Signature Italian dishes that are so simple to make

Buon appetito!



Italian food is all about taking top-quality ingredients and cooking them simply and carefully. Pizza and pasta dishes are just the delicious beginning. Our collection also features easy soups, hearty stews, delicious desserts and more, meaning you really can eat like an Italian at home – and bring a taste of the Med to even the dreariest of winter days.

Beef shin ragù

<p>Rita Platts/Quadrille</p>

Rita Platts/Quadrille

This glorious ragù is simple to make. Once celery, carrots and onions are cooked down, meat and stock are added, then the dish is popped into the oven. The beef shin will be melt-in-your-mouth tender and full of flavour from the herbs and vegetables. Serve with your favourite pasta and top with plenty of grated Parmesan and black pepper.

Get the recipe for beef shin ragù here

Kale and cannellini bean soup

<p>Waitrose & Partners/loveFOOD</p>

Waitrose & Partners/loveFOOD

This hearty soup couldn't be easier – nor more wholesome. With a simple base made from tinned tomatoes, the recipe will benefit from you using the best Italian brand you can find. Add Savoy cabbage, kale and cannellini beans, then serve with garlicky ciabatta and a poached egg for a perfect lunch that's ready in around 20 minutes.

Get the recipe for kale and cannellini bean soup here

Spinach and ricotta gnudi

<p>Laura Edwards/Mitchell Beazley</p>

Laura Edwards/Mitchell Beazley

Gnudi is the Tuscan word for 'naked', which aptly describes these delicate little dumplings. The spinach and ricotta mixture is bound together with egg yolks and the cooked dumplings are served simply, with melted butter and grated Parmesan. Do note – they are quite fragile, so take your time when preparing them.

Get the recipe for spinach and ricotta gnudi here

Spaghetti carbonara



This classic pasta dish is so simple – and so delicious. Make it once and we reckon it’ll become a regular feature in your cooking repertoire. The egg yolks add richness, while the pecorino provides a wonderful saltiness. To make the sauce even silkier, add a little of the pasta water right at the end.

Get the recipe for spaghetti carbonara here

Wild mushroom lasagne

<p>Seasons at Highclere: Gardening, Growing, and Cooking through the Year at the Real Downton Abbey/Century</p>

Seasons at Highclere: Gardening, Growing, and Cooking through the Year at the Real Downton Abbey/Century

Dried porcini mushrooms add masses of meaty, umami flavour to this vegetarian lasagne. It’s wonderfully rich, with a double cream and Parmesan béchamel sauce bringing the dish together. We'd suggest serving with a rocket salad to provide a pleasantly peppery, punchy contrast.

Get the recipe for wild mushroom lasagne here

Chicken Parmesan

<p>Issy Croker/Hodder</p>

Issy Croker/Hodder

Chicken Parmesan is one of the great Italian-American dishes. Traditionally, breaded chicken breasts are topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan, then baked until the cheese is bubbling and browned. Our one-pan recipe is a clever and speedier twist on this; the chicken and tomato sauce are topped with breadcrumbs and cheese and served with courgette spaghetti, instead of wheat pasta. It loses nothing in the taste and takes just 25 minutes to make.

Get the recipe for chicken Parmesan here

Mushroom pappardelle

<p>UK and Ireland Mushroom Producers/loveFOOD</p>

UK and Ireland Mushroom Producers/loveFOOD

This recipe matches white miso with mushrooms to create a deep, savoury flavour. A good splash of balsamic vinegar adds a tangy sweetness and chilli flakes give the dish some heat. Any type of ribbon pasta would work well – use tagliatelle or fettuccine if you can't get pappardelle.

Get the recipe for mushroom pappardelle here

Roast peppers with burrata

<p>Laura Edwards/Mitchell Beazley</p>

Laura Edwards/Mitchell Beazley

In this recipe, red peppers are roasted with 'nduja, a spicy pork paste from Calabria, in the south of Italy. This brilliant ingredient is well worth seeking out and is fabulous added to pasta sauces. Here, fiery 'nduja contrasts with the sweetness of the roasted peppers and the rich, indulgent creaminess of the burrata (also from the south of Italy). Serve with ciabatta to mop up the juices.

Get the recipe for roast peppers with burrata here

Cacio e pepe

<p>Louise Hagger/Hardie Grant</p>

Louise Hagger/Hardie Grant

The simple pasta sauce might just be made from grated Parmesan, butter and black pepper, but the combination results in a dish that’s full of incredible flavour. The key to creating a silky-smooth texture is to add some of the starchy pasta cooking water to the sauce.

Get the recipe for cacio e pepe here

Wild boar ragù

<p>Kiran Oksana/Shutterstock</p>

Kiran Oksana/Shutterstock

While wild boar ragù with pappardelle is popular in Italy, you could happily substitute pork shoulder in this recipe. The meat is cooked low and slow in red wine, tomatoes, herbs, vegetables and spices for an incredibly flavourful end result. It also freezes really well, should you have any leftovers.

Get the recipe for wild boar ragù here

Slow-cooker spaghetti Bolognese

<p>Waitrose & Partners/loveFOOD</p>

Waitrose & Partners/loveFOOD

To make a great Bolognese, you need to let the sauce cook for as long as possible, so that the rich flavours of the tomatoes, garlic, herbs and meat all meld together. The joy of this recipe is that you can do the prep in the morning and leave the slow cooker to work its magic until it's time to eat.

Get the recipe for slow-cooker spaghetti Bolognese here

Florentine pancakes

<p>Helen Cathcart/Hardie Grant</p>

Helen Cathcart/Hardie Grant

This traditional Tuscan dish comprises savoury pancakes filled with cooked spinach, ricotta and Parmesan. The stuffed pancakes are covered in a rich tomato sauce, followed by a layer of béchamel. They're then topped with grated Parmesan and baked in the oven. Our pancakes are made with buckwheat flour, which is gluten-free, but you could substitute plain flour instead.

Get the recipe for Florentine pancakes here

Osso buco

<p>Andrei Iakhniuk/Shutterstock</p>

Andrei Iakhniuk/Shutterstock

A classic dish from Milan, shanks of veal (bone and marrow in) are slowly cooked with vegetables, white wine and stock, then topped with chopped garlic, lemon and parsley. The meat is served with a creamy saffron risotto for a perfect cold weather dish. You could opt for beef shin instead; just cook it for an extra hour or so, until tender.

Get the recipe for osso buco here


<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Without a doubt, the best lasagne is a homemade one. That said, there's no need to make your own pasta sheets – just seek out an Italian brand known for its quality dried pasta sheets. The secret to success is cooking the rich meat sauce for at least two hours for maximum flavour. All you have to do then is prepare a béchamel and layer the different elements to bake. Trust us – this is a recipe worth mastering.

Get the recipe for lasagne here

Roast mushroom and truffle pizza

<p>Dave Brown/Quadrille</p>

Dave Brown/Quadrille

What’s not to like about the luxurious, heady combination of mushrooms and truffle? Roasting chestnut mushrooms brings out their deep, earthy flavour, allowing them to really stand up to the rich, aromatic white truffle oil. A scattering of grated Parmesan finishes things off nicely.

Get the recipe for roasted mushroom and truffle pizza here

Gnocchi with truffle butter

<p>Perfect Pasta at Home/Seven Dials</p>

Perfect Pasta at Home/Seven Dials

Fancy an elegant meal in a hurry? This dish has only four ingredients and is ready in 15 minutes, making clever use of shop-bought gnocchi. For the best flavour, combine the melted butter and chopped truffle while the hob is on, then leave the mix to infuse off the heat. Serve the gnocchi with a generous showering of freshly grated Parmesan.

Get the recipe for gnocchi with truffle butter here

Pistachio and mortadella lasagne

<p>Perfect Pasta at Home/Seven Dials</p>

Perfect Pasta at Home/Seven Dials

In this unusual dish, pistachios are the star; they form the base of a pesto, which is stirred through the béchamel sauce, and are also scattered on top of the cooked lasagne for a pleasant crunch. Mortadella, a cured pork from Bologna in the north of Italy, has a lovely, delicate taste that works well with the nutty, slightly sweet flavour of the pistachios.

Get the recipe for pistachio and mortadella lasagne here

Spaghetti with meatballs

<p>Maxim Khytra/Shutterstock</p>

Maxim Khytra/Shutterstock

Meatballs, in various guises, are made in every region of Italy. Usually prepared with minced beef or veal, they can also contain Parmesan, garlic, herbs and even salami or mortadella, so feel free to play around with the ingredients to make the dish your own. Alternatively, try our recipe with a twist – meatballs made with pork and spicy chorizo sausage served in a rich tomato sauce.

Get the recipe for pork and chorizo meatballs with spaghetti here

Pizza Margherita



This classic pizza was named after Queen Margherita who, when visiting Naples in 1889, was presented with a pizza topped with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil (mimicking the colours of the Italian flag). In our recipe, the pizza is cooked in a large frying pan, a practice which is quite normal in Italy – domestic ovens don’t get hot enough and the pan ensures you end up with a crisp base.

Get the recipe for pizza Margherita here

Italian vegetable pie

<p>Giancarlo Polacchini/Shutterstock</p>

Giancarlo Polacchini/Shutterstock

This vegetable pie is made using leftover bread dough, which is filled with potatoes, cheese, spinach or cabbage, and would traditionally be enjoyed by workers and schoolchildren for lunch or as a hearty snack. Our recipe contains the classic fillings, with courgettes, Parmesan and artichokes all bound together with egg before being baked. It can be served hot or cold.

Get the recipe for Italian vegetable pie here

Roast lamb with salsa verde

<p>Dora Kazmierak/Kyle Books</p>

Dora Kazmierak/Kyle Books

Made with flat leaf parsley, anchovies, capers, garlic, basil, vinegar and oil, this punchy sauce works perfectly with the rich flavours of roast lamb. It's versatile too – try it with grilled mackerel, salmon, chicken or steak.

Get the recipe for roast lamb with salsa verde here

Spinach and ricotta cannelloni



A popular dish in the 1970s, cannelloni seems to have fallen out of fashion. It's such a tasty, hearty dish, we’re making the case for bringing it back. There's no pasta to prepare – simply buy ready-made tubes and stuff them with a spinach, ricotta and Parmesan mix. Bake in a simple tomato sauce with grated cheese on top and serve with a leafy green salad.

Get the recipe for spinach and ricotta cannelloni here

Pepperoni pizza

<p>Dave Brown/Quadrille</p>

Dave Brown/Quadrille

This recipe takes an old favourite and gives it an extra kick. Chilli-infused honey is drizzled over the baked pizza, for a lovely balance of sweetness and fire. The recipe will make more hot honey than you need, and it will keep for three weeks in an airtight container. Stay traditional by using a Neapolitan dough recipe and a tomato sauce base.

Get the recipe for pepperoni pizza here

Roast chicken and Parma Ham with rosemary potatoes

<p>Kamila i Wojtek Cyganek/Shutterstock</p>

Kamila i Wojtek Cyganek/Shutterstock

This is such an easy dish to prepare, yet it looks – and tastes – impressive enough for entertaining. Chicken breasts are stuffed with mozzarella and basil, then the chicken is wrapped in Parma Ham before being cooked. Once cut into, the melted cheese oozes on to the plate. Little cubes of potato roasted in oil, garlic and rosemary make a lovely accompaniment.

Get the recipe for roast chicken and Parma Ham with rosemary potatoes here

Grilled sardines with salsa verde



This is a great dish if you have a barbecue and a fish grill, but you can also sear the sardines in a griddle pan. Once cooked, which only takes a few minutes, the sardines are served with a good squeeze of lemon juice, salsa verde and a salad of rocket and tomatoes. Sardines are an oily fish, so the sharp, herby sauce, hit of citrus and peppery lettuce leaves are the ideal accompaniment.

Get the recipe for grilled sardines with salsa verde here


<p>Martin Turzak/Shutterstock</p>

Martin Turzak/Shutterstock

Tagliata comes from the Italian verb 'to slice', hence the name of this simple yet sensational dish. Thick steaks, such as sirloin, are seared, rested and sliced, then coated with a lemon, garlic and rosemary dressing. The steak is served on a bed of rocket leaves along with shavings of Parmesan. In short, this really is a restaurant-quality dish that’s easy to prepare at home.

Get the recipe for tagliata here

Pea and ricotta risotto

<p>Maria Kovaleva/Shutterstock</p>

Maria Kovaleva/Shutterstock

Once you've mastered the art of making a great risotto, you can adapt the dish with your own twists and ideas. The trick is to stand over the pan, stirring all the time, to release the starch from the rice, which will give that lovely creaminess. Our recipe uses frozen peas, ricotta and Parmesan, and we've added goats' cheese and asparagus to serve, but you can use whatever is in season – mushrooms, prawns and butternut squash would all be lovely.

Get the recipe for pea and ricotta risotto here

Gnocchi with tomato and basil

<p>Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock</p>

Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock

Gnocchi are little pillows of potato and flour, which are lightly poached and served in a sauce. They’re absolutely delicious and simple to make at home, too. In Italy, you'd usually have a small portion as a starter, but there's no stopping you from making more and serving as a main course. The sauce is up to you – a creamy, blue cheese one would work well, as does the tomato sauce in the recipe below.

Get the recipe for gnocchi with tomato and basil here

Tomato focaccia



Making this classic Italian bread is easier than you might think. This recipe sees the dough studded with rosemary and cherry tomatoes, but you can flavour it with your favourite herbs and vegetables – olives, thyme and basil all work well. Key to bringing out the best in focaccia is to be generous with the sea salt and finish with a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Get the recipe for tomato focaccia here

Ham and cheese pie

<p>Helen Cathcart/Hardie Grant</p>

Helen Cathcart/Hardie Grant

Slices of pie with melting cheese and ham in the centre are often served in Italy for breakfast, but they'd be just as good eaten for lunch with a green salad. This particular pie is very easy to make thanks to shop-bought puff pastry, but do use good-quality ham – paper-thin slices will be too watery. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Get the recipe for cheese and ham pie here

Sweet potato, feta and red onion frittata

<p>Dora Kazmierak/Kyle Books</p>

Dora Kazmierak/Kyle Books

Quick and easy to make, flavour-packed frittatas are wonderful eaten hot, warm or even cold, making them perfect for a portable lunch. This recipe incorporates sweet potatoes, tangy feta and caramelised red onions, balancing sweet and salty elements perfectly.

Get the recipe for sweet potato, feta and onion frittata here

Bruschetta with tomatoes

<p>stock creations/Shutterstock</p>

stock creations/Shutterstock

Bruschetta is often served as a pre-dinner nibble to keep everyone going while the main course is being cooked. The base is simply toasted rustic bread, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with oil while still warm. The toasts are usually topped with juicy, ripe chopped tomatoes. Olives, torn buffalo mozzarella, fresh basil and a little more oil all make lovely extra additions.

Get the recipe for bruschetta with tomatoes, mozzarella and olives here

Sausage ragù

<p>Towpath: Recipes & Stories/Chelsea Green Publishing</p>

Towpath: Recipes & Stories/Chelsea Green Publishing

Time is the magic ingredient in this relatively hands-off recipe; slow simmering allows the sauce to gain huge depth of flavour and richness. The herbs used are rosemary, thyme and bay leaves, which have a deep woodiness that balances the tang of tomatoes and meaty pork sausages perfectly.

Get the recipe for sausage ragù here

Pappardelle with cod and cherry tomatoes

<p>Perfect Pasta at Home/Seven Dials</p>

Perfect Pasta at Home/Seven Dials

Sweet cherry tomatoes pair beautifully with mild, tender cod fillets, especially when cooked with white wine, as they are here. Fragrant and light, with red chilli lifting the other ingredients and adding a welcome bit of heat, this simple yet tasty meal exemplifies the Italian philosophy of letting great produce shine through.

Get the recipe for pappardelle with cod and cherry tomatoes here

Mushroom arancini

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

These tasty nibbles, typically made with leftover risotto, can be prepared in advance, but do need to be cooked just before serving. Our recipe is for mushroom arancini served with a moreish roasted cherry tomato sauce. We've included the risotto recipe for you, but you could follow the same method for any extra risotto.

Get the recipe for mushroom arancini here


<p>Yuliia Holovchenko/Shutterstock</p>

Yuliia Holovchenko/Shutterstock

Panzanella is one of the most rustic, simple and tasty salads around. Hunks of stale bread are softened and seasoned by flavourful fresh ingredients – tomatoes, red onions, garlic, roasted peppers and plenty of olive oil. Coarse white bread is used traditionally, and you do need a dense loaf which will really soak up all those fantastic flavours.

Get the recipe for panzanella here

Peach, prosciutto and mozzarella salad

<p>Good Things To Eat/Harper Collins</p>

Good Things To Eat/Harper Collins

When peaches are in season and are ripe and luscious, this salad epitomises everything we love about simple Italian food. The sweetness of the stone fruit contrasts with the saltiness of the prosciutto and the creaminess of the buffalo mozzarella. It's dressed with the grassy extra virgin olive oil and served with a scattering of mint leaves. When peaches are out of season, try using cantaloupe melon instead.

Get the recipe for peach, prosciutto and mozzarella salad here


<p>margouillat photo/Shutterstock</p>

margouillat photo/Shutterstock

Panettone is a classic Italian Christmas treat, but it's too good to eat just once a year. This dome-shaped, dried fruit–studded enriched bread has a light texture and a buttery taste. It's also easier to make than you might think; you just need to set aside a little time for the first and second risings. If you have any leftovers, it makes a fab bread and butter pudding and is delicious toasted and spread with butter.

Get the recipe for panettone here

Panna cotta

<p>Alena Hanrylik/Shutterstock</p>

Alena Hanrylik/Shutterstock

Panna cotta, meaning 'cooked cream' in Italian, has become a favourite dessert the world over. This luxuriously creamy dessert should ideally be lightly set, with a soft texture and slight wobble. For a grown-up twist, add a splash of dark rum to the mixture before setting in the fridge overnight. Serve with fresh berries and a fruit sauce.

Get the recipe for panna cotta here




Biscotti are little twice-baked biscuits containing nuts or a mixture of nuts and dried fruit. Some recipes add fennel seeds, too. They're simple to make and are usually served with coffee or sweet wine for dipping. Biscotti also keep very well – up to a month in an airtight container – so they make a lovely edible gift. Our recipe uses pistachios, but you could also try almonds or hazelnuts.

Get the recipe for pistachio biscotti here

Caramel gelato

<p>Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock</p>

Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

You'll find some of the best ice cream in the world in Italy. An Italian gelato is usually made with milk, not cream, so it's light and refreshing. Once you’ve mastered the basic recipe, you can add your own favourite ingredients – think chopped nuts, coffee, fruit or chocolate chips. Our recipe is a simple vanilla gelato speckled with crunchy pieces of caramel. Try adding a pinch of sea salt to the caramel for an extra layer of flavour.

Get the recipe for caramel gelato here

Mint stracciatella gelato

<p>Steve Joyce/Bloomsbury Publishing</p>

Steve Joyce/Bloomsbury Publishing

Stracciatella (which translates as ‘raggedy’) gelato is a classic Italian dessert that has chocolate shards running through it. This recipe also uses fresh mint, to add a wonderful punchy flavour. The key to getting the bright green colour is preparing the herb correctly – blanch the mint for around 10 seconds then plunge it into iced water.

Get the recipe for mint stracciatella gelato here


<p>Georgia Glynn Smith/BBC Books</p>

Georgia Glynn Smith/BBC Books

The literal meaning of tiramisú is 'pick me up', which is really no surprise given the large amount of strong coffee and brandy it tends to contain. A guaranteed crowd-pleaser, prepare it the day before you need it and it will taste even better. You can make elegant individual portions or one large dish.

Get the recipe for tiramis here


<p>Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock</p>

Anna Shepulova/Shutterstock

A speciality of the Tuscan city of Siena, panforte is a rich, flat cake loaded with fruit, nuts and spices. Some versions also contain chocolate; we coat our panforte with chocolate syrup, but you could just dust it with cocoa powder. A few teaspoons of ground cinnamon would also add extra flavour. It’s very rich, so serve in slim slices and offer with coffee.

Get the recipe for panforte here

Inspired? Read our guide to how eating like an Italian can help you waste less food – and save money