Discontinued Pastas We Desperately Miss

Pasta may be associated with Italy, but it's been loved in the U.S. since the 19th century. There're so many different types of pasta, from bow-tie-like farfalle to spiral fusilli. The range of pasta dishes and sauces is mouthwatering too, such as creamy-tasting carbonara and spicy shrimp Parmesan. While making pasta dishes fresh doesn't have to be complex, sometimes it's just great to twirl some spaghetti on your fork and lap up an Alfredo sauce at a restaurant. 

Likewise, so many childhoods are filled with canned pasta after school while watching TV and before running out to play. These firm favorites eaten time and again are often much-loved comfort foods that we think will always be around. So it can be a bit of a shock and get a bit emotional (!) when a pasta that's part of our food history just disappears. Here're some discontinued pastas we desperately miss along with some suggested alternatives or new dishes to try. 

Much-loved Ronzoni's Pastina was discontinued in 2023

When Ronzoni discontinued its famed pastina in January 2023, the news made headlines across the country. Fans of the tiny star-shaped pasta didn't hold back in expressing their legit sense of loss. TikTok blew up with recipes featuring the little shapes used to make the ultimate comfort food pasta soup. It's a little like a cross between risotto and porridge. There's nothing quite like it, and many kids were brought up on this easy-to-eat dish. It's what you eat when you're feeling a little under the weather, which is why it has earned it the moniker "Italian penicillin."

The company behind the pasta has stated that production issues forced its hand. So, if another manufacturer is found, then there could still be hope of a return. Fans aren't waiting around. There's an online petition to bring the little pasta pieces back. It's such an integral part of American-Italian culinary culture that to see it go feels like the end of an era. For many, Ronzoni's pastina was a big part of growing up, and that's why it was so immediately and desperately missed. In the same month that the company announced the pasta's end, packages were already being sold on eBay for higher prices. However, pastina pasta is still offered by other brand names like Barilla and De Cecco.

O'Charley's Prime Rib Pasta disappeared

With its home in Nashville, O'Charley's is a popular casual-dining establishment in the South and Midwest. For over 50 years it's been the place to go if you're looking for a relaxed vibe and some great American-style food in a bar and grill setting. There's nothing fancy about O'Charley's, but over the years it's attracted legions of fans, and some of its dishes are almost famous. One dish in particular comes to mind.

Some long-time fans have been missing their favorite pasta dish: O'Charley's Prime Rib Pasta. If you've never tasted it before, imagine a creamy pasta with succulent pieces of steak. What's not to love? The pasta dish was discontinued in 2016, with some customers lamenting the decision on Facebook. However, the eatery stated that it was taken off to keep the menu fresh. In December 2020, O'Charley's announced on Facebook that Prime Rib Pasta was back due to popular demand, but for a limited time only. It may be brought back again, but in the meantime, you could try making your own version with seared prime rib, a Parmesan cheese sauce, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, and some Cajun seasonings. Serve it with some crispy bacon bits on top. Yum!

Roller Coasters with meatballs were popular in the '80s

Chef Boyardee has been a renowned name in pasta meals since the late 1920s. The eponymous family-run brand was established by an Italian chef who began by selling a spaghetti meal kit and then pasta sauces. Next came canned pasta and more with the famed chef who grew his own mushrooms and tomatoes in Pennsylvania. Inspiring a love of pasta, he brought Italian food to the masses and became a household name around the world.

The company's convenient and fun canned pasta has been a huge hit over the years. And one Chef Boyardee variety that was really popular in the '80s was Roller Coasters. Inside the can was pasta with meatballs in tomato sauce. One of the can designs has go-faster-style lettering, featuring a meatball riding in a roller coaster cab. Also depicted were graphics of wavy-looking pasta, hence the name. Another can design showed a close-up of the curvy pasta and meatballs, with animated faces of a boy and girl smiling on the side of the can. While this canned pasta was still riding high in the '90s, it disappeared, with fans still begging for its return even in the 2020s. One online poster comments how there were always exactly 20 meatballs in every can. Roller Coasters are definitely a reminder of childhood when a funny-shaped pasta meant everything.

Olive Garden discontinued a creamy pasta dish

When you want Italian food from a menu that you know, and hopefully also love, then Olive Garden is an easy choice. The renowned restaurant chain is a convenient stop for families where everyone can find a dish they want. It's laid-back dining, and the type of place where many people eat regularly. It's no surprise then that so many diners have their own go-to comfort food that they always order. And if there was one pasta dish that was divinely creamy and delicious, it was Olive Garden's Chicken Fettuccine Florentine. However, in 2023, it's off the menu and is desperately missed by some.

Imagine, velvety ribbons of fettuccine with a luxuriously light yet rich Alfredo sauce. Add slices of grilled chicken and vibrant green spinach, and you've got a dish to be remembered. Never fear. You can make your own with our copycat Olive Garden Alfredo sauce recipe. It's made with heavy cream, Parmesan and Romano cheeses, and some garlic. Just add spinach to make it florentine. 

The good news is that there's a workaround at the restaurant, too. Next time you're at Olive Garden, order a Chicken Alfredo, and then get some spinach on the side and stir that in. It's great to be able to use a secret menu to recreate a dish that you love. No doubt that's exactly what fans of Olive Garden and this American-Italian favorite dish are doing.

Franco-American canned macaroni with cheese sauce stopped in 2004

If you're of a certain age, then you might remember opening a can of Franco-American Macaroni as a kid and wolfing down the pasta covered in a gloppy cheese sauce. While it might not have won any culinary awards, this product is reminiscent of the flavor of so many childhoods across the U.S. It was particularly popular in the '70s and '80s. Made with cheddar cheese, butter, and cream, this macaroni dish had noodles that were quite long and solid. Cans also featured a recipe for an easy macaroni bake: Combine canned macaroni with cooked mixed veggies and luncheon meat and then bake in the oven. It doesn't get much more after-school dinner in the '70s than this!

Such is the love for this simple pasta that fans have commented online how they would eat it hot or cold and even straight from the can. There's even a Change.org petition with over 900 signatures to bring the product back. The fact that this macaroni-and-cheese brand wasn't trying to be haute-cuisine is what fans love about it. And let's face it. There's something about the taste of foods from yesteryear that always seemed to be so much more vibrant somehow. If you're really craving some cheesy pasta, you could always make your own by choosing one of our 25 best mac and cheese dishes

Olive Garden's Spaghetti Pie is no more

Olive Garden's Chicken Alfredo Spaghetti Pie was good while it lasted. This strange-sounding pasta dish was available only for a limited time in 2016. The baked spaghetti dish was made of not one but seven Italian cheeses. Bacon was added, and the whole dish was covered in an Alfredo sauce and topped with grilled chicken. Then it was all baked in a flaky pastry crust. No words! Was it the healthiest dish in town? Nowhere near, but fans who indulged were looking to please their taste buds, not their waistlines. Maybe you could improvise and start by making our Chicken Alfredo with fettuccine or pappardelle and build your own version of a pasta pie. 

Other varieties introduced at the restaurant at the same time included Meatball Deep Dish Spaghetti Pie and Spaghetti Rosso with Chicken and Bacon' which was covered in a Parmesan pesto sauce. It's not the only time the popular American-Italian chain has presented baked pasta dishes that aren't featured permanently on the menu. In 2018, a Lobster Shrimp Mac and Cheese as well as an Asiago Tortelloni Alfredo with Grilled Chicken were introduced for only a limited time. In January 2020, Olive Garden reminded customers on Facebook that its oven-baked pasta season was nearly over. So, while spaghetti pie with chicken Alfredo may be gone, there are likely more reincarnations of the concept to come.

It's game over for Pac Man pasta

The convenience of heating up these ready-to-eat foods has long been a joy to busy parents across the nation. And fun shapes mean kids are more likely to love them. Think back to when your palate wasn't quite as sophisticated as it undoubtedly is now that you're a Mashed fan and a foodie know-it-all. Was there a pasta shape you loved? From hoops to the alphabet, one cool tinned past in the '80s has to be Pac-Man pasta by renowned tinned pasta pioneer Chef Boyardee. No doubt fans of the game gobbled up the pasta quicker than Pac-Man ate up all the dots on the screen when the game was introduced over 40 years ago.

There were three variations of Pac-Man pasta. One saw the shapes swimming in a chicken flavored sauce. Another was in a tomatoey spaghetti sauce with cheese. And a third had spaghetti sauce with meat balls. What undoubtedly appealed in the '80s was the fun TV ad. A Pac-Man-esque mom, pop, and daughter are seen shoveling in spoonfuls of pasta. The idea was that it gave them the energy to outrun the ghosts, which was a nod to the game where players did the same. A bowl of tinned pasta and a video game create the perfect retro experience.

[Featured image by Bally Manufacturing Corporation via Smithsonian | Cropped and scaled | CCO]

Texas Roadhouse took Sierra chicken pasta off the menu

One of the biggest names in steak restaurants, Texas Roadhouse has been on the meaty roadmap across the U.S. for decades. However, behind every good steak is a pasta dish that's just as tempting. And a favorite in the past was the chain's Sierra Chicken Pasta. The penne pasta dish was lovely and creamy and made with grilled chicken, onions, and bell peppers. However, in 2023 it's no longer available. If you stopped off at the popular grill and wanted pasta, then you might have to settle for the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, which is offered on the kids' menu.

It's always a little puzzling when a much-loved dish disappears from the menu. However, at the Texas Roadhouse, the focus really is on sizzling steaks. There's not just beef on the menu but also grilled shrimp, chicken, and pulled pork. Texas Roadhouse doesn't serve any pasta entrees at all. With every dish made fresh to order, the chefs are no doubt too busy throwing Bone-In Ribeye steaks on the grill to check whether any pasta is al dente. If you're in the mood for pasta, trying making our creamy chicken spaghetti at home instead.

Tic-Tac-Toe's only serves up '80s nostalgia now

Chef Boyardee is the name in tinned pasta, with what seems like a memorable era during the '80s. Flashy and fun TV ads inspired kids' imaginations and interest, possibly as much as if not more so than what was actually in the cans. One memorable meal that appealed to young pasta lovers was Tic-Tac-Toe's. The "X" and "O" pasta shapes were edible pieces of the game. It's unclear when Tic-Tac-Toe's pasta was discontinued, but it joins a long list of fun pastas that are no longer made.

Youngsters being the creatives that they are might have enjoyed grabbing a few on a spoon and seeing if they scored a win with three of the same shape. And there were undoubtedly those who had a pasta game with a sibling who was eating them at the same time. What was perhaps most memorable, and why they've earned a special place in tinned pasta nostalgia, is the TV commercial. In it, a brightly clothed boy spins on top of a giant can of pasta. He runs and jumps, playing tic-tac-toe with a spoonful of the pasta, and even moonwalked in front of the logo. All very '80s! 

Chef Boyardee's retro recipes stopped in 2019

The undisputed king of tinned pasta, Chef Boyardee was certainly inventive with its meals in a can. The company has been involved in creating Italian food since the 1920s. Memorable pasta shapes often come from the heyday of the '80s and beyond. These include dinosaurs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Smurfs, and even SpongeBob! Understanding that grownups missed these retro pasta varieties, the company brought many of them back as Throwback Recipe tins.

However, recreating some of these old favorites wasn't meant to last, and in 2019 they disappeared. Some fans who'd fallen in love with the retro flavors desperately missed them. Beef Ravioli and Mini Beef Ravioli disappeared along with Spaghetti & Meatballs, Beefaroni, Lasagna, and Meat Lovers Pasta. Even more popular varieties — more than 50 in all — that had been around for a long time were discontinued in 2021. No longer will you be able to taste the delights of Cheesy Burger Ravioli or Sir Chomps-a-lot Bite Size Cheese Ravioli.

The good news is that when one Chef Boyardee meal is canned, another one often appears, and there are plenty of similar pasta dishes on the market. Spaghetti sauce with meat might be a good choice if you're missing spaghetti and meatballs, for example. Or you could make our Instant Pot pasta version instead. 

Trader Joe's O's Pasta lost shelf space

Trader Joe's Organic Joe's O's Pasta was discontinued in 2022, and some fans are still reeling. The supermarket chain's own version of SpaghettiOs was once ranked by us as one of the store's best canned foods back in 2021. The hoops of organic pasta in an organic tomato and cheese sauce were a hit. We loved the pasta-to-sauce ratio and thought they were good enough to eat cold straight out of the can.

The reasons why the staple tinned pasta brand was taken off the shelves haven't been given. However, the news led to some fans scooping up any remaining cans in circulation at inflated prices online. One eBay listing offered two cans of Joe's O's for over $16, way above the retail price. How much would you pay to get that last taste of pasta that you've known and loved for years? 

Of course, you might prefer to find an alternative that tastes pretty similar. Word is that Annie's Organic Bernie O's do the job. You get pasta rabbits with your hoops too. Do we desperately miss discontinued pasta because we can't get it anymore or because of what it meant to us? Or is it genuinely how good it tastes?

Campbell's Meatball Bustin' Sausage Rigatoni was canned

Campbell's Chunky is a hearty can of soup. Filling, with big pieces of meat and vegetables, this soup with a robust range of flavors always made a star appearance during NFL games. What's great is that these soups that "eat like a meal" are still going strong in 2023. However, certain varieties have been taken off the company's product line, perhaps because they didn't score a touchdown in sales. This includes the fabulously named Meatball Bustin' Sausage Rigatoni.

Where there's a discontinued pasta, there's undoubtedly a fan who feels let down. Confirmation of the cancellation by the company on Twitter in 2021 was met by a few pleas to bring it back. A similar product is available, however. It's called the Sausage & Pepper Rigatoni. There' are also other pasta Chunky soups available, such as minestrone with Italian sausage and five types of chicken noodle soup: classic, creamy, chunky Healthy Request, spicy, and the latest one, launched in 2023, which is a fiery Ghost Pepper Chicken Noodle soup. Sometimes saying goodbye to a particular pasta means saying hello to new, modern flavors. This is what pushes culinary tastes in new directions. Not convinced? Try our pasta e fagioli made with pasta shells, beans, and spinach for a rich soup that'll fill you up. 

Betty Crocker's Mug-O-Lunch was once popular

Back in the '70s convenience food was really starting to come into its own. And in terms of quick-fix pasta dishes, that weren't in a can at least, one much-loved product was Betty Crocker's Mug-O-Lunch. "Hearty hot dishes you make in a mug" was how they were described. The Betty Crocker brand played up its archetypal depictions of the perfect housewife in the kitchen in one TV ad for the pasta in a mug in 1979. The on-screen mom serves Mug-O-Lunch Spaghetti and Macaroni & Cheese to her excited kids. The man of the house is delighted at his Beef Noodles Mug-O-Lunch, declaring: "My wife's a magician." The trick, it turns out, is adding the packet of dried contents into a mug, adding boiling water, and waiting four minutes. Some of those who remember these instant pasta dishes thought they were delicious, but there are plenty of others glad that they're but a distant discontinued pasta product.

What's clear is that food is so much about memories. Remembering discontinued favorites is like revisiting a time that we desperately miss. Now's your chance to find some new recipes and make some new memories.