Growing up in America I always knew the basic pasta dishes like lasagna and spaghetti, they were common hearty meals that every American family would cook. Since moving to Italy I have not only learned more about those two famous dishes, but have been enlightened into the pasta world. When I first came to Italy I would look down the grocery aisles and notice so many different pastas and would say to myself “Why on Earth do they need so many different kinds, what’s the difference?” Well, today I can tell you that there is a difference, there is a reason why Italians choose one pasta over another. Throughout learning this pasta picking process I have been inspired to write about different pasta dishes you can have each day apart from just the classics. Before moving here I had never heard of these, never would have imagined these dishes either…I was always stuck in the pasta with marinara sauce idea. I cook pasta every single day either for myself or for two. Cooking and learning about Italian food has been an outlet for me through many times of feeling homesick. So now, here is my post about 7 days of pasta.
Day 1: Pasta with seafood
This is by far my most favorite pasta dish. This dish is mainly comprised of seafood such as shrimp, clams, calamari, and mussels. Fortunately in Italy you don’t need to go around to find all these things, but instead just buy a box in the frozen food section!
This dish is generally served with flat noodle like pasta such as linguine, or fettucine. The sauce is simply made by throwing some oil in a pan and sauteing the seafood. Then you add red pepper flakes, salt, parsley, and chopped up tomatoes. It takes no time at all as seafood cooks within minutes!
Day 2: Pasta with mushrooms
You also need to buy a bag of mixed mushrooms. I buy a frozen bag because it comes with the best variety of wild mushrooms
This dish can be eaten with a variety of pasta. I generally choose farfalle, penne, or something else short. To make this dish you add oil to a pan and fry up your speck, then add the mushrooms. After sauteing you add a little bit of heavy cream, salt, and red pepper flakes.
Day 3: Pasta with pesto
Pasta with pesto is super easy to make even if you don’t buy ready made pesto. I buy the ready made pesto just because it’s so available and the quality is great. Pasta with pesto is generally eaten with shorter pasta that can catch the sauce in the crevices i.e. twirly pasta like fusilli or rotini. To make this dish you just heat up a pan and add your ready made pesto in order to cook it a little, then toss in the pasta. Top with parmesan.
Day 4: Pasta alla carbonara
This dish may be a big surprise to many as the main ingredient is eggs! At first I couldn’t imagine eating eggs in pasta because it made me think of breakfast, but after I tried it I changed my mind. Pasta carbonara is made from eggs, cubed pancetta, and pepper pretty much. First you need to buy cubed pancetta (or chopped up ham)
To make this dish you first need to pan fry your pancetta and set aside. You then cook your pasta which is generally long pasta for this dish. I usually serve this with spaghetti. While the pasta is cooking you take two-three eggs and whip them up with a little bit of milk, salt, and pepper, and set aside. When your pasta is done cooking you add it to the pan of pancetta and on low heat stir in the egg mix. You must continuously turn the pasta in order for the egg mixture to coat everything. Once the eggs are cooked you are done. Top it with parmesan. The day I made this dish I actually chose whole wheat twirly pasta instead.
Day 5: Pasta with sage and oil
This dish is fairly new to me. I think it’s the perfect dish to have if you’re having stomach issues because it’s very light. This dish is pretty self explanatory. You heat up a skillet with some olive oil and throw in some fresh sage. It is generally served with ravioli or tortellini. Top with parmesan as always.
Day 6: Pasta with bolognese
Pasta with bolognese sauce is super hearty. The classic bolognese sauce includes: carrot, celery, onion, garlic, fresh basil, and ground meat. For directions on this sauce see my other post “Fresh herbs and the authentic Italian sauce.” This sauce is served with all varieties of pasta, short, long, as well as pasta you cook in the oven. I served mine with shell pasta. Of course, add parmesan to top it off. My husband says “it’s not Italian without cheese!”
Day 7: Lasagna
Lasagna I had to throw in this list even though it’s a classic. Lasagna is usually eaten on Sundays or for events where there are a lot of people because it feeds so many. The classic lasagna I learned to make includes: besciamella, bolognese sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto, and parmesan. The pasta used is a sheet like pasta.
I won’t go into much detail on how to make this dish, but the basics are that you do not cook the pasta before hand, and when you layer the dish you must first start out with a layer of besciamella at the bottom. You also need to layer the top with besciamella, the bolognese sauce, and parmesan. There is no rule in how many layers you should have, you just need to fill up your dish!
There are many more different pasta dishes out there that I have learned such as: pasta with garlic, parsley and oil, tortellini soup, stuffed cannelloni in the oven, orecchiette with polpettine and so forth. Maybe one day I’ll post about these dishes too.
All of these dishes I have learned to make by the privilege of living close to my in-laws. I’m not just any expat living in Italy, but am fully immersed and get the cultural ins and outs every single day. These recipes are not my interpretation, but are what I have been taught from a variety of southern Italian women in my husband’s family.
Buon appetito from Italy!