26 Most Famous Pasta Dishes in Italy from Every Region
Planning on eating your way around Italy anytime soon? You know that pasta — the most beloved of all Italian food — will be at the top of your list! For your dining pleasure, we’ve compiled this list of the most famous pasta dishes in Italy from every region (plus a few more of our personal faves) so you know what dishes to look for no matter where you go in Italy. Prego!
If there’s one food that Italy is known for, it’s pasta — in fact, the same word is understood in both English and Italian and probably the world over. Even more interesting, the origins of Italian pasta trace all the way back to the 13th century, although many Italians will argue that this Italian food staple was born hundreds of years before that. But who’s counting!
There are so many tempting pasta dishes on the Italian menu you’ll never be at a loss for variety. Dishes like Carbonara, Cacio e pepe, Spaghetti alla puttanesca, or Pasta alla Norma to name just a few.
Plus, pasta shapes and sauces vary so much by region, you’ll find yourself trying to figure out what that little something extra is that Florence adds in their sauce that you didn’t taste in Venice just two hours away.
There are so many different traditional Italian pasta dishes throughout the country that are worth a try! If you’re looking for the best and most famous pasta dishes in Italy, this guide has you covered.
Table of Contents
26 Famous Pasta Dishes in Italy by region - (click to jump ahead)
Abruzzo • Basilicata • Calabria • Campania • Emilia Romagna • Friuli-Venezia Giulia • Lazio • Liguria • Lombardy • Marche • Molise • Piedmont • Puglia • Sardinia • Sicily • Tuscany • Trentino-Alto Adige • Umbria • Valle d’Aosta • Veneto
Which Region Has the Best Italian Pasta?
Let’s start with a loaded question that’s impossible to answer, but fun to think about nonetheless. The best answer is, every region in Italy has the best Italian pasta.
Just ask anyone — they’ll tell you their region has the best Italian food, the best bread, the best gelato, or the best pasta. (Notice we didn’t say the best pizza — because that’s obviously in Naples, #sorrynotsorry ; )
And of course, all of their grandmothers make the best everything, no matter what you’re talking about!
Having grandmothers from different regions in Italy, this was a frequent (and loud) discussion at family dinners. We speak from experience when we say — the subject of “best Italian food” is a hot topic at the dinner table, like religion and politics! :-|)
Types of Pasta in Italy
What we can tell you about Italian pasta is this: to truly appreciate pasta in Italy, look closer and deconstruct — there are many types of Italian pasta, the unique shapes of the pasta itself, and the accompanying sauce. Just eating pasta alone could easily be its own unique self-guided food tour with the sheer variety of Italian pasta dishes on the menu!
But deconstruct the dish: look closer at the sauce, the dish preparation, and the pasta itself. All of these reflect the particular region in Italy where it first originated and reveals much about the region’s history, land, and people.
Note the ingredients in the sauce
Is it cream-based, tomato-based or a pesto made from basil, spinach, or even asparagus?
Is there meat or seafood in the sauce and if so, what kind? Or are the sauces lighter, even citrusy in flavor?
Richer meat-based sauces are a hallmark of northern Italy where you’ll find a variety of meats in both the sauce (Bolognese) and incorporated into the pasta itself (tortellino). Lasagne in this region is also an interesting dish — with noodles made from spinach and ladled with a rich and creamy bechamal sauce instead of red sauce or marinara. Seafood sauces are naturally more common closer to Adriatic and Mediterranean regions.
Is it a hearty pasta dish?
In the Germanic parts of northern Italy, pasta often takes the form of dumplings or spaetzle. Interestingly, around Milan where Arborio rice is widely grown, risotto dishes are in fact more common than the traditional Italian pasta dishes you normally think of.
How is the pasta dish made?
Are the pasta dishes baked or lightly dressed with sauce? Or even simmered in a simple broth?
Take a look at the pasta itself
What shapes of pasta are you seeing? What kind of wheat is it made from? The shape and construction of pasta will tell you so much about the region of Italy that you’re visiting, like little food clues.
If you’re having orecchiette (pasta ears) or cavatelli, there’s no doubt you’re in Puglia. Bucatini is common in Roma, and Emilia Romagna is famous for their stuffed pastas like tortellini.
26 Famous Pasta Dishes in Italy
Hungry yet? We’re salivating just thinking about all these amazing Italian pasta dishes. So without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Here’s what you’ve been waiting for — listed alphabetically by region — 26 of the most famous (or infamous) pasta dishes in Italy, including their traditional names of Italian pasta, and in what Italian region you’ll find these dishes.
Sagne e Fagioli
Sagne e fagioli is one of the most distinctive pasta dishes in Italy. First, it uses a type of pasta called sagne, which is a shorter version of tagliatelle. The sagne is cooked separately from the tomato-based sauce, which includes a trinity of carrots, onions, and celery, sautéed in olive oil. When the two parts of the dish are complete, they are combined in a bowl and ready to eat!
Strascinati con Mollica e Peperoni Cruschi
Strascinati con mollica e peperoni cruschi is the perfect representation of Basilicata. This relatively simple dish uses two famous foods that Basilicata is known for: strascinati pasta (which is similar to orecchiette) and peperoni cruschi or pepperoncino, flakes from the heirloom red peppers you’ll see hanging in just about every market in the region.
When combined with garlic and olive oil, this plate of pasta balances spicy and salty effortlessly.
Fileja Pasta alla Silana
Given that fileja pasta originated in Calabria, it’s no surprise to find out that this long, thin pasta is used in many dishes in the region, including fileja pasta alla silana.
To make this tasty plate of pasta, you’ll need to add porcini mushrooms, sausage, tomatoes, guanciale, caciocavallo cheese, and pecorino cheese.
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Along with carbonara and cacio e pepe in Rome, Spaghetti alla puttanesca is one of the most famous pasta dishes of Italy, and certainly one of the most famous foods in Naples and Campania.
Legend has it that Spaghetti alla puttanesca was originally created by prostitutes who made it before they went to work for the evening, taking whatever local ingredients were in their pantry and simmering them through the night til they got home from work.
Others says it was restaurant owner Sandro Petti who created this infamous sauce when he was closing up for the night and suddenly a group of hungry customers showed up looking for a late night snack. He whipped up whatever he had on hand creating Spaghetti alla puttanesca.
Whatever it’s true origin, one thing is for certain: like many great Italian pasta dishes, puttanesca is a stewed melange of classic Campania ingredients (traditionally made with anchovies, olives, tomatoes, capers, and garlic) all simmered to perfection and served with spaghetti. Molto bene!
Spaghetti alle Vongole
Many traditional Italian pasta dishes from the South are loaded with seafood, like Spaghetti alle vongole, a relatively simple dish made with spaghetti, garlic, red chili pepper, white wine, parsley, and lots of tasty local clams!
And if you wondering whether it’s a red clam sauce vs white clam sauce, most clam sauces around Campania are a blend of marinara, garlic oil, briny clam liquid, and even some white or red wine splashed in for good measure.
One of the most famous Italian pasta dishes in Campania is Lasagna, and this popular layered, baked dish actually originated in Naples!
There are many variations of lasagna from all over the country, including Lasagna alla Bolognese al Forno and Lasagna alla Genovese. But Neapolitan lasagne may be the most cheesy and decadent of them all.
With layers of pasta, meat sauce, and cheese, there’s a lot that goes into making a Neapolitan lasagne.
The meat sauce includes a few different cuts of pork, red wine, tomato sauce, and onions. The cheese layers include ricotta, Parmigiano Reggiano, and mozzarella. There are even delicious little meatballs tucked into traditional Neapolitan lasagne.
Tortellini en Brodo
Hailing from the food capital of Emilia Romagna, there are lots of famous dishes you should try in this region. You’ll find similar foods in Modena, Bologna, Parma, and other great food cities in the region, but one dish that’s ubiquitous to just about every city is the tiny stuffed ring-shaped pasta called Tortellini.
Tortellini and tortellino is uniquely Emilia-Romagna, and the shape is truly one of a kind — some say its shape was fashioned after a woman’s navel. Hmm, I wonder whether that was before of after eating a lot of this pouchy little pasta! ;-)
While there are many types of tortellini, tortellini en brodo is one of the most popular types in the region. The broth is made with beef or chicken broth, carrots, celery, and onion. Then, the tortellini are filled with prosciutto, mortadella, pork loin, Parmigiano Reggiano, and a dash of nutmeg.
Plop the tortellini into the broth, sprinkle it with a tablespoon of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, and enjoy the simple, yet delicate taste of tortellini en brodo.
Tagliatelle alla Bolognese
This list of the the most famous pasta dishes of Italy wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Bologna for Tagliatelle alla bolognese. Finding your favorite version is one of the best things a foodie can do in Bologna!
In this recipe, the long tagliatelle noodles are mixed with a bolognese sauce that’s bursting with flavor. This sauce includes a variety of ground meats, carrots, onions, tomato sauce, and white wine.
A very similar dish can be made with lasagna instead of tagliatelle.
Cjalzons, also called cjalsons or cjarsons, are a distinctive type of ravioli or dumpling from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Traditionally, cjalzons are an eye-catching half-moon shape.
And while the shape will initially catch your attention, it’s the flavors that’ll keep you eating. Cjalzons are filled with the perfect combination of savory and sweet ingredients. With everything from pancetta to pears to cinnamon inside of these perfect pasta packages, there’s no other Italian pasta dish that’s quite like it.
Many of the most famous pasta dishes of Italy are from the Lazio region around Rome, and one of these world-renowned dishes is carbonara. This famous Roman dish is on every menu! Made with eggs, guanciale or pancetta, eggs, and Parmigiano Reggiano, this dish is simultaneously simple and decadent.
There are a wide variety of pastas that can be used to make carbonara, including spaghetti, fettuccine, rigatoni, bucatini, and linguine, but spaghetti and bucatini are most widely used.
Cacio e Pepe
One of the simplest, yet most famous pasta dishes of Italy is cacio e pepe. When translated, cacio e pepe means “cheese and pepper,” which are the two main ingredients of this pasta recipe. Other than that, you’ll just a bit of butter and, of course, your pasta.
There are a few different types of pastas that work well with cacio e pepe, including linguine, spaghetti, and bucatini.
Pesto alla Genovese
Not to be confused with Pasta alla Genovese in Naples made with stewed onions and pork, we certainly can’t forget to put a pesto pasta on this list of famous pasta dishes of Italy. While there are a few pesto variations throughout Italy, Pesto alla Genovese is the type that most people are familiar with. It is made of basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and Parmigiano Reggiano.
This sauce can be added to just about any type of Italian pasta, though traditionally you’ll find it served using trofie, a short-rolled and twisted pasta common in Liguria.
Ravioli di Zucca
Ravioli are certainly one of the most famous pasta dishes of Italy. As a matter of fact, there are loads of ravioli variations spread throughout the country. But one of the best Italian ravioli recipes is ravioli di zucca.
This pumpkin or butternut squash-filled ravioli is the ideal blend of both savory and sweet. And when topped off with a decadent sauce of sage, butter, and grana Padano, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better Italian pasta dish than ravioli di zucca.
Vincisgrassi is a multi-layered baked pasta dish that’s very similar to lasagna. With large, flat noodles and a meat ragú sauce, the two look almost identical to the untrained eye, or tastebud.
The primary differences between vincisgrassi and lasagna lie in the ragú. While lasagna typically uses beef, vincisgrassi uses just about everything else – from duck to rabbit to pork to chicken giblets.
Cavatelli al Sugo di Maiale
Cavatelli al sugo di maiale, also called cavatelli con ragu di maiale, is a simple, yet delicious pasta. There are two main components to this dish: semolina-based cavatelli pasta and the pork ragú. Most of the flavor of this dish comes from the ragú, which includes a few different types of pork, tomatoes, onions, parsley, garlic, and pecorino cheese.
The cavatelli pasta shape is traditional to Molise and northern Puglia.
Tajarin al Tartufo
One of the most popular types of Italian pasta is tagliatelle, and tajaran is the Piedmontese version of tagliatelle. The main difference between the two pastas is the fact that tajarin has a higher proportion of eggs, giving the pasta a richer, more vibrant gold flavor.
This twist on tagliatelle is used to make the delicious dish of tarajrin al tartufo. With already decadent noodles, this meal only uses two other ingredients: butter and black or white truffles.
Ciceri a Tria
Ciceri a tria is one of the most unique Italian pasta dishes for a couple of different reasons. The two main ingredients of cicero a tria are chickpeas and tagliatelle. While chickpeas are found in a few Italian pasta dishes, they’re rather rare additions.
As for the tagliatelle, about a quarter of the pasta is fried and put on top as a crispy garnish! Other than that, you’ll just need a bit of tomatoes, carrots, parsley, and bay leaves to make ciceri a tria.
Orecchiette ai Cime di Rapa
While orecchiette pasta can be eaten all over Italy, it is most commonly found in Puglia. This small, hat-shaped pasta is combined with anchovies, garlic, pecorino, and rapini (sort of like broccoli) to make the mouthwatering dish known as orecchiette ai cime di rapa.
Malloreddus alla Campidanese
Sardinia boasts quite a few of the unique, yet famous pasta dishes of Italy, including malloreddus alla campidanese. The ridged malloreddus pasta is one of the main stars of the meal, along with the dash of brightly colored saffron! Add tomatoes, fennel sausage, and pecorino cheese, and you’ve got yourself a plate of malloreddus alla campidanese.
Spaghetti con la Bottarga
Since Sardinia is an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, it should be no surprise to find out that many Sardinian pasta dishes use seafood. One example of this is spaghetti con la bottarga. Bottarga is cured mullet roe, which gives the meal a luxurious salty flavor.
The bottarga is sliced and then sort of melted down to a sauce. Then, all you need to add is some parsley and garlic oil which gets tossed through spaghetti, coating it like a glaze, and Viola! — Spaghetti con la Bottarga.
Pasta alla Norma
Sicilian food is famous, even among Italians. But you’d be hard pressed to find a more traditional and renowned pasta dish in Sicily than Pasta alla Norma!
The famous dish is loaded with Mediterranean ingredients – from roasted eggplant to flavorful basil to tart tomato sauce. Traditionally, this healthy, yet tasty dish is made with rigatoni.
Pici all’Aglione uses a couple of famous Tuscan ingredients. The first is Pici pasta, a favorite pasta in Florence and Tuscany. Pici is like a hand-rolled, thicker version of spaghetti. It also uses locally produced garlic and olive oil, as well as some fresh cherry tomatoes.
Canederli dumplings are oversized flour-based gnocchi or dumplings found in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northern Italy, made from a mixture of stale bread, flour, eggs and milk. The flour mixture can be made into smooth gnocchi pasta pockets or chunky dumplings that look more like meatballs.
Canaderli are rustic and filling, and though it’s one of the most traditional foods of South Tyrol, you’ll find a ton of variations throughout the region.
Canederli trentini are sometimes made with leeks or cheese. But traditionally, the bread mixture is combined with Alpine ingredients like the local cured meat called Speck, a little local cheese, and tossed in a brown sage butter or served in a warm beef broth.
Pasta alla Norcina
Pasta alla Norcina is one of the most famous pasta dishes of Italy, particularly of Umbria. This dish can be made with either penne or rigatoni. Then, it is mixed with a mouthwatering white cream sauce with sausage, pecorino cheese, and onions. To round out the dish, pasta alla norcina is sometimes served with black or white truffle shavings on top.
Fettuccine di Castagne con Verze e Costine
Pasta isn’t as popular in Valle d’Aosta as it is in other parts of Italy. That said, there are still a few pasta dishes enjoyed throughout the region, with fettuccine di castagne con verze e costine being the most noteworthy one.
Fettuccine di castagne con verze e costine translates to chestnut fettuccine with cabbage and pork ribs. As you can tell from the name, there are a few unique components of this Italian pasta dish. First, there’s the chestnut flour-based fettuccine, which gives the dish a slightly nutty flavor. Then, there are the cozy fall flavors from the cabbage, carrots, celery, and pork ribs.
Bigoli in Salsa
One of the most famous Italian pasta dishes from the Veneto region is undoubtedly Bigoli in salsa. But don’t let the word salsa throw you — after all you’re in Italy.
Bigoli, which are long, thick noodles typically made from whole wheat. are a type of pasta originally from the Veneto region, so it’s no wonder that it’s used in one of the most popular dishes in Venice. Once you have the pasta, you only need onions, white wine, and a salt-cured fish to complete your bigoli in salsa. While today usually anchovy is used, in earlier days it was often prepared with sardines.
If you made it through this list without needing a snack, Congratulazioni! All this talk of pasta has us thinking of changing our dinner plans, and trying some of these famous Italian pasta dishes instead!