The Best Italian Recipes That Are Definitely Not Pasta

Few things offer more comfort than a big bowl of pasta. Be it spaghetti, penne, or a homemade baked lasagna, this easy mid-week dish has become a common culinary occurrence in many households and for good reason — the now staple of the American diet is both convenient and affordable. While there's nothing inherently wrong with the dish, some days call for a little more pizzazz with a dose of ambition in the kitchen. What if we told you that there's an entire world out there beyond Ragu and Rotelli? A world full of wonderful flavors that won't leave you sacrificing time for taste?

So often, Italian for us here in the states is a plate of simply boiled pasta and whatever jar of sauce you have on hand or can whip up. We're looking past that as we have rounded up the best Italian recipes that are 100%, most certainly, definitely NOT pasta. Elevate your weeknight dinner and impress all your friends and family with dishes like eggplant parmesan, chicken Francese, and easy calzones and so much more. Now, let's get cooking!

Cioppino, the light yet hearty Italian seafood stew

Why walk, when you can leap? Our list kicks off with the wonderful dish cioppino. Meaning 'to chip in,' cioppino is a stew with roots in Italian American heritage that combines tomatoes, wine, and seafood. It's hearty, aromatic thanks to the inclusion of fennel, and actually quite simple to pull off yourself in the kitchen. Photographer and food blogger Ksenia Prints, of At The Immigrant's Table, developed this cioppino recipe featuring cod, shrimp, mussels, and clams. It will truly bring an air of elegance to your dining table. 

An eggplant parmesan that's not just for vegetarians

Chicken parmesan is the quintessential classic Italian-American dish (though its roots are debatable). If you're looking for something veggie-based but full of the same flavors, eggplant parmesan is the way to go, and you'll get all of the same satisfaction while also having room for seconds. 

Professional chef and nutrition expert Maren Epstein of Eating Works shares her shockingly simple presentation of eggplant Parmesan that's so good we even considered going vegetarian. Wow the masses with this version that features gluten free panko crumbs and will keep your tummy full for days with a restaurant-style dish that works just as well as leftovers. Plus, there's also a version with vegan mozzarella for our diary free friends.  

Yes, you can make calzones at home

This one has all the elements we know and love from pizza but without the mess and the added bonus of being portable. Of course there's carbs, sauce, and cheese just like pizza, but a perfect and well balanced explosion of flavor can be found in every single bite.

Calzones may have originated in Naples, Italy but we're bringing to you an at-home version full of delicious cheese and savory meat. Developed by chef Stephanie Rapone, this version of calzone uses prepared pizza dough, offering a bit of ease while still allowing you to get creative. Rapone's recipe also uses a lighter Italian turkey sausage to balance out all the dough and cheese, but we think just about anything stuffed in there would work. 

An easy chicken francese for some restaurant-style flair

Chicken is a relatively affordable go-to protein that can round out any meal. Bring a little Italian restaurant flair to your kitchen with this super simple recipe for chicken francese. Lemon forward, this dish combines just a few ingredients and results in a wonderfully flavorful star dish. Developed by Mikayla Marin of The Flour Handprint, this is Italian-American cuisine in its purest and most delicious form. Whip this up in just over twenty minutes the next time you're stumped in the kitchen. 

Tiramisu for any occasion

We're rounding out this list of mostly savory dishes with a terrific Italian-inspired dessert. Tiramisu can be found on any Italian or Italian American menu and while simple in nature, the desert is full of flavor. The dish originated in Italy before eventually making its way to Little Italy and becoming a favorite stateside. Kristen Carli of Mostly Green bring us this decadently delicious version of the espresso flavored dessert. Her Tiramisu is relatively no frills but sure to impress even the most finicky of diners. It uses pre-made lady fingers, creamy Mascarpone and a nice dose of booze that can be prepared with ease while resulting in a professional level of kitchen artistry. 

Snack on some homemade bruschetta

With Italian cooking, sometimes the simplest of dishes offers the greatest of flavors, such as the humble yet delightful bruschetta. Unlike the Americanized version that's laden with oils, spices, and tomatoes, this classic recipe for bruschetta combines quality Italian bread with fresh garlic. Developed by Chef Laura Sampson, creator of Little House Big Alaska, this version comes together in just 15 minutes. While it's short on time, it's absolutely not short on flavor. It's all about minimum effort and maximum satisfaction with this delicious way to kick off any meal. 

Try a caprese salad for some freshness

Caprese is a solid starter to any Italian meal that could also be paired with other small plates to make for a delicious meal starring itself. While simple, it relies on several quality and seasonal ingredients coming together for a light, yet full of flavor dish. Known as insalata caprese in Italy, the salad is comprised of just mozzarella, tomatoes, and extra virgin olive oil. While its roots hail from the Isle of Capri, it can now be found throughout Italy as well as the United States. This simple caprese salad also utilizes fresh basil and an aged Balsamic vinegar that work harmoniously well together while requiring zero cooking.  

A 5-ingredient Trader Joe's gnocchi dish

Don't AT us for this one. It's long been debated on whether or not gnocchi is considered a pasta, but hear us out: You could ask any Italian chef and we could almost guarantee that they would agree with our take.  Pasta is made from wheat flour, eggs and water, while on the contrary, gnocchi is made with potatoes as the primary ingredient. Given that definition, gnocchi is not pasta and deserves its rightful place on this list. 

Trader Joe's gnocchi has been all the rage these past few years, and this recipe for a 5-ingredient dinner features the addition of a wonderfully nutty Pecorino Romano cheese. It's a filling vegetarian dish infused with flavor that can be thrown together in just over ten minutes.