It’s National Pasta Day! So, here’s a quick round up of my favorite pasta recipes. There’s something to please everyone.
Who doesn’t love a good pasta dinner? Well, I’m no exception. If I had to pick a favorite, though, it would be Macaroni and Cheese.
You just can’t beat that combination for cheesy goodness. There’s a reason it’s a top comfort food!
Macaroni and Cheese
This Macaroni and Cheese is simply crazy good! It's rich and creamy with the perfect blend of cheesiness.
- 6 Tbsp butter, unsalted
- 1/2 cup flour
- 5 ½ cups milk (whole milk or 2% recommended)
- 2 ½ tsp salt (divided)
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 12-16 oz pasta
- 12 oz (3 cups) cheddar cheese, grated I prefer Coastal Cheddar or Extra Sharp (see notes)
- 4 oz (1 cup) gruyere cheese, grated if you don't have gruyere, substitute more cheddar
Using a large pot, start 4 quarts of water boiling for the pasta. Spray a large casserole dish (i.e. 13"x9" or 10"x10" deep dish square) with cooking spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large sauce pan (at least 3 quarts), melt butter until bubbly. Add flour, stirring with a whisk for 2-3 minutes, until it has a thick pasty consistency.
Slowly add milk, 1 cup at a time, stirring well in between cups. Next, add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Cook on low heat until the sauce has thickened (about 5-10 minutes).
Once the water is boiling, add pasta and 1 tsp. of salt to water. Cook the pasta for 1-2 minutes less than listed on the box/package to avoid mushy pasta. It will continue to cook during baking.
Stir in 2 cups of the cheddar and the gruyere cheese to the sauce, allowing cheeses to melt. Continue stirring until they are completely melted and the sauce is thickened.
When the pasta is ready, drain the pasta. Shake the colander well to remove any leftover water, as it will thin the cheese sauce. Add drained pasta to back to the pot it was cooked in. Pour the cheese sauce over it and stir, then add to the casserole dish. Sprinkle the last cup of grated cheese on top (I usually add a little more cheese).
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly on top.
I usually add more cheese to the top of the casserole before placing it in the oven. For details on the best cheddar cheese to use, see Best Cheeses for Mac and Cheese at https://thefeatherednester.com/white-cheddar-mac-and-cheese
If Macaroni & Cheese isn’t your thing, then how about an amazing Spaghetti sauce? I love it one of two ways.
With a rich, tangy marinara sauce.
Or with a rich, meaty sauce.
Which is your favorite? Well, I’m sharing both below!
Traditional Marinara Sauce with Penne
Traditional marinara sauce contains simple ingredients. For best results use San Marzano tomatoes, available in most grocery stores.
- 1 28-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 7 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 large fresh basil sprig or 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano, more to taste
Pour tomatoes into a large bowl and crush with your hands. Pour 1 cup water into can and slosh it around to get tomato juices. Reserve.
In a large skillet (do not use a deep pot) over medium heat, heat the oil. When it is hot, add garlic.
As soon as garlic is sizzling (do not let it brown), add the tomatoes, then the reserved tomato water. Add red pepper flakes, oregano, and salt. Stir.
Place basil sprig, including stem, on the surface (like a flower). Let it wilt, then submerge in sauce. Simmer sauce until thickened and oil on surface is a deep orange, about 15 minutes. (If using oregano, taste sauce after 10 minutes of simmering, adding more salt and oregano as needed.) Discard basil.
Adapted from https://cooking.nytimes.com marinara recipe.
Pasta with Meat Sauce
Perfect for dinner any night, this pasta with meat sauce is robust and full of flavor. It will be your new favorite pasta dinner.
- 4 ounces white mushrooms, washed and finely chopped
- 1 slice sandwich bread, torn into pieces
- 2 Tbsp. whole milk
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- ½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 pound ground beef, 85% lean
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained with 1/4 cup juice reserved
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- 12 ounces pasta
Add bread, milk, salt, and pepper to a large bowl and stir until thickened OR use a food processor, pulsing several times to combine. Add beef and gently fold until well combined (by hand) or pulse until mixed.
If you are using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, follow the instructions at the end of this recipe.
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat until oil shimmers. Add onion and mushrooms, stirring frequently, until vegetables browned and dark bits form on pan bottom (about 6 to 12 minutes). Stir in garlic, tomato paste, and pepper flakes; cook until fragrant and tomato paste starts to brown, about 1 minute. Add reserved tomato juice and oregano), scraping up any browned bits. Add meat mixture and cook, breaking meat into small pieces with spoon, until beef loses its raw color, 2 to 4 minutes, making sure that meat does not brown.
Stir in crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and gently simmer until sauce has thickened and flavors have blended, about 20minutes. Stir in Parmesan, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare pasta according to directions on box. Mix with sauce and serve.
To use fresh tomatoes: quarter the tomatoes, place in a large sauce pan and cook on low-medium heat for about an hour. Use an immersion blender (in the sauce pan) to break them down or allow to cool and use a blender.
Add to 1 pound of pasta. Reserve about 1 cup of pasta water before draining. If you choose to mix the pasta and meat sauce together before serving, add about 1/4-1/2 cup of the pasta water with 1-2 cups of sauce. This helps the sauce bind with the pasta.
Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.
Are you hungering for more pasta recipes? How about a healthier Macaroni & Cheese option!
This Chili Cheese Mac dish balances oh-so cheesy, with tangy tomatoes. And, it delivers on flavor with a lot less calories than traditional Mac & Cheese.
Instant Pot Chili Cheese Mac
Although this recipe uses the Instant Pot (or pressure cooker), you can easily adapt it for the stove top or slow cooker. Just cook the pasta separately and reduce the water to 1/2 – 1 cup.
- 1.5 lbs ground beef
- 2 onions, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. chili powder
- 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
- 1 28 oz. can tomato puree
- 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1.5 cups hot water
- 8 oz. elbow pasta
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 cup (8 oz.) grated Colby Jack cheese, plus more for topping
To prepare the Chili Cheese Mac: Saute ground beef, onions, and bell pepper until almost browned (about 5 minutes), Add garlic, chili powder, and cumin. Saute until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes). Stir in canned tomatoes and puree, water, and pasta. Add lid, close sealing lever, and select high pressure at 5 minutes.
Use quick release once cooking cycle is done. Be sure the venting steam is pointing away from you. With the Instant Pot in “keep warm” mode, stir in sugar and cheese, and let melt for about 5 minutes. Serve warm with extra grated cheese and sour cream.
If you’re curious about the Instant Pot, here’s a post about it: https://thefeatherednester.com/instant-pot-basics-pressure-cooking/.
When it comes to pasta, how can I leave out Fettuccine Alfredo? Making Alfredo sauce is much easier than you think. Serve it with shrimp and you have the makings of a truly amazing meal!
Easy Fettuccine Alfredo
This recipe is so easy, yet so rich and delicious. It's perfect for when you really want to make an impressive meal but have a short amount of time.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 16 oz. fettuccine (fresh or dried)
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated or shaved
- pinch nutmeg
- pinch pepper
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot for the fettuccine. While the water is coming to a boil, simmer the cream in a large skillet (at least 12 inches wide) over medium heat until it’s thickened slightly and has reduced to approximately 1.5 cups. This will take about 8 minutes. Cover with a lid and keep the cream warm (a very gentle simmer is okay).
Add 1 Tablespoon of salt to the water when it's reached boiling and add the pasta. Cook, stirring often, until it's al dente (following time listed on bag of pasta). Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta. Return drained pasta to the pot.
Whisk the butter, parmesan cheese, and nutmeg to the warmed cream, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the sauce to the pasta, tossing to coat. Add the reserved pasta water a little at a time to allow the sauce to cling better to the pasta. Serve right away.
Fettuccine is the perfect entree for entertaining.
Just in case you missed my Easy Lasagna post earlier this month, I’m sharing it again. Have you made it? It is the best quick and easy dupe for traditional Lasagna.
Easy Lasagna in the Instant Pot
Get ready to be amazed with this Easy Lasagna! It tastes just as good as traditional, casserole lasagna in only a fraction of the time.
- 1 lb sausage or ground beef
- 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
- 16 oz lasagna noodles, broken into 2″ pieces
- 32 oz pasta sauce
- 4 cups hot water
- 8 oz ricotta cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Set Instant Pot to sauté. Add meat and Italian seasoning. Sauté until just brown. Add pasta, sauce, and water. Ensure you do not exceep the max volume setting on the inside of your Instant Pot liner.
Press cancel, add lid and twist to seal, close sealing lever, and cook at high pressure for 5 min. When pressure cycle is over, use a quick release to release pressure immediately.
Add ricotta cheese, and mozzarella, stir until melted.
Optional broiling: reserve 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, spread lasagna into a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese on top and broil in oven for 3 min or until browned.
For traditional lasagna, get my recipe Lasagna
For lasagna soup, get my recipe: Instant Pot Lasagna Soup
There you have it. Five great recipes to celebrate National Pasta Day.
Now, go make something special…
Need more meal inspiration? Check out these recipes:
Low-sodium Lasagna (with gluten-free option): https://thefeatherednester.com/lasagna-low-sodium-and-gluten-free/
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