Authenic Italian Pasta Recipes

spaghetti bolognese

Some of these recipes take a bit more time to put together than the quick pasta recipes I shared with you, but they are authentic Italian pasta recipes, so they’re worth it.

Ragu alla Bolognese

This is the real thing, from the Bologna region of Italy. Rich, thick and full of flavour. You can serve it with any pasta you choose, although Italians don’t serve it with spaghetti. It also makes a great lasagne or a filling for cannelloni. If you don’t like liver then leave it out, but it does add a depth of flavour so try it and see. You might be pleasantly surprised… Serves 4 – 6.

ragu bolognese

1 tablespoon olive oil
400g lean minced beef (5% fat)
50g chicken livers, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
50g smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, chopped
1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely sliced
150 ml red wine
240 ml beef stock
1 400g can chopped plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 dried bay leaf
A pinch of dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Heat a non-stick pan until very hot. Add the mince without any oil or fat – this is known as dry frying – and cook for about 8 – 10 minutes, breaking up the lumps as you go with a wooden spoon. Cook until the mince is browned and no trace of pink remains. Tip the mince onto a plate and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in the same pan and add the onion, bacon, carrot and celery. Lower the heat to medium and fry until the vegetables have softened and the bacon is crisp. Add the garlic (use a garlic crusher to reduce it to a pulp) and fry for 2 minutes. Don’t allow the garlic to burn or it will taste bitter. Add the liver (if using) and fry for a few minutes until browned.

Return the mince to the pan, add the tomatoes, and use the wine to rinse out the can, adding the wine and tomato juice to the pan. Pour in the beef stock.

Season with salt and pepper, add the bay leaf, oregano and tomato puree, stir well and lower the heat to a simmer, so that the sauce is just bubbling gently. Allow to cook without a lid for about an hour, stirring occasionally. The sauce should thicken and darken in colour. If you can, leave it to cook for 2 hours as it will be even richer and tastier.

Remove the bay leaf and serve the sauce stirred through some penne, tagliatelle or rigatoni pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese before serving on warmed plates with a good Italian red wine to wash it down.

Spaghetti Carbonara


Carbonara is one of those dishes that look deceptively simple but have so much flavour. It originates in Lazio, Rome. This is so good, smoky and delicious. I’m sure it will soon become a favourite with you. Serves 4.

2 tablespoons olive oil
25g butter
175g smoked bacon or pancetta, cut into strips
2 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed
50 ml dry white wine
3 egg yolks
150 ml single cream
75g freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper
350g spaghetti

To crush the garlic, lay it on a chopping board and press down firmly with the side of a knife blade. This will break the clove apart but not reduce it to a paste. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the garlic for a couple of minutes until it’s just starting to colour. Don’t allow it to burn or it will taste bitter. Remove the garlic and discard (you’re just using it to give the oil a subtle flavour.)

Add the butter to the pan and melt until sizzling, then add the bacon or pancetta. Cook until it’s starting to look crispy. Pour in the wine, increase the heat and boil until the wine has reduced by half. Remove the pan from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water until softened but still firm, about 8 – 10 minutes. Take a large serving bowl and mix together the egg yolks, cream, cheese and seasoning. Drain the pasta, leaving some of the cooking water in it then add it to the bowl along with the bacon and oil. Mix it all together thoroughly. The heat from the pasta and bacon should be enough to cook the egg yolks so that they form a creamy coating. Keep an eye on it – you don’t want scrambled eggs.

Serve the carbonara with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese. A chilled glass (or two) of Orvieto goes well with this.

Lasagne al Forno

lasagne on a plate

Who can resist lasagne, freshly baked and bubbling with melted cheese? A real classic, originating in Naples. The time spent making it is rewarded by the delicious taste and wonderful aromas. Serves 4 – 6.

1 quantity of ragu Bolognese (see recipe above)
175g lasagne sheets, fresh or dried (about 6 sheets)
25g butter
50g plain flour
600 ml of full-fat milk
1 x 225g carton plain full fat cottage cheese
75g grated fresh Parmesan cheese
A pinch of grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Make the ragu Bolognese and set it aside. In a non-stick pan, melt the butter until it’s sizzling then add the flour. Lower the heat and stir the butter and flour together. It will form a stiff paste. Cook for about 2 – 3 minutes. This cooks out the flour so that your white sauce doesn’t taste of uncooked flour.

Measure out the milk in a jug. Add the milk to the butter and flour mixture a little at a time, stirring vigorously so that the milk is absorbed into the roux. It’s important to do this slowly and make sure that the milk has all been absorbed before adding any more. If you go too fast, the dreaded lumps will form. But if they do, just whisk like mad and they should disappear.

Once all of the milk has been added, season the sauce with nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook over a low heat for 5 minutes. Tip the pot of cottage cheese into a sieve and use the back of a spoon to push it through the mesh of the sieve and into the sauce. Stir well and remove the sauce from the heat.

To assemble the lasagne, put about one third of the Bolognese sauce into the bottom of an ovenproof dish and spread it around so that it thinly covers the base of the dish. Pour over a third of the white sauce then top with 3 sheets of lasagne. There’s no need to cook the lasagne sheets as they will cook in the oven, especially if you’re using fresh lasagne. Repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of white sauce.

Sprinkle the top generously with the grated Parmesan cheese and bake in the oven at gas mark 5/190C/375F for about 35 – 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbling. Serve with a simple salad or some garlic bread. Serves 4 – 6 hungry people.

Spaghetti and Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballs

A great family favourite and fun to make (get the kids to join in) spaghetti and meatballs is a dish you will want to make time and time again. Juicy, tender meatballs, tangy tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese, all served on a bed of buttery pasta. Bellissimo! Serves 4.

500g minced beef with around 12% fat
350g spaghetti
1 garlic clove, crushed or grated
Salt and pepper
Half a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs or dried oregano
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 – 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
Half a teaspoon of sugar
1 beef stock cube
100 ml red wine
1 bay leaf
Parmesan cheese and fresh basil to garnish

First of all, make the meatballs. Put the mince into a mixing bowl, add the garlic, herbs and seasoning and use your hands to start mixing it all together. Just pick it up and squeeze it firmly in your hands. It should form a rough paste. Add a little of the beaten egg (you probably won’t need it all) and mix it into the meat.

Take about a tablespoon of the mixture and use your hands to press it firmly together then roll it into a ball between your palms, about the size of a large walnut. Put the finished meatball onto a plate and continue pressing and rolling until all the mixture is used up.

This will make about 24 meatballs, but you might end up with more or less depending on the size of each. It doesn’t matter if some are bigger than others. Cover the plate with cling film and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Heat a non-stick pan (no oil needed) and fry the meatballs over a fairly high heat. At this stage, you’re just browning them rather than cooking them all the way through. Turn them a few times, using a spoon and a fork or tongs, to make sure they’re brown all over. Remove them from the pan back onto the plate and set them aside.

Heat the oil in the same pan and fry the onions for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and a light brown colour. Add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes, making sure it doesn’t burn or it will taste bitter.

Pour in the tomatoes and use the wine to rinse out the tin. Add this to the tomatoes. Crumble in the stock cube, add the bay leaf and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. The sauce should thicken slightly.

Tip the meatballs into the pan of tomato sauce and stir. Cook over a low heat for about 20 – 25 minutes until the meatballs are cooked and the sauce is a lovely deep red colour.

Serve the meatballs and sauce with some cooked spaghetti with a knob of butter stirred into it, top with Parmesan and garnish with basil leaves. This is a substantial meal so you don’t need to serve any extras with it but if you want to, a salad or some garlic bread is good.

*You can flavour the meatballs with anything you like; chilli, grated Parmesan, fresh herbs, lemon zest. Also, you can vary the mince and try lamb or pork mince instead of beef mince. Experiment and see what you can create.

Penne Arrabbiata

penne arrabbiata

This fiery dish was invented in Rome, between the 1950s and 1960s. Arrabbiata means ‘angry’ in Italian because the dish traditionally contains hot chillies. However, you can adjust the quantity of chilli if you think it might be too much for you. Or remove the seeds from the chillies. Serves 4.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 hot red chillies, finely chopped
350g penne rigate
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Grated fresh Parmesan to serve

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the garlic and chilli for 1 – 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chopped tomatoes and parsley, stir and leave to simmer over a medium heat.

Cook the penne in a large pan of boiling salted water for 8 – 10 minutes, then drain and tip into the pan of tomato sauce. Stir well to ensure that the pasta is thoroughly coated with the sauce, then serve on warmed plates with Parmesan cheese sprinkled over.

Pasta Puttanesca

This pasta dish was invented in Naples in the mid-20th century. The name means ‘lady of the night’ so this dish is often known as ‘tart’s spaghetti.’ It has strong flavours from the chilli, capers and anchovies so whatever you want to call it, eating it should be a pleasurable experience. If cooking for vegetarians, just leave out the anchovies and add an extra tablespoon of capers. Serves 2.

225g spaghetti or linguine
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed or grated
50g tinned anchovies, drained
175g pitted black olives (stones removed)
1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and chopped
1 heaped tablespoon capers, drained
450g tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil and grated Parmesan to serve

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan and fry the garlic and chilli for one minute. Add the rest of the ingredients – except for the basil – and stir well. Leave to cook over a low heat for about 40 minutes, allowing it to reduce down to a thick, deep red sauce with a concentrated flavour.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pan of boiling salted water for 8 – 10 minutes. Drain in a colander then tip into the pan of sauce. Stir well, making sure the pasta is thoroughly coated with the sauce.

Serve with lots of Parmesan cheese, the fresh basil scattered over and some good Italian red wine to wash it down.

Meatballs alla Norma

This is a dish that was originally from Sicily. The meatballs aren’t traditionally Italian but the polenta is. Polenta is a finely ground cornmeal and to the Italians, it’s like mashed potato is to us. This is wonderfully stodgy and comforting. So if you’ve just come home on a cold day, this’ll warm you up. Serves 4.

400g minced beef 10% fat
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, finely chopped
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed or grated
1 large aubergine
400g tin chopped tomatoes
A pinch of dried red chilli flakes
200g quick-cook dry polenta
25g butter
30g Parmesan
Salt and pepper
Extra fresh parsley to garnish

Tip the mince into a bowl, season with salt and pepper and add the chopped parsley and fennel seeds. These have a mild aniseed taste and give a subtle flavour to the meatballs. Use your hands to scrunch the mixture together and form it into a large ball. Put the ball of mince onto a chopping board and divide it in half, then cut each piece in half, then continue cutting the smaller pieces in half and half again and so on, until you have around 24 meatballs about the size of walnuts.

So to clarify, 1 piece becomes 2 pieces, then 4, then 8, then 16 and so on until all the mince mixture is used up. If you get more or less than 24 meatballs, that’s fine. It’s also okay for them to be different sizes; it adds to the rustic charm of the dish. Put the meatballs onto a plate, cover with foil or clingfilm and pop them in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Cut off the aubergine stalk then use a sharp knife to cut it into cubes about 2.5cm in size. Again, if they’re bigger or smaller than this it doesn’t matter. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the aubergine cubes over a fairly high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until they’re golden brown and soft.

Add the crushed garlic, tinned tomatoes and chilli flakes to the pan containing the aubergine, season with salt and pepper and stir, then leave to simmer for 10 minutes.

Heat a separate pan without using any oil, then fry the meatballs over a fairly high heat until they’re browned on the outside. Lower the heat and continue to cook for 10 – 15 minutes, by which time they should be cooked all the way through. Tip the meatballs into the tomato sauce and switch off the heat.

Cook the polenta according to the instructions on the packet – I usually put it into a saucepan and cook it over a low heat. But be careful, it can be quite volatile. If it spits too much lower the heat to a very low setting. The polenta should have a consistency like very soft mashed potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the butter and Parmesan and put scoops of polenta onto each plate. Flatten it slightly with the back of a spoon then put the meatballs and sauce on top. Garnish with parsley and serve with more Parmesan to sprinkle over.

My Dad’s Baked Macaroni

Again, this is not strictly Italian but I love this dish so much that I had to include it. The Italian version of this is Pasta al Forno (meaning baked pasta.) My dad was Maltese and a great cook. This dish (known as timpana in Malta) was one of my favourite things to eat as a child and I still enjoy it today. I love the crispy, cheesy bits on top. Serves 4.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
500g lean minced beef (5% fat)
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
350g macaroni or penne
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
50g grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper

First of all, make the meat sauce. Fry the mince in a large non-stick pan, breaking it up and stirring with a wooden spoon as it cooks until the mince is brown all the way through. Tip onto a plate and set aside.

Heat the oil in the same pan and fry the onion, bacon and carrot for about 10 minutes until the vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and lower the heat. Cook for 2 minutes. Now add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the minced beef and parsley, stir and allow to simmer gently while you cook the pasta.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and when boiling, add the macaroni or penne. Stir well, lower the heat and cook for about 8 minutes so that it’s slightly undercooked. It will finish cooking in the oven. Drain the pasta in a colander and add it to the meat sauce. Stir well to ensure the pasta is completely coated in the sauce.

Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt. Tip the pasta and sauce into a shallow baking dish and level the top with a spoon. Pour over the beaten egg, tilting the dish to allow the egg to flow into all the corners.

Bake in a preheated oven, gas mark 6/200C/400F for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the Parmesan generously over the top and return to the oven for another 10 – 12 minutes. It should be lovely and crunchy on top.

Serve with a salad or garlic bread.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. I’m happy to help.

If you love pasta see this post for quick easy pasta recipes. 

Want to learn the basics for perfect pasta every time? See this post on how to cook pasta – the right way

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6 thoughts on “Authenic Italian Pasta Recipes”

  1. Thank you very much for this valuable and detailed post about italian pasta recipes. Pasta is actually one of my favorite foods. But I have never made lasagna al forno. I really wanted to make it. I will definitely make it. You have explained it beautifully how to make it. Thank you very much for that. Keep posting like this.

    • Hi Pasindu, oh that’s good, you’ve made me feel happy! I want to help people so that’s a great start. This is a recipe I’ve been using for many years and my friend says it’s the best lasagne he’s ever tasted. So give it a try, I’m sure it will be delicious 

  2. Italian food is a type of food that I could never live without at all. I mean, who doesn’t love pasta, pizza, or lasagna? But it always remains a discussion between family or friends on what exactly is authentic recipes. Like pasta sauce, for example, one person says that one can add mushrooms, another says that that is not done. Seeing your bolognese recipe, I can now say once and for all, to not add mushrooms haha! thank you, now I’m hungry!

    • Hi Lizzy, I have that effect on people, friends complain I’ve made them hungry when I talk about food (which is often) I love pasta, we ate it a lot when I was a child as my dad was Maltese. He was a very good cook. 

      I was once served a carbonara which contained undercooked onions and some halved button mushrooms. I asked the waiter if the chef even knew what a carbonara was but he just looked confused. I must admit, I add cream to my eggs when making carbonara and that’s not authentic but I like the creamy taste. 

      I think even in Italy, home of wonderful pasta dishes, you will find variations in the recipes depending on who is cooking it. In my article, the dishes are authentic but I’ve added my own little twist here and there. I may get told off if an Italian reads it but recipes are made for tweaking! Or at least, that’s what I do. I hope you enjoy trying them and I will be adding more over the next couple of days, so look out for some new additions 

    • I have that effect on people! If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach then I think I have the monopoly on heart tissue!


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