17 introductory Italian recipes for the beginner cook

For those of us who didn’t grow up making pasta with our nonna, these classic recipes are a great introduction to the wonders of Italian cuisine. From spaghetti with clams and garlic to Samin Nosrat’s perfect panzanella, these Italian starters, salads, pastas, main courses, sauces, sides, desserts and drinks are as foolproof as they are enjoyable.

Antipasti Salad with Bocconcini and Green Olive Tapenade

© Greg Du Pree

In 2018, Food & Wine named this recipe from legendary chef Nancy Silverton one of our best ever. The salad combines crisp iceberg lettuce, creamy balls of mozzarella, spicy and tangy peperoncini, salted olives and savory salami in a celebration of bold flavor, heart-pounding texture and complete deliciousness.

Italian wedding risotto

Photo by Victor Protasio / Food styling by Torie Cox / Accessories styling by Claire Spollen

F&W Culinary Director Justin Chapple marries the best of two Italian favorites – Italian wedding soup and risotto – for a festive flavor bonanza worthy of his own celebration.

Spaghetti with clams and garlic


“I can’t wait to go to Sicily for many reasons,” chef Frank Castronovo says of his six-month trip to southern Italy. “One of them is because I’m amazed at how many times Frank [Falcinelli, his co-chef] can order linguine con vongole. Their delicious and super simple version is packed with garlic and a sensible amount of crushed red pepper. If you prefer, shell the clams before tossing them with their juice into the pasta.

Pinzimonio with Tonnato Sauce

© Anna Williams

Raw vegetables take center stage in the 2009 F&W Best New Chef Nate Appleman appetizer which replaces the traditional olive oil dressing with tonnato – a sauce made with canned tuna, lemon juice, anchovies, mayonnaise and capers.

Bucatini Carbonara

© Anna Williams

Italian carbonara is renowned for its richness, combining pancetta or guanciale, egg yolks and cheese. Chef Linton Hopkins adds his own southern flair to the dish with house cured pork and local eggs.

Tomato, basil and cucumber panzanella with grated tomato balsamic vinaigrette

Victor Protasio

Do you have stale bread? Put it to its highest purpose with a glorious panzanella by Salt, fat, acid, heat author and television host Samin Nosrat. Here, she grates tomatoes into a gloriously balanced vinaigrette that pairs fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and red onions in harmony with freshly baked croutons and a touch of basil.

Basicilic pesto

Photo by Huge Galdones / Culinary Style by Christina Zerkis

Longtime test kitchen assistant David McCann loves to go wild with his pesto, and who could blame him? We have a plethora of recipes for hot and mashed sauce, but start with this basic basil recipe and go from there.

Tomato sauce with onion and butter from Marcella Hazan

Photo and styling by Julia Gartland

This buttery tomato sauce is as iconic as its author, the late Marcella Hazan, and it’s easy enough to make a double batch to freeze for later.

Eggplant caponata with golden raisins

© Michael Turek

Spread it over crostini, serve it with parmesan cheese, or simply eat it by the spoonful. Chef Ben Towill’s Golden Raisin Caponata balances sweetness with the flavor of jalapeños, tomatoes, olives, capers and eggplant caramelizing in the skillet. Prepare a giant batch and serve it with everything, as an appetizer or a super happy snack.

Frittata with broccoli rabe and ricotta

Although frittatas are often served chilled as an appetizer, they make an equally good main course warm or at room temperature. Here, creamy ricotta sweetens the bitter bite of broccoli rabe.

Tuscan veal chops

“Grill masters around the world have noticed that when you grill a piece of meat and then anoint it with some kind of fat, it mixes with the meat juices and creates an instant sauce,” says the expert in Steven Raichlen grills. “At Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, the steaks are finished with a pat of butter; other places use beef tallow.” In Tuscany, olive oil is the fat of choice for finishing such herbed veal chops.

Spinach Salad with Bagna Cauda Dressing

In the Piedmont region of Italy, the warm anchovy and olive oil sauce called bagna cauda is usually served as a dipping sauce for vegetables. Here, chef Justin Smillie makes it a warm vinaigrette for baby spinach, adding fresh breadcrumbs for crunch.

Potato gnocchi with butter and cheese

© Frances Janisch

American chefs are busy riffing on this Italian classic. Here, recipe creator Liz Mervosh shares a traditional recipe for incredibly light and tender gnocchi, dressed in a simple butter and parmesan sauce.

Soft Polenta with Mixed Mushrooms and Gremolata

© Peggy Wong

1999 F&W Best New Chef Suzanne Goin melts baby greens and a mushroom medley (whatever you have on hand) with a generous helping of mascarpone to create a succulent, soulful dish you’ll toss again and again.

The F&W Guide to Making Pizza at Home

Photo by Christopher Testani / Food styling by Torie Cox / Accessories styling by Audrey Davis

F&W editor Hunter Lewis became obsessed with mastering the art of making pizza at home, so the team broke the process down into bite-sized chunks, from crust to toppings , with many recipes. Start with our classic cheese pizza recipe and you’ll soon find yourself in a little pizza heaven.

Candied Almond Affogato

Photo by Antonis Achilleos / Prop Styling by Christina Daley / Food Styling by Ali Ramee

Technically, all you need for an affogato is an ice cream and an espresso, but why not live a little? This easy and adaptable recipe adds almond liqueur (or orgeat if you want to avoid alcohol), candied almonds and crushed amaretti cookies for a delicious crunch.

Campari Spritz

Photo by Jennifer Causey / Food Styling by Ali Ramee / Accessories Styling by Christina Daley

Recipe designer Jasmine Smith played with the formula of an Aperol Spritz to create this refreshing, slightly more bitter take on the classic drink. Sparkling grapefruit water, Prosecco and blood orange juice make the whole thing sparkle and sparkle.

Comments are closed.