3 traditional pasta dishes that will make you go ‘mamma mia!’

    The rolling hills of Italy boast a treasure trove of regional dishes, and yet data shows that many of us rarely explore beyond tried and tested classics like carbonara and ragù alla bolognese. For any proud Italian, this would be considered a heinous crime. With such an abundance of flavors, fresh ingredients and exciting recipes to boot, you’re missing out if you’re not trying some of the more authentically Italian pasta dishes that are on offer.


    If you’re looking to discover some new recipes but don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top three traditional pasta dishes that will transport you to Italy at dinner time.

    1. Cavatelli ai frutti di mare

    Let’s jump in at the deep end with a seafood classic rarely discussed this side of the Atlantic. According to Italian cuisine experts Pasta Evangelists, cavatelli (pronounced cah-vah-tell-ee) is a pasta shell originating in Molise and enjoyed across Southern Italy. Each shape has a distinct hollow centre. In fact, the name ‘cavatelli’ derives from the Italian verb cavare, meaning ‘to hollow’. This hollow middle is all the better for soaking up the sauce and bold flavors of the ‘fruits of the sea’.


    Serves 4

    • 300g cavatelli
    • 500g clams, washed
    • 300g king prawns
    • 150ml white wine
    • 4 large tomatoes, chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
    • Fresh flat-leaf parsley, torn
    • A pinch of chilli flakes
    • Salt and pepper


    1. Add cavatelli pasta to salted boiling water and cook until al dente, then drain.
    2. Meanwhile, heat the garlic and parsley on medium heat with a glug of olive oil. Once the garlic is cooking, add the prawns, clams, tomatoes and wine.
    3. Season with chilli flakes and salt and pepper to taste.
    4. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the seafood is almost cooked. At this point, the clams should be starting to open — discard any that stay closed.
    5. Stir the pasta into the seafood mix and drizzle with olive oil.
    6. Add salt and pepper to taste.


    1. Bucatini all’amatriciana

    This simple but effective pasta dish succeeds thanks to its classic Italian flavors and high-quality ingredients. Bucatini all’amatriciana is a traditional dish from the mountainous Amatrice region in central Italy. Its local cuisine has been recognized throughout history, and the sauce was first written about when it was served in the papal court in the 1800s.


    The dish uses bucatini, which is a pasta shape consisting of long, narrow tubes similar to spaghetti but made slightly thicker, with a hollow running through the middle which can soak up sauce.


    Serves 4

    • 400g chopped tomatoes
    • 100g guanciale pork, diced
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 400g bucatini
    • 100ml white wine
    • Pecorino romano cheese, grated for topping
    • A handful of basil leaves
    • Salt and pepper


    1. Heat the diced guanciale with a little oil over medium heat. Once the meat begins to brown, add the onion and garlic.
    2. When the onion and garlic start to soften, add the white wine and tomatoes.
    3. Simmer the mixture and reduce slightly for 10-15 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
    4. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente, drain, and add to the sauce (reserve and add a little of the pasta water to the sauce if too dry).
    5. Serve with grated pecorino romano and basil leaves.
    1. Orecchiette con cime di rapa

    This tasty dish is authentic Puglian cuisine. It may well be a mouthful to pronounce, but it certainly goes down a treat. Orecchiette is a popular pasta style renowned in the area and named after its peculiar round shape — closely resembling a small ear. Italy Magazine explains that the shape of orecchiette, combined with its rough surface, “makes it perfect for any kind of sauce, especially vegetable sauces”.


    As a result, it’s often paired with cime di rapa — or broccoli rabe, as we know it. The earthy flavor of fresh broccoli and its ease of cooking makes for a light, fresh, and satisfyingly straightforward midweek meal.


    Serves 2

    • 250g orecchiette
    • 250g broccoli rabe or tenderstem broccoli
    • 1 small red chilli, sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
    • Pecorino romano cheese, grated for topping


    1. Cook the orecchiette in salted boiling water for 8-10 minutes.
    2. 2-3 minutes before the pasta reaches al dente, chop the broccoli rabe into chunks and add to the pan to cook.
    3. Meanwhile, separately fry off the garlic and chilli in a little oil until soft.
    4. Drain the pasta and broccoli rabe and toss with the garlic and chilli.
    5. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and serve topped with grated pecorino.

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