20 of the Best Italian Food Recipes I’ve Seen


It’s hard to beat the savory, succulent deliciousness of Italian food, and these 20 recipes showcase the best of the best.


Us Americans are raised as much on Italian food as we are on hamburgers and hot dogs, so you’ve probably got a good handle on how to cook a few pasta dishes.

If they call for little more than a jar of marinara sauce or butter and herbs, though, it’s time to take things to the next level. And don’t worry–it’s not hard or expensive.

The Italian cuisine has a lot more joy to offer than just pasta, too.

Kale salad is delicious with pepperoni, roasted tomatoes, and lemon-garlic vinaigrette. You can infuse meatloaf with flavors like marinara, mozzarella, and sausage. Don’t underestimate a quick meal like a simple prosciutto panini. And don’t forget the Italian desserts like slightly sweet ricotta cheesecake and tiramisu with a touch of chocolate.


Italian Chicken & Rice Bake

Italian-chicken-recipePicture courtesy of The Seasoned Mom

If you’re the kind of person who worries about chicken breast being cooked just right, this casserole will be your secret weapon.

Mix together marinara, diced tomatoes, and rice in a casserole dish. Then all you have to do is lay the chicken breasts right on top, and sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Cover with foil, and pop dinner in the oven for 45 minutes. Add cheese until melted, and devour.

Serves 6


2 cups marinara sauce

1 can (15 oz.) Italian-seasoned diced tomatoes

1 cup long-grain rice

1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breast

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded mozzarella

1/4 cup (1 oz.) grated Parmesan

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 463

Protein: 42 grams

Carbs: 40 grams

Fat: 14 grams





Protein-Packed Lasagna

Healthy-lasagna-recipePicture courtesy of Protein POW

If you love vegetables, you can make a low-carb lasagna with zucchini or eggplant. But not everyone is fooled by the veggies in disguise. Rather than replacing the noodles, you can make a healthy lasagna by boosting the sauce and using smart fillings.

Although this lasagna has layers of lean ground beef and spinach, that’s not even the best part. This béchamel – usually made with butter and flour – benefits from a little pea protein powder, coconut milk, and cheddar cheese.

Serves 6


Beef Lasagna:

14 oz. lean ground beef

1 small onion, chopped

1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes

1/8 cup tomato paste

1 tsp. dried basil

1/2 Tbsp. coconut sugar

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1/2 cup cooked spinach

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 Tbsp. Herbamere seasoning (or sea salt)

1 package (1 lb.) lasagna noodles

Béchamel Protein Sauce:

3/4 cup coconut milk

1/8 cup pea protein powder

1/2 Tbsp. Herbamere (or sea salt)

1 Tbsp. coconut flour

1/4 cup (1 oz.) shredded cheddar

1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 460

Protein: 34 grams

Carbs: 51 grams

Fat: 13 grams





Cheesy Italian Meatloaf Muffins

Italian-meatloafPicture courtesy of A Farmgirl’s Dabbles

Have bad memories of being served dry, ketchup-smothered meatloaf as a kid? This recipe will help you redefine the classic dish.

Make sure each bite of meatloaf is perfectly cooked by preparing it in a muffin tin. And there will be plenty of flavor thanks to Italian favorites like tomato sauce, Parmesan, and mozzarella. Then again, if you’re not sure if everyone at the table will go for meatloaf, these are perfectly portioned appetizers. These mini meatloaves will also freeze well to enjoy later.

Serves 12


1 lb. lean ground beef

8 oz. Italian ground sausage

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion

3 large cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup marinara sauce, divided

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs

2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

4 oz. mozzarella, cut into 12 cubes

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 208

Protein: 20 grams

Carbs: 7 grams

Fat: 11 grams





Quinoa Chicken Parmesan

easy-chicken-parmesanPicture courtesy of Damn Delicious

Chicken parm is such a classic that it’s tough to improve upon. However, sometimes the breading can get soggy, and that’s one reason quinoa is a great addition.

The other, of course, is nutrition. Quinoa is known as an awesome plant-based protein. But it does adds a whole lot more, including complex carbs, monounsaturated fats, and minerals like manganese and copper.

Serves 4


1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 12 oz.), cut crosswise in half

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, beaten

1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded mozzarella

1/4 cup (1 oz.) grated Parmesan

1 cup marinara sauce

1/4 cup fresh basil, sliced into thin strips

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 467

Protein: 38 grams

Carbs: 48 grams

Fat: 13 grams





Weeknight Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce

Italian-sausage-pastaPicture courtesy of Noble Pig

Forget about ordering pizza for delivery. If you love a slice of a pizza with mushrooms and sausage on top, you’ll want to dig into this quick bowl of pasta. It’ll be ready in a half hour or less, meaning it’ll be hot on your dining table about the same time you’d be greeting the delivery man at the door.

Serves 6


3/4 lb. pasta of choice

1 lb. lean Italian ground sausage

8 oz. sliced mushrooms

4 cups marinara sauce

2 Tbsp. pizza seasoning (or Italian seasoning)

2 Tbsp. dried basil

1 Tbsp. crushed garlic

1/4 cup (1 oz.) shredded Parmesan

Crushed red pepper (optional)

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 522

Protein: 26 grams

Carbs: 71 grams

Fat: 14 grams





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Zuppa Toscana (Creamy Gnocchi Soup)

Easy-gnocchi-recipePicture courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

Gnocchi are pillowy soft, and yet they can be dense to eat when piled on a plate. Where these potato dumplings really shine is in a creamy soup. And as gourmet as this looks, it requires less than 10 ingredients to put together, including hot Italian sausage, chopped kale, and a generous splash of heavy cream.

Want to make this Italian soup taste even richer? Serve with Parmesan cheese and crumbled bacon.

Serves 4


1 lb. hot Italian ground sausage

1 small white onion, peeled and diced

4 cups chicken stock

1 jar (12 oz.) roasted red peppers, drained and diced

1 bunch kale, roughly chopped

1 lb. potato gnocchi

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 358

Protein: 15 grams

Carbs: 53 grams

Fat: 11 grams





Classic Tiramisu

tiramisu-cake-=recipePicture courtesy of Tide and Thyme

When you need to make a homemade dessert, there’s nothing easier yet more remarkable than tiramisu.

Dip ladyfinger cookies in espresso, lay them out flat in a dish, and cover with mascarpone cheese. The original version of tiramisu isn’t made with liqueur, so feel free to leave it out if you don’t have a bottle of cognac on hand. But since this recipe comes from The Sopranos Family Cookbook, you’d better believe there’s a touch of alcohol.


Serves 8


16 oz. mascarpone cheese

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 Tbsp. cognac (or amaretto)

1 cup heavy cream

24 ladyfingers

1 cup brewed espresso, room temp.

3.5 oz. (about 1/2 cup) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 370

Protein: 11 grams

Carbs: 36 grams

Fat: 20 grams





Italian Kale Salad

Italian-salad-recipePicture courtesy of A Dash of Sanity

To reduce the bitterness of kale, you can squeeze some of the juice out, as this recipe suggests. However, you can also massage the leafy greens, which will soften kale’s tough texture. It will look a bit wilted, and yet the leaves take on a brighter green color.

No matter which method you choose to prepare the kale, you’ll wind up with a nutritious and delicious salad with chicken, salami, and mozzarella.

Serves 8


Italian Salad:

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

1 head Boston lettuce, chopped

1 bunch green kale, stems removed and chopped

2 cups arugula, roughly chopped

3 large carrots, sliced

1 cup roasted tomatoes (or sun-dried tomatoes), chopped

8 oz. fresh mozzarella, drained

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning (or Tuscan seasoning)

3 oz. pepperoni (or pastrami), chopped

10 oz. (about 2 cups) chicken, cooked and chopped

Sweet Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. pure honey

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 332

Protein: 23 grams

Carbs: 19 grams

Fat: 19 grams





Healthy Homemade Italian Salad Dressing

Italian-salad-dressingPicture courtesy of Healthy Seasonal Recipes

It’s easy to make a vinaigrette at home with olive oil. But did you know you can make your own creamy Italian dressing with yogurt, mayonnaise, and buttermilk instead?

Compared to the Kraft version, there’s half the calories and less than half the fat. And since this calls for two kinds of dairy, it also has a few grams of protein – something you won’t find in oily dressings. That also means it has to be used quickly; store up to 5 days in the fridge.

Serves 5


1 small clove garlic, peeled

1 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt

3 Tbsp. low-fat buttermilk

2 Tbsp. mayonnaise

4 tsp. red wine vinegar

1 tsp. agave syrup (or granulated sugar)

3/4 tsp. Italian seasoning (or 1 1/2 tsp. fresh chopped herbs)

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/4 tsp. dried dill

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 47

Protein: 3 grams

Carbs: 4 grams

Fat: 2 grams





Slow Cooker Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti-and-meatballs-recipePicture courtesy of the Kitchen Magpie

Sure, you know how to make spaghetti and meatballs. But did you know it’s possible to cook spaghetti in a slow cooker?

That’s right – this easy weeknight dinner just got that much easier. All you have to do is put everything into the Crock Pot, and soon your plate of pasta will be ready to be served. No work required. And unlike most slow cooker meals, this one is ready in just 3 hours.

Serves 8


2 jars (24 oz. each) marinara sauce

1 box (1 lb.) whole-wheat spaghetti

20 pre-cooked chicken meatballs (frozen or homemade)

2 cups of water (more as needed)

1 jar (4.5 oz.) sliced mushrooms

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 590

Protein: 38 grams

Carbs: 71 grams

Fat: 18 grams





Caprese Salad with Pistachios

caprese-salad-recipePicture courtesy of Oh Sweet Basil

You don’t need to be a kitchen wizard to make an impressive salad.

This recipe doesn’t even require you to make a dressing – simply drizzle thick slices of tomato and mozzarella with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Garnish with ribbons of fresh basil and, if you want to go all out, some roasted pistachios.

Serves 6


3 large tomatoes

1 lb. fresh mozzarella

1/3 cup chopped pistachios

2 Tbsp. basil, sliced into thin strips

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 313

Protein: 24 grams

Carbs: 8 grams

Fat: 22 grams





Italian Wedding Soup

italian-wedding-soupPicture courtesy of San Antonio Winery

Orzo in a pasta salad can add up to a lot of carbs fast. But those little pieces of pasta are a great addition to soup. Unlike long noodles, they don’t have to be spiraled onto a fork and slurped up. Not only is this a healthy soup, but it also comes together quickly.

Believe it or not, you can make meatballs from scratch and still get dinner on the table in less than a half hour.

Serves 4


1/2 lb. lean ground beef

1 large egg, slightly beaten

2 Tbsp. bread crumbs

1 Tbsp. Parmesan (more for garnish)

1/2 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. onion powder

5 3/4 cups chicken broth

2 cups chopped spinach (or escarole)

1/2 cup orzo, uncooked

1/3 cup finely chopped carrot

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 297

Protein: 31 grams

Carbs: 22 grams

Fat: 9 grams





Focaccia from Scratch

Italian-bread-recipePicture courtesy of Heghineh

Don’t let freshly baked bread intimidate you. An easy homemade Italian bread to try your hand at is focaccia. Like most bread, it can be used to make sandwiches, or just to sop up the sauce on your plate.

Focaccia is so versatile, though, that it can also be used as a crust for pizza, a base for bruschetta, or as delicious Italian bread crumbs.

Serves 12


1 1/2 cup warm water

1 tsp. instant dry yeast

21/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more if needed for texture)

1 Tbsp. sea salt (plus more for garnish)

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

⅓ cup semolina

1 1/2 Tbsp. pure honey (or granulated sugar)

3 Tbsp. rosemary (fresh or dried)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Crushed red pepper (optional)

2 Tbsp. cornmeal

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 166

Protein: 3 grams

Carbs: 27 grams

Fat: 5 grams





Sicilian Ricotta Cheesecake

ricotta-cheesecakePicture courtesy of Canal House Cooking

For a cheesecake that has simple but incredible flavor, you’ll have to travel farther than New York or Philadelphia.

Using ricotta rather than cream cheese creates a mellow flavor. It’s not as tangy, and the texture once baked is very thick without sacrificing the creaminess you want in a forkful of cheesecake. This is also a great dessert to make for someone who doesn’t have a big sweet tooth; instead of a graham cracker crust, this Italian cheesecake uses bread crumbs.

Serves 8


1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/4 cup fine fresh bread crumbs

5 large eggs, separated

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 Tbsp. cake flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 cups fresh whole-milk ricotta

1/4 cup Grand Marnier

Zest of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 276

Protein: 10 grams

Carbs: 28 grams

Fat: 12 grams





Classic Margherita Pizza

homemade-pizza-recipePicture courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction

Homemade pizza doesn’t have to be hard to make.

To assemble this tasty Margherita pizza, roll out the dough into a circle, and pinch the edges to make the thick outer crust. Of course you don’t even have to make a crust from scratch, but if you do, the recipe below will make two 12-inch pizzas. That way you can freeze the other half of your homemade dough to make a quick pizza dinner on another night.

Serves 4


Homemade Pizza Crust:

1 packet active yeast

1 1/3 cups warm water

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more if needed)

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (plus more for brushing the crust)

3/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 Tbsp. cornmeal, for dusting

Margherita Pizza:

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves roasted garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup tomato sauce

8 oz. mozzarella cheese

2 plum tomatoes, sliced

Handful of fresh basil

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 466

Protein: 24 grams

Carbs: 51 grams

Fat: 19 grams





Ricotta Cookies with Vanilla Bean Glaze

Italian-cookiesPicture courtesy of Lovely Little Kitchen

You’ll need to reduce temptation when you have a batch of glazed ricotta cookies around.

Since they’re perfectly soft and definitely addictive, you might want to think about cutting the recipe in half. Otherwise you’d better be baking them for a lot of people. Either way, they’ll disappear real quick.

Makes 6 dozen


Ricotta Cookies:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

15 oz. ricotta cheese

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

Vanilla Glaze:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

3 Tbsp. milk

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 89

Protein: 2 grams

Carbs: 14 grams

Fat: 3 grams





Chicken Alfredo Broccoli Baked Ziti

easy-baked-zitiPicture courtesy of Pillsbury

When you’re paying attention to healthy eating, it’s important not to give up everything you love. Sometimes instead of cutting out a guilty pleasure, you can add a superfood to it to amp up the nutrition.

That’s where this baked pasta with broccoli is coming from. If you must satisfy cravings for creamy alfredo, go for it! But forget about the guilt by adding chicken, broccoli, and whole-wheat penne.

Serves 12


24 oz. (1 1/2 boxes) penne pasta

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 lb. uncooked chicken tenders (not breaded)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 bag (12 oz.) frozen broccoli florets, thawed

2 jars (16 oz. each) alfredo sauce

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 702

Protein: 46 grams

Carbs: 69 grams

Fat: 26 grams





Italian Pasta Salad

Italian-pasta-saladPicture courtesy of Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice

The pitfall of most pasta salads is that there’s more pasta and dressing than anything else.

This one, however, has enough ingredients to offer a wide variety of nutrition. There’s salami, garbanzo beans, black olives, tomatoes, and mozzarella cheese. And this pasta salad is good for all occasions: picnics, backyard barbecues, potlucks, and make-ahead lunches.

Serves 10


Balsamic Vinaigrette:

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp. mustard

1 tsp. pure honey

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 sprigs thyme

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pasta Salad:

8 oz. rotini pasta

1 can (14 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

6 oz. large black olives, pitted and halved

5 oz. salami, cut into bite-sized pieces

6 oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed

1 cup diced tomatoes (or 2 cups grape tomatoes)

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. capers

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup (1 oz.) grated Parmesan

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 470

Protein: 17 grams

Carbs: 42 grams

Fat: 28 grams





Prosciutto, Pesto & Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich

Prosciutto-mozzarella-sandwichPicture courtesy of Panini Happy

Italians are known for elegant yet rustic cuisine, and that sensibility even extends to the sandwiches. Luckily that means they don’t just taste good, but are also really easy to assemble.

Although this prosciutto panini only takes five ingredients to make, it’ll taste like a $10 sandwich from a fancy deli.

Serves 4


8 slices Italian bread

4 oz. basil pesto

1/4 lb. thinly sliced prosciutto

8 slices fresh mozzarella

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 282

Protein: 25 grams

Carbs: 13 grams

Fat: 15 grams





3-Cheese Manicotti Skillet with Meat Sauce

italian-manicotti-recipePicture courtesy of Donna Elick

Oven on the fritz, or do you just prefer to avoid heating up the whole kitchen? Either way, you’ll love this method of making baked pasta dishes in a skillet. As long as you have a wide pan with high sides, you can make pasta on the stove.

This recipe is for manicotti, but it also works for ziti, lasagna, and other kinds of pasta.

Serves 4


1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 tsp. salt, divided

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1 can (14.5 oz.) fire-roasted diced tomatoes

1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

4 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning

1 large egg, lightly beaten

16 oz. part-skim ricotta

1 cup (4 oz.) grated Parmesan, divided

8 manicotti shells, uncooked

1 cup water

2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella, divided

Fresh parsley (optional garnish)

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 848

Protein: 80 grams

Carbs: 45 grams

Fat: 39 grams





What did you think of these Italian food recipes? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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