There is so much to love about pasta. It’s satisfying, easy to make, and goes with just about everything. From class Italian pasta dish to healthy pasta and vegetarian pasta meal, I’ve put together 19 best pasta side dishes that your whole family will like.
You’ve probably had your pasta with the classic red sauce, white sauce, or vodka sauce. There’s certainly a reason why these classic options are so well-loved, but there is also a whole colorful world beyond these basics. In this list, I’ll still take you through those classic recipes, along with some more creative options for different diets and types of meals.
What Can I Serve Before Pasta?
Since pasta can be quite heavy, it’s usually best to serve a salad beforehand to lighten up the meal. You could also honor pasta’s roots and go the Italian route by serving an antipasto spread. These platters can be a combination of many kinds of ingredients, but usually include cured meats and cheeses, olives and various vegetables in oil.
Classic Italian Pasta Side Dishes
- Fettuccine Chicken Alfredo: Everyone loves a classic Alfredo sauce – especially kids. This Alfredo pasta is creamy and comforting. Easy to make in under 20 minutes.
- Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce: This 10-minute Spaghetti recipe tastes like something you would get at a fancy restaurant and it only needs a few staple ingredients.
- Creamy Garlic Shells: This recipe uses basic ingredients to create something just as mouth-watering as those pasta sauce packets you see at the grocery store. It takes practically the same time too and by making it yourself, you can control exactly what goes into the recipe.
- Creamy Pasta Carbonara Recipe: This Carbonara sauce uses eggs instead of cheese for a pasta dish that’s just as creamy, but also dairy-free.
Healthy and Light Pasta Side Dishes
- Avocado Pasta: It’s a great vegan option. This sauce is super creamy without the addition of any dairy and avocados give it an added protein too.
- Healthy Pasta with Pesto and Broccoli: This 30-minute meal uses broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes to add fresh flavor. The recipe itself is meatless, which makes it a great option to go alongside any meat.
- Simple Mediterranean Olive Oil Pasta: This Mediterranean Pasta is great for anyone who isn’t a fan of rich and heavy sauces. It’s simplistic and delicious.
Vegetarian Pasta Side Dishes
- Easy Vegetable Spaghetti: Even the pickiest eaters won’t notice this delicious Spaghetti is full of vegetables. The recipe sneaks in over a pound and a half of veggies into 6 servings of sauce!
- Butternut Squash Linguine with Fried Sage: Savory Butternut Squash Linguine is so creamy, you would never guess it is completely vegan. It is the perfect light, yet comforting, pasta dish.
- Spinach Artichoke Lasagna: Lasagna is always a great option if you’re meal prepping, because it keeps well in the fridge and generally makes more servings. It can be hard to find a good veggie version though, and this Spinach Artichoke Lasagna is exactly that.
Pasta Side Dishes for BBQ
- Southern Macaroni and Cheese: This recipe has everything you could want from the quintessential Southern Macaroni and Cheese: it’s creamy, it’s cheesy and it’s seasoned to perfection.
- BBQ Macaroni Salad: Loaded with simple ingredients you likely already have in your pantry, this BBQ Macaroni Salad is easy to prepare and makes the perfect addition to any summer meal.
- Vegetable Garden Pasta: Using in-season ingredients is a really great way to approach cooking and this recipe does just that. Making the most of summer veggies, it uses more vegetables than noodles even.
Cold Pasta Side Dishes
- BLT Pasta Salad: You’ve probably heard of BLT sandwiches…but what about BLT Pasta Salad? This fun take on the classic combo makes for a fresh and bright summer salad.
- Easy Summer Pasta Salad: This Summer Pasta Salad uses fresh vegetables to make a tasty and colourful cold pasta dish. The dressing is a basic vinaigrette to really spotlight the veggies used.
- Tuscan Tortellini Salad: Here’s a quick summer dish full of favorite Italian flavors. It uses cheesy tortellini, but adds in plenty of extra cheese, meat and veggies for a surefire hit at any potluck.
Pasta Sides for Steak or Fish
- Gigi Hadid Pasta: Creamy, cheesy, and spicy, this recipe has taken the internet by storm. You can make it with or without vodka.
- Classic Baked Ziti: Baked Ziti is the best comforting and hearty meal for cold winter nights. It’s extra cheesy and the baked pasta is perfectly soft with some crunchy corners. There’s Italian sausage in this recipe for some added protein and for a restaurant-quality pasta dish, it’s so simple to make.
- Baked Orzo with Feta and Spinach: Baked Orzo is the perfect warm and cozy meal. This recipe is vegetarian and uses a tomato base, but has a crispy breadcrumb top with a sprinkling of creamy feta cheese.
19 Best Pasta Side Dishes That are Easy to Make
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup onion chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/3 cup vodka
- 28 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic, onions and red pepper flakes. Cook for 4-5 minutes until soft, stirring regularly to prevent sticking.
- Add the vodka and tomatoes. Stir and continue cooking for about 7 minutes more until the sauce has reduced somewhat.
- Add the tomato paste, salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer partially covered for 15-20 minutes until reduced by about half. Stir occasionally.
- While the sauce is simmering, you can cook the pasta following the package directions. Drain, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil to prevent sticking and set aside.
- Transfer the sauce to a blender or food processor. Purée for about 5 to 10 seconds until smooth.
- Add the pureed sauce back to the skillet. With the heat on medium-low, add in the half and half or cream. Stir gently for about 1 minute until it starts to bubble.
- Stir in the parmesan cheese. Then toss with the cooked pasta until coated completely. Garnish with extra parmesan and optional parsley or basil before serving.