Recipes for Italian Restaurant Meals You Can Make at Home

You don’t need to break the bank to enjoy expert-level Italian food on a weekday night. Italian food is some of the easiest to perfect, since how can you go wrong with a carb and sauce-based cuisine? As long as you have the right ingredients and the right recipes, you can bring Italy to your dinner table at half the cost, time, and calories than what you encounter at restaurants. Check out these homemade food formulas that will impress you and your dinner guests. The best part about cooking at home is that you get all the leftovers, and after one bite of these dishes, you might just consider multiplying the recipes.

1. Spaghetti and Meatballs

spaghetti

Spaghetti and meatballs | iStock.com

First up is the iconic Italian dish: spaghetti and meatballs. To enjoy the real deal at home, make your own meatballs and sauce via this recipe from The Pioneer Woman. The ingredients list might look daunting but the prep time is still only 25 minutes, and the dinner serves 8. You’ll make the meatballs from ground beef, pork, bread crumbs, eggs, Parmesan, and parsley, and then serve them over a bed of spaghetti that is coated in your homemade tomato sauce. Garlic bread and a fresh salad will round this homemade Italian dinner out.

Ingredients:

Meatballs

  • ¾ pounds ground beef
  • ¾ pounds ground pork
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cups fine bread crumbs
  • 2 whole eggs
  • ¾ cups freshly grated Parmesan
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Splash of milk
  • ½ cup olive oil

Sauce

  • 1 whole yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 whole (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • 1 whole (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • ½ cup white or red wine (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 8 whole fresh basil leaves, Chiffonade (optional)
  • 2 pounds spaghetti, cooked to al dente

Directions: Combine meat, garlic, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, parsley, and a splash of milk in a mixing bowl. Mix with hands. Roll into 25 (1 ½-inch) balls; place on a cookie sheet. Place cookie sheet into the freezer for 5 to 10 minutes to firm up.

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs 8 at a time, turning to brown. Remove and drain on a paper towel after each batch. Set meatballs aside.

In the same pot, add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Pour in whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and wine, if using. Add salt, pepper, sugar, and parsley. Stir to combine and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.

Add meatballs to pot and stir in gently. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring very gently a couple of times during the simmer.

Just before serving, stir in basil if using. Serve with spaghetti.

2. Fresh Tomato Bruschetta

tomatoes

Sliced tomatoes | iStock.com

Next up is a dish you can enjoy as a snack or for dinner. Tomato bruschetta is simple yet sophisticated, and making it homemade with fresh tomatoes takes it over the top. This recipe from Inspired Taste teaches you to grill your bread, use the sweetest tomatoes possible, and season them perfectly. Pair the bruschetta with a crisp glass of wine and enjoy the fresh flavors the homemade way.

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 medium ripe tomatoes, at room temperature
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 6½-inch thick slices Italian or French bread
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole

Directions: Halve tomatoes and remove and discard the majority of the seeds. Chop tomatoes into ¼ ­inch chunks before adding to a medium bowl with a pinch of salt, small pinch of black pepper, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and basil. Stir and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Heat a grill pan over medium heat or prepare an outdoor grill or barbecue (medium heat). Drizzle bread slices with one tablespoon of oil. Grill 2 to 3 minutes on each side until warmed though and grill marks appear.

Remove bread then lightly rub one side with garlic. Stir tomatoes one more time, taste then adjust with more salt or pepper as needed. Then, spoon a generous amount onto each bread slice. Drizzle a little of the juice remaining at the bottom of the bowl over tomatoes. Serve and enjoy.

3. Potato Gnocchi

Gnocchi pasta

Gnocchi | iStock.com

Next time you’re feeling ambitious in the kitchen, try your hand at making potato gnocchi at home. Making gnocchi is a process, but it’s a gratifying one at that, and this recipe from Fine Cooking shows you exactly how to do it. Serving 6, your dinner guests won’t believe you when you tell them you’ve prepared the gnocchi from scratch. Feed this to those you’re looking to impress.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pound russet potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed
  • 6¾ ounces (1-½ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour, more for kneading and rolling
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions: Put the unpeeled potatoes in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the potatoes by at least 2 inches; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, partially cover the pot, and simmer the potatoes until they are tender and can easily be pierced with a skewer, 30 to 35 minutes. Drain the potatoes, allow to cool so you can handle them, and then peel. Cut them in half crosswise and pass them through a ricer into a large bowl. Let cool until almost at room temperature, at least 20 minutes.

Add flour to a work surface. In a small bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add the egg to the potatoes and then add the flour mixture. Mix with your hands until the flour is moistened and the dough starts to clump together; the dough will still be a bit crumbly at this point. Gather the dough together and press it against the bottom of the bowl until you have a uniform mass. Transfer it to the floured surface and wash your hands.

Knead gently until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough is soft, smooth, and a little sticky, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Move the dough to one side, making sure the surface underneath it is well floured. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel.

Cover two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment and sprinkle lightly with flour.

Remove any lingering bits of dough from your work surface and lightly reflour the surface. Tear off a piece of dough about the size of a large lemon and put the towel back on the rest of the dough so it doesn’t dry out. With the palms of both hands, roll the dough piece on the floured surface into a rope about ¾ inch in diameter.

With a sharp knife, cut the rope crosswise every ¾ inch to make roughly ¾-inch-square gnocchi. Arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on the parchment-covered baking sheets, making sure they don’t touch. Repeat until you run out of dough, reflouring the work surface as needed. When all the gnocchi has been cut and spread out on the baking sheets, sprinkle them with a little more flour. If you’re going to use the gnocchi within 2 to 3 hours, they can sit out on the counter.

4. Margherita Pizza

Margherita Pizza

Margherita pizza | iStock.com

Next is a dinner dish that will surely appeal to all, and it’s a little less time-intensive than the aforementioned recipe on our list. Make a margherita pizza at home via this food formula featured on Food Network and bring Italy to your kitchen homemade. You can take a shortcut and go the store-bought pizza dough route, because you’re already going to be making your tomato sauce from scratch and layering on tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella cheese. After 10 minutes in the oven, it’s time to eat.

Ingredients:

  • Pizza dough, homemade or store-bought
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 3 cup tomato sauce, recipe follows
  • ¼ cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into thin rounds
  • Cornmeal, for stone
  • Special equipment: Pizza stone

Basic tomato sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ red onion, small dice
  • 4 tablespoons minced garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons red wine
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes
  • ½ cup water

Directions: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and place a pizza stone in the oven, allowing it to get hot. Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface into approximately an 8 to 10-inch round and ¼-inch thick. Put the sauce onto the dough and spread it over the top, leaving about a 1-inch border around the edge. Top with the tomatoes, oregano, basil leaves, and mozzarella rounds. Carefully remove the pizza stone from the oven, and dust with the cornmeal. Place the pizza on top of the stone and pop the whole thing in the oven. Bake until crust is golden and the cheese has melted, about 10 minutes.

Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

To make the tomato sauce: Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, until onions are soft and translucent. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add the basil leaves, red wine, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the sauce before using it to make pizza.

5. Homemade Ravioli

ravioli

Ravioli | iStock.com

You also can’t go wrong with ravioli, and when it’s made from scratch, you know you’ve really mastered your Italian cooking game. Follow this recipe from Taste of Home for homemade ravioli, and you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor when you get your first bite of ravioli packed with ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese. The ravioli makes 6 servings so you can feed your friends or have leftovers all week.

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 6½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

Sauce

  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1½ cups tomato puree
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Filling

  • 1 (15-ounce) carton ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper

Directions: In a large bowl, place 6 cups flour. Make a well in the center. Beat the eggs, water and oil; pour into well. Stir together, forming a ball. Turn onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. If dough is sticking, add remaining flour. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, combine the sauce ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Combine the filling ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Divide pasta dough into fourths; roll one portion to 1/16-inch thickness. Working quickly, place rounded teaspoonfuls of filling 1 in. apart over half of pasta sheet. Brush around filling with water to moisten. Fold sheet over; press down to seal. Cut into squares with a pastry wheel. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Bring a soup kettle of salted water to a boil. Add ravioli. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer; cook for 1-2 minutes or until ravioli float to the top and are tender. Drain. Spoon sauce over ravioli.

6. Big Italian Salad

Italian salad

Italian salad | iStock.com

And you can’t serve a homemade Italian meal without a big Italian salad. Next to the plates of pasta, pizza, and bread at Italian restaurants, you’ll also always find the iconic Italian salad, and now with this recipe from Once Upon a Chef, the greens can be on your kitchen table, too. Into the salad go lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and carrots, and you’ll make a homemade dressing, too. This salad is so good that you might be going back for seconds of the vegetables rather than the carbs.

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 10 big leaves fresh basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar, best quality such as Pompeian Gourmet
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil, best quality such as Lucini or Colavita
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons honey

Salad

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut into large, bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped hothouse cucumbers
  • 1 large carrot, peeled into ribbons
  • Handful grape tomatoes, halved
  • Handful pitted olives
  • Ricotta salata (see note) or feta, crumbled to taste

Directions: To make the dressing, combine all dressing ingredients in a food processor and blitz to blend.

Place all salad ingredients in a large bowl. Right before serving, add approximately half of the dressing and toss well. Add more dressing little by little as necessary; be sure to dress greens very generously, otherwise salad will be bland. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Reserve leftover dressing for another use.

7. Pasta e Fagioli

boiling water

Pot of boiling water | iStock.com

Pasta e Fagioli is the last homemade Italian dish on our list, and the recipe from Damn Delicious couldn’t be easier. It requires only 10 minutes of prep time and dinner will be on the table in no more than 30 minutes. The hearty comfort food that is pasta e fagioli can be craved year-round, and when you’re armed with this recipe, you can always make it homemade.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ditalini pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

Directions: Cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well and set aside. In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add Italian sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, about 3 to 5 minutes. Crumble the sausage as it cooks; drain excess fat and set aside.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the stockpot. Stir in garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Whisk in chicken broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme, Italian sausage and 1 cup water; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in pasta and beans until heated through. Serve immediately.

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