Quick, easy, delicious, nutritious: these Italian dishes have all the culinary bases covered.

From the unending beauty of the undulating cypress tree-studded landscapes to the breath-taking relics of the ancient world, Italy is uniquely blessed with beauty, both natural and cultural. But just as compelling a draw is, famously, its food. And the strictly regional cuisine is no less fiercely protected than the Roman ruins themselves – and rightly so. Pasta, of course, remains king, typically served in Italy as a small ‘primi piatti’, or first plates. So enamoured are we Brits that we tend to forego the main course, or ‘secondo’, altogether and instead pile our plates high with spaghetti, penne, orecchiette, ravioli, or whatever pasta we can lay our hands on, so that it becomes a whole meal in itself. And why not? It’s quick, it’s tasty, it’s great for the whole family and it’s inexpensive. There are our top seven quick pasta dishes for great weeknight suppers. Big rustic glasses of red optional.

Main image: Brooke Lark

Summer Tagliatelle

Jamie Oliver

We may not be in summer quite yet, but we’re definitely hurtling towards the Spring Equinox, which means one thing: our culinary tastes are slowly emerging from the comfort-focused to the fresher, lighter and zingier. This Jamie Oliver recipe is for a souped-up pesto, made here with almonds rather than the traditional pine nuts. It also features potato chopped small and green beans – an homage to the way it is traditionally made in Liguria. Given that basil is a natural mood-enhancer, this is one of our weekly staples throughout the year, but it’s never nicer than when eaten outside under the sun.

Lemon Pasta

Olive Magazine

As a rule of thumb when it comes to cooking pasta, the simpler it is, the better it is. And it doesn’t come much simpler than this recipe for lemon pasta, which features just six ingredients. The secret lies in being liberal enough with the olive oil (no one wants dry pasta); and the rest will then take care of itself. The zing of the lemon cuts through the tang of parmesan beautifully, while a handful of flat leaf parsley lends added a gorgeous freshness.

Cavolo Nero Rigatoni

The River Café/ House & Garden

Few people this side of the Mediterranean do pasta as perfectly as The River Café. Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray founded their legendary riverside canteen in Hammersmith armed with culinary knowledge accrued over many years of research trips to Italy – trips that the duo (and now just Ruth) continued to take to keep topping up their regional expertise. This recipe, as featured in House & Garden, is another vote for absolute simplicity. It is extremely good for you too, given the kilo’s worth of the leafy green cavolo nero it contains. Perfect for a quick dinner that packs in the goodness too.


Great British Chefs/ Nathan Outlaw

Nathan Outlaw cut his teeth working with Rick Stein, before opening his own two Michelin-star operation, Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, in Port Isaac, Cornwall. He’s a man who is well-acquainted with his seafood, and here he puts it to spectacular use in his ‘fishgetti’, which uses king prawns, scallops and ling or cod, alongside cherry tomatoes and basil. It is every bit as tasty as you’d imagine; if you can’t make it to the seaside this year, then your taste buds can at least fool you into believing that you can practically taste the salt air. Perfect for weeknights, but great to share at more lavish dinner parties too – once they are a thing once more.

Cacio E Pepe

An Italian In My Kitchen

Cacio e pepe has been having a moment in British cuisine for some time. In Rome, of course, it has been a thing for rather longer, featuring on the menu of pretty much any trattoria you wander into (one of our first destinations, we vow, post lockdown). Italians are adamant about sticking with culinary tradition, and in the case of the deliciously creamy cacio e pepe, that means using pecorino, rather than parmesan cheese. Given that the name of the dish translates, simply, to ‘cheese and pepper’, it makes sense to go with the right kind (this recipe actually suggests three quarters pecorino and a quarter parmesan). Until we can get to Rome for a slice of la dolce vita, we’ll be scoffing this at least once a week.

Gennaro’s Classic Spaghetti Carbonara

Jamie Oliver

We’re sticking with Rome and its classic comfort food – this time with some pancetta thrown in for the carnivores. Jamie’s long-time mentor Gennaro Contaldo’s recipe is unfussy and perfect: take three large eggs, parmesan, garlic, pancetta and olive oil and you have all that you need for this comfort dish of dreams, which we love to eat all year round.

Squash And Chestnut Pasta


Much as we are spending many of our waking hours – and some of our sleeping ones too – anticipating summer, it is still March and we do still crave some of the comforts of the seaon just gone. This dish, from Riverford, is an absolute beauty. The nutty chestnuts with crispy sage and squash are a match made in heaven, all cut through with parmesan and lemon – and a whole clove of garlic. If you can get orecchiette (‘small ears’), it does work beautifully; however, most pasta will do just fine if you need something in lieu.

By Nancy Alsop
March 2021

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Nancy Alsop


Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.