Home Side Dishes 25 Pasta Side Dishes for the Perfect Dinner

25 Pasta Side Dishes for the Perfect Dinner

by insanelygood
Italian Spaghetti With Pesto Sauce

Feeling saucy? Perfect, because today is all about pasta.

Pasta is never boring. For one, the noodles come in many shapes and forms. Long, short, thin, thick, straight, curly — you name it. 

And the sauces? Oh my. All the different flavors and colors… Bellissima!

That’s what makes pasta the perfect side dish. No matter the entrée, there will always be at least one perfect pasta to accompany it.

I’ve rounded up 25 pasta side dishes to balance out your meal. From tortellini to angel hair, carbonara to marinara, these dishes will surely excite you!

Drooling yet? Me too! Let’s dig in, shall we?

1. Creamy Garlic Shells

These delicious garlic shells are the epitome of all things rich and creamy!

Loaded with fresh garlic, this pasta recipe could not be any more flavorful. It’s easy to make, to boot!

Calling for the most basic pantry ingredients and just 15 minutes of your time, it’s the perfect side dish for a busy weeknight.

2. Mac & Cheese 

Looking for THE perfect mac and cheese? This is the only recipe you’ll need. 

Everybody has their own recipe for the ultimate mac and cheese. If you think you’ve had the best mac and cheese ever, I suggest you give this one a try. 

The recipe is a copycat of Panera Bread’s famous mac & cheese, but it tastes so much thicker and creamier. Using sharp white cheddar cheese takes it over the top!

There are no words to explain just how ridiculously amazing this dish is.

Serve this on the side of sloppy joes for the most delectable meal. It’s so good, it’s life-changing!

3. Garlic Parmesan Pasta

Garlic parmesan pasta is like the classic alfredo pasta, only better. 

Since it doesn’t use heavy cream and cream cheese, it has significantly fewer calories. Don’t worry, it’s not lacking in flavor at all.

The addition of garlic makes it a hundred times better! 

There’s something special about the combo of garlic and parmesan cheese. The bold flavors are just phenomenal! 

Best of all, it comes together in just one pot! It doesn’t get any easier than that.

4. Cheesy Taco Pasta 

This is not your average pasta. It’s a taco in pasta form. Need I say more?

With this recipe, you’ll get all the goodness from a taco and spaghetti at the same time. What a magnificent mash-up!

Sure, it’s not as crunchy as a taco, but that rich melty cheese and sweet and tangy salsa definitely make up for it. 

5. Pasta Primavera

Health food alert! Packed with fresh and colorful veggies, pasta primavera is the best summer side dish. And yes, it’s good for you.

There’s no need to feel guilty about eating this dish at all.

This dish is also easy to customize. Since it doesn’t have any veggie preferences, you can add whatever vegetables you like.

Just throw in everything you have in the fridge and call it a day.

Pair it with any fish or meat entrée for the heartiest, most satisfying meal.

6. 5-Cheese Marinara

You guys, this marinara has five different types of cheese in it. FIVE. If that doesn’t satisfy your cheese craving, I don’t know what will.

Mozzarella, fontina, ricotta, Parmesan, and Asiago cheese in one pasta is just epic.

7. Pasta Carbonara

Carbonara is such a simple sauce. The flavors? Peak umami. It’s so good, I can eat it all day!

The best part is, you only need 4 pantry staples for this recipe. Bacon, eggs, cheese, and pasta are all it takes.

Pro-tip: invest in seriously good bacon for this dish. Try guanciale, a salty, fatty, and ultra-flavorful bacon. It’s a little more expensive, but I promise you, it’s worth it. 

I you can’t get your hands on it, that’s okay. You can always use pancetta or thick-cut bacon.

8. Tortellini Pasta

Looking for a quick and easy pasta side for a romantic dinner? Look no further, this tortellini pasta is all you need. 

Done in just 20 minutes, it’s the simplest carbonara you’ll ever make. Serve this with bread, salad, and red wine for the perfect date night.

9. Italian Pasta Salad

Italian pasta salad may be rich in carbs, but it’s absolutely good for you.

Rotini meets fresh veggies in this astounding dish. Brimming with bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and cucumbers, this pasta is big in flavor and texture.

So much color, too! Also loaded with salami, olives, and cheese, it makes one heck of a satisfying side dish. It’s a certified potluck favorite.

It’s best served with barbecue and other grilled meats. 

10. Creamy White Sauce Pasta 

Fair warning: this white sauce pasta is seriously creamy, and it’s highly addictive.

I have nothing but love for white sauce. The cream, the cheese, the spices, the flavor!

In this recipe, we’ll take the classic sauce to another level by adding garlic. My God, it’s heaven.

Pair this dish with a crisp and tender chicken for a lip-smacking meal.

11. Pesto Pasta

Craving pesto? This recipe is the best-o!

Pesto may be one of the easiest pasta sauces there is, but it’s also one of the most flavorful. One bite of this dish will give you instant comfort. 

12. Shrimp Pasta 

This pasta recipe is just too yummy. First, it has shrimp in it. That alone will tell you how amazing this dish is. 

Next, the sauce is made with butter, lemon, and garlic. The combination of these 3 ingredients is gold!

And finally, the recipe comes together in one pot and takes just 30 minutes. A win-win!

13. Parmesan Orzo Pasta

Got 15 minutes? Try this parmesan orzo pasta for a simple yet unique side dish.

Orzo is a risotto/rice-like pasta that’s super easy to use. It cooks in less than 9 minutes! Adding flavor to it is also a breeze.

All you need is some olive oil, garlic powder, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper!

You can add some red pepper flakes to give it a bit of a kick, but I think it’s perfect as it is.

14. Angel Hair Pasta

Pasta drenched with olive oil, butter, cheese, and aromatic herbs? This side dish is fantastic!

I’m a big fan of angel hair pasta. I can’t get enough of those thin and dainty noodle strands. It cooks so quickly, too, so it’s ideal for busy nights.

Loaded with earthy and garlicky flavors, this angel hair pasta is the ultimate side for meat entrees.

Whether it’s chicken, beef, or pork, you won’t go wrong. It’s even perfect with veggies!

15. BLT Pasta Salad 

Bacon, lettuce, tomato, and ranch dressing in pasta. Wow. I must have done something good to deserve ya!

This pasta has the ultimate combo of texture and flavor. Smoky bacon, crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and al dente rotini: that’s what I call a match made in heaven.

As if that wasn’t drool-worthy enough, this dish also has a rich and decadent ranch dressing, to boot. It’s legendary!

16. Baked Ziti

Next up is a beloved American classic. Penne loaded with tomato sauce, sausage, and ooey-gooey cheese, baked ziti easily gets a 12 out of 10 from me.

This recipe also uses a lot of herbs — basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, and parsley. The earthy flavor is definitely strong in this one! 

If you think about it, baked ziti is a lot like lasagna, except it’s much, much simpler to make. It’s easy enough to add to your weekly meal rotation!

17. Farfalle With Spinach, Mushrooms, and Caramelized Onions 

Greens: check. Mushrooms: check. Caramelized onions: check. Al dente pasta: check. This dish is vegetable pasta at it’s best!

Ultra-creamy, buttery, and flavorful. You can’t ask for more from this pasta. Plus, those little bowtie noodles make this dish even more appetizing.

So pretty, it’s Instagram-worthy! 

Sure, it’s all veggie, but it’s so ridiculously good you won’t even miss the meat.

But if you want a truly hearty meal, serve this dish as a side to seared scallops or baked chicken. Delightful.

18. Garlic Butter Mushroom Pasta

Mushroom meets garlic and butter in this insanely delicious and easy dish.

I have so much love for mushrooms. They’re meaty, tender, and so full of flavor.

Since they already have a unique taste on their own, it doesn’t take much to make them even more spectacular.

In this dish, all you need is to saute mushrooms in butter and garlic, and your sauce is done!

You can use white mushrooms for this recipe, but portobello will make it even more amazing.

19. Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad

This bacon ranch pasta salad is impossible to resist! It’s bacon and ranch dressing in one lip-smacking dish!

It’s not the healthiest of pasta salads, but the addition of tomatoes and olives will make you feel a little less guilty.

20. Fettuccine Alfredo

Al dente flat noodles coated in a luscious, creamy, and cheesy white sauce? Fettuccine alfredo is the definition of comfort food. 

You won’t believe how easy this dish is to make! In just 20 minutes, dinner is ready.

Round this dish out with garlic bread and salad for the most delectable meal.

Grandma's Macaroni Salad

21. Macaroni Salad

Macaroni salad. Ahh… How I love this classic.

I have a serious obsession with macaroni salad, and I’m not afraid to say it. It’s crazy colorful and creamy, so can you blame me?

I am so addicted, I can eat macaroni salad by itself, all day, every day. But it’s also perfect with barbecue and grilled meats!

Pro-tip: make this salad ahead of time and let it chill in the fridge at least overnight. This gives it enough time for the flavors to marry.

The wait will be difficult, but it’s worth it. 

22. Creamy Beef and Shells

Crumbled beef, creamy sauce, and gooey cheddar cheese nestled in perfectly cooked pasta shells. This pasta is a dream come true! 

Creamy beef and shells is one of those dishes that’s just so darn good, it’s probably better than the entrée.

Don’t be surprised if you end up eating more of it than your main course.

The best part? This comfort food comes together in just 40 minutes!

23. Lobster Mac and Cheese

What’s better than mac and cheese? Mac and cheese that’s loaded with lobster. 

I can’t even begin to describe just how wonderful this dish is. Loaded with not just one, but two types of cheese, it’s both sinful and heavenly.

And then there’s the sweet, meaty, juicy lobster. It’s like transforming something perfect into an even more brilliant masterpiece.

24. Orzo with Mushrooms, Scallions, and Parmesan

This 30-minute recipe is everything you want in a side dish and more.

Bursting with mushrooms and coated in a creamy sauce, this orzo is so good. This cheesy and flavorful side is the definition of pasta perfection!

Another great thing about it is how easy it is to make. You don’t need to be a pasta pro to nail this recipe.

25. Chili Mac

In this last entry, we’ll combine two of America’s favorite comfort foods: chili and mac and cheese. You’re getting the best of both worlds in this super easy recipe!

Packed with cheese, macaroni, and beans, this chili mac is heaven on a plate. It’s so unbelievably good, there is no problem this dish can’t solve.

The cherry on top? It only takes 30 minutes to make!

25 Pasta Side Dishes for the Perfect Dinner

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Pasta Side Dishes

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