Italian food is always a crowd pleaser, and it’s truthfully pretty easy to make but a lot of people are afraid to try. Enter Olive Garden. You can make your favorite Italian recipes at home, it’s so much easier than you think. People often ask me what my preference in pasta sauce brand is, and are always amazed when I tell them “I always make my own, I’ve never bought a pasta sauce”. You can make a delicious homemade pasta sauce in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta, there is just no reason to settle for less, it’s not more convenient, and its without a doubt not as good.
These are our favorite easy Italian recipes:
Amatriciana Sauce is a sauce that originated in the region of Umbria from the small town of Amatrice. The town was destroyed in the earthquakes of 2016. This sauce features sautéed onions, guanciale, and pecorino cheese. I personally enjoy it more with parmesan cheese, but you can top it however you please. We make this recipe on Wine and Cooking Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun vacation in Italy.
The recipe is so simple, you can prepare and cook it all in the time it takes to boil your water and cook your pasta. A tip to make it even easier is to keep frozen pancetta in your freezer. That way, you don’t even need to make a special trip just for the only specialty ingredient. When I was growing up, my mom would make this pasta almost every week. It was the only thing my little brother would eat for a long time. No matter how many times I have eaten it, I have never gotten enough of this dish.
The Recipe can be found here: Pasta alla Amatriciana
A meatball is ground meat rolled into a small ball, mixed with ingredients like bread crumbs, minced onion, eggs, butter, and seasonings. Meatballs are cooked by frying, baking, steaming, or braising in sauce. This method is the way my Nonna used to make meatballs, the way my mom makes meatballs and now, the way I make meatballs. They are a simple, easy Italian recipe to make, and largely cooked in your slow cooker.
We usually eat these on Christmas day, but when my husband and I first started dating, he fell in love with these meatballs. Now he requests them in bulk for every occasion. When our daughter was born, my mom made us 50 meatballs, thinking we would freeze them and eat them slowly. We ate them for lunch and dinner every day and finished them in 5 days. Make these in a large batch for a potluck or a holiday. Or make a smaller batch just to have for dinner one night.
The recipe can be found here: Meatballs
This dish isn’t very well known in the United States, however, it is an easy Italian recipe and on just about every menu in central Italy. It is simple, but it packs a punch of flavor. I personally order this almost every time we dine out in central Italy, I love the flavors. It’s not something you find on menus in the US, and even when the recipe varies slightly from chef to chef, it is always delicious. Saltimboca is made with veal, lined with cheese and prosciutto and topped with sage. The type cheese can vary, but is usually a mild white cheese like provolone or mozzarella. We make Saltimboca on our Wine and Cooking Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun cookery vacations.
The recipe can be found here: Saltimboca alla Romana
One easy Italian recipe is Farro Salad. The only constant ingredient from recipe to recipe here is Farro. The rest of the recipe can be thrown together with whatever you have in your fridge, making it a perfect weeknight recipe. That is how this particular recipe (which we teach on our Wine and Cooking Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun holiday) was created. One day, Paola (my mom) was trying to make a meal for all of us, and threw this together really quickly. It was so delicious, we asked for it again and again, so we had to add it to our cooking class menu. Make it however you like, or try Paola’s recipe.
This recipe can be found here: Farro Salad
5. Veal Marsala
An easy recipe to pull together, that makes a big impression with Italian flavor is Veal Marsala. It seems like a fancy, expensive dish, but the ingredients are few, and it doesn’t take long to make since veal cooks very quickly. The sauce is essentially just Marsala wine, butter, and olive oil. We make Veal Marsala on our Cooking & Adventure on the Islands of Sicily culinary vacation.
This recipe can be found here: Veal Marsala
Baked potato gnocchi with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. Making the gnocchi from scratch would be a very time consuming task. If you buy pre made gnocchi, this is an easy Italian recipe. This is a mouth watering sauce that will definitely have people asking for seconds. There are few ingredients, and the sauce can be made start to finish in 30 minutes or less. We make this sauce with homemade gnocchi on our Wine and Cooking Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun tour in Italy, and everyone always polishes off the bowl.
This recipe can be found here: Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
7. Lentil Soup
On our Wine, Cooking, Truffles & Chocolate: A Foodie’s Paradise in Umbria cookery holiday we visit the small village of Castelluccio. Nestled into the hills of Umbria, this village is known throughout all of Italy for its famous lentils. There are many ways to make lentil soup, but this recipe is one of the more simple ones. This is how lentils are served in Castelluccio, and it is a very easy recipe. Lentils are a great source of protein, making this a vegan and vegetarian friendly dish. Enjoy it hot or cold, lentils are very versatile. Top this soup with a high quality olive oil, like the one visit on our Soriano tours from our dear friend Serena at Lentil Soup
This is a well known dish all throughout Italy and even in the United States. Most restaurants in the US botch this recipe, though. We make Carbonara on our Wine and Cooking Under the Tuscan and Umbrian Sun vacations in Tuscany. When we see carbonara served with chicken on top, with vegetables mixed in, or even with a different kind of pasta (penne, shells) we cringe. Italians view their food as a work of art, and making changes to artwork is offensive. Carbonara is an Italian pasta dish from Rome made with egg, hard cheese, guanciale, and pepper served with spaghetti, none of this is up for discussion :).
This recipe can be found here: Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Meaning “pasta and beans”, Pasta & Fazul is a traditional Italian dish. Like many other Italian favorites, including pizza and polenta, the dish started as a peasant dish, being made of inexpensive ingredients. This is an easy Italian recipe because you most likely already have these ingredients in your house. They can be thrown together quickly, and it is a hearty dish on a cold day. Pasta Fazul originates in the Campania region of Italy in Naples. It traveled to America with the Italian immigrants and became widely popular in the US as Pasta Fazool. We make this recipe on our all inclusive Cooking in Paradise on the Amalfi Coast vacations.
This recipe can be found here: Pasta & Fazul
Pasta with sausage and vodka sauce is a spin on penne vodka with sausages added for extra flavor and protein (mostly flavor). If you wanted to make this recipe without the sausages, it would make a great vegetarian dish. The whole thing takes about 20 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to cook, including the pasta.
It makes for a great weeknight dish that the whole family will enjoy. The vodka simmers so the alcohol evaporates, leaving only the flavor, making it a safe dish even for the kids.
This recipe can be found here: Penne Vodka with Sausage