor, and unexpected add-ins, it's an easy treat for all kinds of eaters. This vegan variety uses red curry paste, coconut milk, and lots of ginger for its rich base, and three different greens—broccoli, spinach, and green beans—to up the veggies. Tofu also makes a great addition, as it perfectly soaks up the sauce (as do the small potatoes).

Photo: Honestly Yum

Mac 'n' cheese is an obvious choice, but mac 'n' cheese baked in squash? We bet you didn't see that one coming. Acorn squash is used as the vehicle of choice, providing a sturdy exterior for the extra-gooey inside. The white cheddar pairs perfectly with the mild sweetness of the squash, and the acorn vessel looks all kinds of Instagrammable. Feel free to add pancetta for a surprise twist or fresh oregano for some herby flair.

Photo: Chelsea’s Messy Apron

Cooking for picky eaters? Why not try this healthy spin on deep-fried fish and chips. The recipe ups the nutrition with homemade French fries and baked yet crispy fish. The flavor gets diversified with an unexpected mustard batter and Parmesan cheese mixed into the coating. Serve with lemon wedges, tartar sauce, ketchup (bonus points for homemade), and, if you're embracing your inner Brit, some vinegar.

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Sometimes the combination of thick noodles and beef just can't be beat. Flank steak is cooked with garlic, tomatoes, carrots, bay leaves, and thyme and cooked for 6 to 8 hours until the meat is so juicy it literally melts in your mouth. Then comes the pasta, which requires a simple boil, straining, plopping into a bowl, and smothering with the ragu. For extra flavor and presentation points, add a dollop of ricotta on top and sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley. We're drooling just thinking about it.

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Orzo may be one of those foods you come across at the store but never actually buy because you’re not quite sure what to do with it. And we don’t blame you for being a bit stumped. With the appearance of rice but the taste and texture of pasta, it’s tricky figuring out just what kind of dish it’ll really shine in.

But that’s precisely the beauty of these miniature morsels—they’re perfect both ways and beyond! From replacing the rice in a burrito bowl to getting tossed in a Bolognese sauce to fulfilling the carb quotient of a grain bowl, orzo’s full of delicious opportunities. Start with the 21 orzo recipes we’ve picked for you right here!

Poultry
Photo: The Girl Who Ate Everything

While store-bought rotisserie chicken makes this recipe even easier to make, it isn’t an absolute must; browning your own chicken takes all but five extra minutes to do. Whatever route you choose, the meat adds a useful punch of protein to this light pasta dish. With only 1/4 cup of Parmesan, it adds just enough cheesiness without going overboard.

Photo: Salt and Lavender

Swap out the rice for pasta to bring a little Italian flair into this Mexican meal. With chicken, avocado, black beans, and corn also in the mix, it’s a deliciously perfect cross between a pasta salad and a burrito bowl.

Photo: Cooking Chat Food

Although this stovetop orzo tastes all sorts of indulgent, its components are surprisingly healthy. Turkey sausage provides lean protein, while lots of kale and red peppers add color, fiber, and vitamins. With heart-healthy olives and calcium-rich feta finishing things off, it’s the kind of dish that makes pasta night feel virtuous.

Photo: Cooking Maniac

Both chicken and chickpeas are tossed into this simple meal to make it a quick but protein-powered dinner on busy nights. Note that you do need to marinate the chicken overnight for maximum flavor benefits, but it’s a five-minute prep job and so worth it when you’re digging into the juicy, cumin- and paprika-spiced meat the next day.

Photo: Uproot Kitchen

Instead of regular egg noodles, rice-like orzo makes it much easier to get some of that carby action in every single bite, while turkey instead of chicken makes for a subtle flavor variation. With the usual mix of carrots and celery in the mix and seasoned with lemon and parsley, the dish is full of comfort but fresh and bright at the same time.

Beef and Pork
Photo: Chocolate Slopes

The pork and strawberry combo isn’t one you see every day, but once you taste this grain-based salad, you’ll be wondering why the two aren’t paired together more often. The sweet and savory flavors can’t be beat, while crunchy cucumbers and chewy orzo add even more texture. Coated in a zesty homemade balsamic dressing, it’s the kind of salad that’ll steal any entrée’s thunder.

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Made in a single skillet, this weeknight-friendly orzo is convenient without being boring. While the spinach and tomato dutifully offer nutritious benefits alongside the lean ground beef, tangy green olives and crumbly feta provide punches of flavor and texture.

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With a cooking time of seven to 10 minutes as opposed to at least 20 minutes for rice, orzo is the quick-fix solution to get a simple pilaf on the table. Pork sausages give the meal more substance, lots of dried herbs easily add depth of flavor, and a scattering of raisins makes for a sweet surprise every few bites.

Photo: Bowl of Delicious

Even though you may not have had this Greek comfort food dish, it’s sure to become a go-to for dinner once you try it. The beef is soaked in a unique, cinnamon- and mint-kissed tomato broth that’s warm and satisfying, while the use of whole-wheat orzo adds some fiber to the meaty meal.

Photo: Carmy

With ground beef, tomato paste, and lots of garlic, this Bolognese features many components of the classic, but a few key differences make it special. The addition of mushrooms provides extra meatiness without the cholesterol, and a handful of peas add color. Plus, the use of orzo instead of spaghetti allows you to scoop up big, hearty bites with a spoon instead of having the sauce fall off a fork.

Seafood
Photo: Kudo's Kitchen By Renee

For a meal that scores big on presentation and on being a palate pleaser, these adorable avocado boats fit the bill. The orzo and veggies are stirred into avocado mash before the entire mixture is packed into the empty halves of the fruit. It’s eye-catching, easily made in advance, and best of all, requires minimal cleanup.

Photo: Julie's Eats and Treats

“Pasta,” “Italian,” and “light” aren’t words you’d usually see in the same sentence, but that’s exactly what this dish manages to be. Without gobs of cheese or glugs of olive oil, it’s not the kind of pasta dinner that weighs you down, but the sprinkle of Parmesan, heart-healthy salmon, and nutty, whole-wheat orzo certainly make it feel like a satisfying Italian meal.

Photo: Chelsea's Messy Apron

All you have to do is swap out regular rotini for orzo, and this tuna pasta salad feels like a brand-new dish. With kalamata olives, parsley, and feta, plus a red wine vinegar dressing, there’s a distinct Mediterranean touch here that makes the dish feel extra healthy.

Photo: The Beach House Kitchen

Pan-seared scallops are a popular appetizer, but make them main meal-worthy by piling them on top of a bed of orzo that’s been flavored with garlic, lemon, and white wine. It’s a classy meal for date night, but the ease of prep here also makes it just as viable an option on a Monday evening.

Photo: Food Banjo

Five main ingredients and just 20 minutes are all it takes for this light and lemony soup to make it from the stove to your bowl. The broth is zesty without being overpowering, and with the orzo and shrimp soaking it all in, every spoonful is a burst of savory yet citrusy flavor.

Meatless
Photo: Homegrown Provisions

With asparagus and peas, this almost tastes like a springtime risotto, but the bonus is that this version comes together in a snappy 20 minutes thanks to the use of orzo instead of rice; plus, there’s zero dairy in the entire recipe, allowing the veggies to shine through and vegans to get in on the fun.

Photo: Honest Cooking

Figs and blue cheese are a pretty dynamic duo on their own, but add orzo, walnuts, and fresh herbs, and you’ve got a meal that satisfies every taste bud. It’s not a dish you see every day, which makes it impressive while still easy to make; with the balsamic glaze and bursts of red cherry tomatoes, it’s also a beautiful addition to any table.

Photo: Le Creme De La Crumb ..
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There’s never really a bad time for Italian food. Whether you’re planning a fancy date night, need a crowd-pleasing cuisine for a group dinner, or simply want a casual slice of pizza, you can count on Italian as a pretty safe and satisfying bet.

That said, we’re not going to lie—a lot of the food at American-Italian restaurants these days can leave you feeling like there’s a huge rock in your stomach, thanks to being heavy on the carbs, drenched in rich dairy, and often pretty meaty.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. From eggplant Parmesan to risotto, these recipes take some of the most commonly found menu items in restaurants and give them a healthier spin. Buon appetito!

Appetizers
Photo: Ceara's Kitchen

Considering they're usually fried and packed with cheese, nothing about traditional arancini balls are that healthy (or vegan). They are mouthwatering, though, so re-creating them is a must. This recipe uses nutritional yeast for the cheesiness factor and bakes the balls to keep them practically oil-free. What could make them even better? A marinara dipping sauce, made creamy with the addition of tahini to keep everything dairy-free.

Photo: Pure Ella

Minestrone soup in restaurants usually contains tubular or shell macaroni, but when it’s your kitchen, it’s your choice—why not switch things up with gluten-free spaghetti torn into shorter strips? Plus, while most versions of this soup contain a ton of ingredients, this one takes the “less-is-more” approach and relies on fewer than 10 main components to create a well-seasoned, super-filling vegetarian soup.

Photo: The Cookie Rookie

The king of all Italian salads is also probably one of the simplest and most satisfying. In restaurants, you’ll find it presented as thick slices of tomato and mozzarella, with basil leaves in-between and balsamic drizzle on top. This version serves it up slightly differently, with cherry tomatoes, balls of the cheese, chopped herbs, and balsamic reduction all mixed up in a bowl. Rest assured, this way tastes just as good, if not better.

Photo: Whitney Bond

This pasta and bean soup can usually be counted on as a healthy starter at most Italian restaurants, but making it at home guarantees quality control on every single ingredient. This recipe uses fresh veggies and canned beans, while opting for gluten-free pasta and swapping the bacon out for ground beef to make it a heartier dish.

Photo: The Healthy Toast

Egg whites, oats instead of white bread crumbs, and lean ground chicken instead of beef for the meatballs make this Italian wedding soup a good deal lighter than the regular kind, while pearled couscous instead of pasta simply switches up the textures. Plus, while most wedding soups use spinach or escarole as their green of choice, this one opts for kale for a chewier bite and tons of vitamins.

Photo: Kitchen Concoctions

Few restaurants are memorable for their salads, but Olive Garden’s bread crumb-studded, cheese-garnished pile of veggies drizzled in creamy dressing can’t be beat. While this recipe is super faithful to the salad ingredients (down to the black olives and the pepperoncini peppers), it takes a somewhat healthier approach to the dressing, with Greek yogurt option instead of mayo and presumably less sugar.

Photo: Nourished Simply

At restaurants, antipasto salads are more like bowls of chopped meat and cheese with a few peppers thrown in. Not this one. With romaine, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, roasted peppers, and mushrooms, the veggies are the stars here. Don’t worry, though: Provolone, ham, and salami certainly make their presence felt, but a little of each goes a longer way than you’d think.

Main Meals
Photo: Wholefully

Sure, Noodles and Company isn’t the epitome of authentic Italian food, but there’s no denying that its penne rosa dish is the kind of fantastically creamy and carb-loaded meal you want to face-plant into. Before you do, whip up this copycat version, which uses Greek yogurt instead of cream, whole-wheat pasta, and lots of fresh spinach for added fiber. All right, now you can face-plant.

Photo: Well Nourished

This veggie-packed Bolognese recipe is notable for thoughtfully offering several ways to enjoy this Italian restaurant staple without compromising on your dietary choices. Need to make it Paleo? Serve it over zucchini noodles. Go for gluten-free pasta if you wish. Not a meat eater? A can of lentils works great in place of the beef or chicken. No matter how you choose to eat it, there’s no way you’ll go wrong.

Photo: Jar of Lemons

Oodles of cheese. A meaty filling. Thick sheets of refined flour pasta. How could you possibly healthify the decadent lasagna? For starters, layer lots of sliced veggies in-between the other ingredients. Then, substitute cottage cheese in place of the ricotta. With just those two simple tweaks, you can turn this restaurant favorite into a meal you don’t have to save for special occasions.

Photo: Layers of Happiness

Leave that take-out menu in the drawer. Instead, you can roll out a pizza dough, layer on the toppings, and bake the entire thing, all in just 20 minutes! Don’t believe it? Try it for yourself and let us know how it worked out in-between bites of thin, crispy crust, juicy tomato sauce, and ooey-gooey cheese.

Photo: The Live-In Kitchen

Eggplant soaks up oil like a sponge, meaning that deep-frying it—as one does for regular eggplant Parm—essentially amounts to eating glugs of extra fat that may leave you feeling weighed down and queasy (and that’s before the cheese is added!). For results that are equally delicious but come without the food coma, this recipe broils the eggplant slices without breading them, uses thin slices of cheese instead of entire layers, and opts for a light bread crumb topping.

Photo: Super Healthy Kids

With cheese, eggs, bacon, and pasta—and sometimes, even cream—pasta carbonara is basically the dish that inspired this article. Give it a makeover with turkey bacon, less cheese, and whole-wheat pasta without losing the killer sauce that the egg yolk creates. You’re welcome.

Photo: Trois Fois Parjour

You may not think of a luxurious risotto as the type of meal you can cook at home, but not only is it possible, it’s also a quick, 20-minute endeavor! With a pinch of saffron, a splash of white wine, and just enough butter and cheese, this has all the ingredients it needs to achieve restaurant quality without nearly as much richness.

Desserts
Photo: Shoot the Cook

Spongy, espresso-soaked ladyfingers, heavy whipping cream, that light cocoa dusting… it’s really not the end of an Italian meal unless tiramisu makes an appearance. These individualized cups not only make for easy portion control but also use honey for a slightly healthy sweetener, while ricotta instead of mascarpone cheese adds more protein.

Photo: My Little Italian Kitchen

A crunchy shell on the outside, a creamy sweet cheese filling on the inside… what’s not to love about cannoli? This healthier version keeps all the good stuff about this quintessential Italian pastry but leaves out the less desirable bit, going for a baked method instead of deep-frying the dough. It’s healthier, less messy, and just as finger-licking good.

Photo: Destination Delish

With eggs, cream, and generous spoonfuls of sugar, this fluffy, semi-frozen dessert is like the cousin of an ice cream cake—no ice cream maker necessary. This egg-free recipe makes it a tad healthier, using part-skim ricotta and reduced fat cream cheese, plus just three tablespoons of honey in the entire thing.

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Breakfast and pasta may not seem like two words that belong in the same breath. But if you think about it, pasta is just another grain, and aren’t grains often part of a healthy morning meal?

So while dishes like macaroni and eggs or honey feta orzo might sound strange, we promise it won’t take you long to get used them once you realize just how good they taste. Plus, let’s be honest, aren’t we all looking for more reasons to eat pasta?

Photo: Half Baked Harvest

From spinach and mushrooms to eggs and cheese to pasta and even bacon, this hash really has it all. While it’s definitely on the heavier side of the spectrum, it’s also ideal for special occasions, for brunch gatherings, or for when you’re really, really hungry.

Photo: Melanie Makes

It’s a mystery why more people don't consider carbonara a breakfast food by more people, considering it contains both bacon and eggs. Still, it’s never too late to start enjoying a bowl of it first thing in the morning—and it’s so good, it won’t take too long to get used to it, either.

Photo: Bacon Egg Cheesecake

Eggs and asparagus are an underrated but totally dynamite combination. Add both to a heap of whole-wheat pasta, coat everything in a light but creamy yogurt-based sauce, and dig into your new favorite single-serving breakfast.

Photo: Cotter Crunch

“Healthy” and “Tex Mex” aren’t usually two words paired in the same sentence, but this lasagna manages to pack in a ton of nutrients while still being a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal. With pinto beans, eggs, and Parmesan, it’s full of filling protein and can easily be made vegetarian and gluten-free too.

Photo: Living Well Kitchen

It may be called pizza, but instead of a crust, there’s pasta at the base of this skillet recipe. Beans, cheese, and jalapeño give it its Mexican flair, while over-easy eggs bump it up to breakfast status.

Photo: Chef De Home

You’ll find these noodles on breakfast tables all over South Asia—now bring 'em to yours. With veggies and vermicelli, mustard seeds, and even ketchup for flavoring, it’s a fun fusion dish anyone who loves a savory, spicy start to the day.

Photo: A Side of Sweet

For many of us oats lovers, veggies aren’t a common component of breakfast, but this recipe might just change that. Packed with mushrooms and kale, it puts you well on your way to your five-a-day goal, but you’re also still getting buttery, cheese-topped pasta as part of the deal.

Photo: Maria's Menu

Filling, forgiving, and fast, an omelet is great for using up stray ingredients in the fridge—but it’s far from a throwaway meal. This one incorporates leftover cooked pasta, several veggies, and cheese for a well-rounded, nutrient-rich breakfast that takes just about five minutes to cook.

Photo: Breakfast Drama Queen

This bake comes with a few extra steps, but some of them can be done in advance, making this a great dish for brunchtime entertaining or meal prep. Plus, when you dig into gooey egg yolk, rich tomato sauce, and cheesy pasta, all that extra effort will be so worth it.

Photo: Cooking LSL

Inspired by a traditional Bulgarian breakfast, this sweet and savory bowl may contain ingredients you never thought to put together, but the combination is as tasty as it is unlikely. Don’t be surprised if this replaces your bowl of oats a few times a week.

Photo: The Lean Green Bean

This elbow macaroni bake is the perfect balance of healthy and hearty, packing in chicken sausage and cheese but also some generous servings of veggies for some much-needed morning fiber. Bonus points if you use whole-grain pasta for extra vitamins.

Photo: House of Nash Eats

Passed down through generations, this recipe is a longtime staple for this blogger’s family—and for good reason. The pairing of elbow macaroni with creamy scrambled eggs is unexpectedly good and qualifies as serious comfort food. Watch it become a regular breakfast in your house too.

Photo: Healthy Recipe Ecstasy

With lower-fat dairy, a combo of whole eggs and egg whites, and gluten-free fettuccine, this kugel is a lighter version of the classic egg noodle dish, but no less tasty. Don’t be too alarmed by the pairing of graham cracker crumbs with cheesy pasta—it sounds slightly wacky but works wonderfully.

Photo: The Hidden Veggies

The refined carbs and gluten of an everything bagel may not work for everyone, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t love the spice blend of poppy seeds, dried onion and garlic, etc. Ditch the wheat and keep the seasoning to use in this brown rice pasta. And just to prove that not every breakfast needs eggs, this one opts for tofu for some quality vegan protein.

Photo: Easy Peasy Creative

If you can mix rice with milk, cinnamon, and sugar and call it pudding, there’s no reason you can’t do something similar with pasta. This eastern European breakfast favorite may be an acquired taste and texture for some, but like with all acquired tastes, you’ll swear by it once it grows on you.

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