13 Speedy Ways to Make Weeknight Pasta Worthy of Company

June 30, 2017

Italian food's inspiring to say the least. We partnered with Giovanni Rana, makers of traditional Italian fresh pasta, to share all our favorite ways to celebrate the season, Italian-style.

In Italy perhaps better than anywhere else, you can practically set your watch by what’s in season. The markets are overflowing and omnipresent, the celebration of food intrinsic to Italian daily life. All year long, sagre (sagre is Italian for "local festivals") color Italian cities and villages, each a party for a beloved regional food—pistachios in Bronte, cherries in Lari, focaccia in Recco—at exactly the moment it hits its peak. A beautiful thing.

It’s a good reminder to embrace a single, usually fresh ingredient as the backbone of a meal, whatever’s in season or calling your name from the farmstand: favas in their stubborn jackets, bristly but beautiful artichokes, fragrant red peppers. Or, alternately, to emulate a dish that is so tried and true that it has its own sagra (or, at least, its own place in a feverishly protected and upheld canon), like cacio e pepe or amatriciana.

Pasta + fresh, seasonal ingredients? Sigh, happiness. Photo by Julia Gartland

Of course, we all want to be the sort of person who whips up a full carbonara or cooks lobster on a weeknight—and perhaps some of you out there are—but we mere mortals have to pick our battles. If you’re going to splurge on screaming-around-the-corner-and-into-season-on-two-wheels fava beans and get dinner on the table, you know, tonight, fava beans can’t be the only thing you’re serving. Over pasta, they’ll stretch further, for one thing, and also save a bit of work and money. (Even better, with a cheese-filled pasta, you don’t even have to worry about protein or anything—you can just busy yourself with making the sauce or various add-ins as excellent as possible.)

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Here are a few ideas—and some favorites from the Food52 team—to get you started: Light lift, Italian-inspired fresh pasta dinners that take cues from that produce you'll want to stretch as far as you can.

Bittersweet: cheese ravioli or tortellini + a handful of chicories (like radicchio or endive or escarole) oiled and charred briefly under a broiler or on a grill, cooled, and chopped into ribbons + grated pecorino + a drizzle of honey

Baked gnocchi: An utterly comforting, 5-ingredient weeknight bake à la Food52 account executive Jane Poretsky.

Lobster fra diavolo: lobster ravioli + tomato sauce kicked up with chile flakes

Peperonata: any kind of pasta at all + sliced red peppers and ripe tomatoes sautéed with garlic + torn basil

Bagna cauda: gnocchi + smashed garlic and anchovies sizzled in olive oil

Eggplant parm: cheese tortellini or ravioli + eggplant sautéed with chile flakes + tomato sauce + torn basil + toasted breadcrumbs

Fava party!!: cheese or spinach ravioli + peeled and blanched fava beans + slivers of fresh mint + a squeeze of lemon juice

Al funghi: cheese or mushroom ravioli + butter-and-thyme sautéed wild mushrooms + shower of pecorino

Springy lemon and pea: From Food52 cofounder Merrill, a creamy, lemony meal inspired equally by Italian dinners in New York and weeknight meals for her family.

Creamy saffron: gnocchi + a pinch of saffron steeped in a little hot broth or water + butter + Parmesan + splash white wine

Artichoke: cheese or artichoke ravioli or tortellini + artichoke hearts sautéed in garlicky olive oil + lots of lemon juice + toasted breadcrumbs

Pizza: cheese (especially mozzarella!) tortellini or ravioli + tomato sauce + black olives

Cacio e pepe: In Rome, Food52 editor Ali Slagle had cacio e pepe—pasta pecorino or Parmesan or both with lots of black pepper—with an additional dollop of ricotta over the top, and suggests you do the same

How do you make a weeknight pasta worthy of weekend nights? Or turn the contents of your CSA box into a pasta dinner? Tell us in the comments.

Giovanni Rana's artisan Italian products, like their refrigerated pastas, filled pastas, and sauces, are made with high-quality, fresh ingredients, and with no preservatives, artificial colors, or flavors added. (Hooray!) Head here to see all their pasta styles and find out where you can get Giovanni Rana products in the U.S., plus more recipes and tips.

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.