Traditional pasta dishes you must try at least once

25 October 2023
Written by The Italy Insider

If you’ve been to Italy then you must have tried one of these pasta’s at least once. These centuries old recipe’s have been altered throughout the year finding their ways throughout the world; but nothing compares to a good ol’ classic. For World Pasta Day we have selected eight of our favourite traditional pasta dishes you can find across Italy, from North to South, and the best restaurants to try them in.


Lasagne alla bolognese

Oh Lasagna, how many times have you eaten this dish without truly knowing its origins? Lasagna was born in Emilia Romagna, where the first traces date back to the roman times. This perfect, layered oven bake made with fresh egg pasta sheets, ragù and besciamella takes hours to cook, especially when it’s all made by hand. But if you were to buy the ready made sheets (and believe us, we have seen many people do this) they do not go straight in the oven: you must cook them first, in boiling water, with a pinch of salt, at least for 2-3 minutes. For the Ragù, cook the olive oil, butter, celery, carrot and onion before adding bacon and consequently the minced meat. Next, add a drop of wine, passata di pomodoro and a little milk. For the besciamella, add butter, flour, milk and a touch of nutmeg and stir slowly, slowly until you get a cream-like consistency. Then it’s up to you, to get creative and compose your Lasagna layer by layer adding a dash of parmesan in between.

Where to eat the best Lasagna? ristorante diana, Bologna, emilia romagna


Spaghetti al Pomodoro

What a simple, fresh dish this is; and it’s a shame that many people disregard it at restaurants thinking it’s something you can easily do at home. It’s not about the complexity of a recipe but the ingredients used – fresh, local tomatoes, maybe homegrown. A mix of kinds: pomodoro datterino, pomodoro del piennolo, pomodorino giallo… a touch of garlic, fresh basil cooked for an hour. When the spaghetti are ready (al dente) add them to the sauce and, when serving, slice a loaf of bread for the scarpetta #essentials.

Where to eat the best Spaghetti al Pomodoro? Da Giacomo, Milano, lombardia

Spaghetti al Pomodoro at Giacomo Milano


agnolotti del plin

The delicious agnolotti del plin, a quintessential gem of Piedmontese cuisine, represent the artistry of Italian pasta. This fresh, delicate pasta is akin to the timeless ravioli but boasts a unique twist. Traditionally simmered in a fragrant broth, these sumptuous parcels are served au naturel, allowing the flavours of the luscious mixed meat and vegetables filling to shine. Yet, there are no rigid rules in the realm of culinary creativity; one might indulge in these delights boiled in a meat broth, seasoned with roast gravy or drizzled with a velvety sage-infused butter. In each case, add a rain of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. In the end, it’s a testament to the culinary versatility and regional excellence that continues to captivate palates worldwide.

Where to eat the best agnolotti del plin? Scannabue, Torino, Piemonte

Agnolotti del Plin at Scannabue, Torino by Mauro Bellucci




Pasta alla Norma is without a doubt one of the most renowned first courses from Sicily. A taste of the land, with fresh flavours of aubergine enhanced with ricotta salata. The best pasta for this dish is short pasta, preferably with a hole (rigatoni, paccheri) so that the sauce is engulfed within every bite. For the recipe, you make the tomato sauce first with a little onion and Passata di Pomodoro, separately you fry the aubergine and when the pasta is ready, you combine them all, sprinkling the ricotta salata on top and, for the ultimate Sicilian touch, a little lemon zest.

Where to eat the best paccheri alla Norma? i Banchi, Ragusa, Sicilia

Paccheri alla norma by Melissa Carnemolla


pasta mista e patate

Pasta e Patate is one of the most traditional dishes of Neapolitan cuisine, dating back to the 17th century. In this period, potatoes and tomatoes, being inexpensive products, were the favourite ingredients of housewives who used them in their simple and nutritious recipes. By blending together two carbohydrates, the dish was excellent both for its satiating power and for its goodness (who doesn’t love carbs?). During those times, parmesan rind was used in this dish to recover the leftovers of some foods as well as the combination of different pasta shapes available at home: pasta mista. In one large casserole add carrots, celery and onion for the soffritto, next add the potatoes and tomato puree followed by the pasta. Later add grated Provola cheese and blend all together with Parmigiano, Pecorino and smoked Provola cheese, perhaps a sprig of rosemary and a touch of pepper and voilà, you should be serving a creamy, indulgent dish.

Where to eat the best pasta e patate? trattoria Da Nennella, Napoli, Campania

Pasta, Patate e Provola courtesy My Looper Life


Trofie al Pesto

Trofie al pesto is a culinary ode to basil, the most prized herb of Liguria, the region of Portofino and Cinque Terre. The aroma of this dish embodies the essence of local cuisine, and the delightful chewiness of the fresh pasta encapsulates centuries of cherished homemade traditions. At first glance, it may appear to be a straightforward dish, but mastering the art of preparing trofie al pesto requires attention to detail and the right techniques. Above all, remember that for an exceptional pesto, you must opt for certified Pra basil, local pine nuts and extra virgin olive oil from Liguria. An intriguing tidbit: these trofie can take on a “pesto enhanced” character when combined with the classic sauce, incorporating tender morsels of potatoes and blanched green beans. It’s a delightful twist that elevates this Ligurian classic to new heights, adding layers of flavour and texture to this iconic pasta dish.

Where to eat the best Trofie al Pesto? DaV Mare, Portofino, Liguria

Trofie al Pesto, courtesy Belmond


la carbonara

Guanciale, uova, pecorino romano e pepe. These are the primordial ingredients in a Carbonara Pasta, a traditional Italian dish whose origins are still up for discussions. Some say that it was most likely conceived in Rome during the last months of the Second World War thanks to the military rations brought by the Allies. Carbonara represented the perfect synthesis between Anglo-Saxon tastes, such as eggs and bacon, and Italian pasta: it comes to no surprise that today it’s still loved to this day by the tourists. When making this at home there are two things to keep in mind: absolutely no cream (the creaminess is given by using the starch water from the pasta mixed with the egg and Pecorino) and use guanciale – bacon doesn’t live up to the flavour expectations.

Where to eat the best carbonara? DA ENZO AL 29, roma, Lazio

Carbonara by James Thompson



e Cime di Rapa

Few ingredients combine to create an exquisite, singular dish. Orecchiette with broccoli rabe, a handmade pasta crafted from just water and durum wheat flour, dressed with the rich flavours of Puglia’s vegetables, particularly the broccoli rabe, are among the most emblematic of Puglia’s culinary treasures. In this traditional, rustic recipe, the vegetables are simmered, and in the same pot, the pasta is cooked for a few brief minutes. Subsequently, it’s drained and gently sautéed in a pan with extra virgin olive oil, anchovy fillets, and garlic. To finish, it’s garnished with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and a touch of chilli. Simple to prepare, it’s a genuine culinary delight, offering an authentic taste of the Puglian countryside.

Where to eat the best Orecchiette Cime di Rapa? Al Saggittario, Martina Franca, Puglia

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