When you think of a pasta dinner, you're probably thinking of spaghetti tossed in vibrant marinara, or penne in creamy vodka sauce. But heavy, hearty sauces are far from the only way to enjoy pasta, and we have 18 pretty spectacular recipes to prove it. Recipes that are light in body, deliver on flavor, and don't require too much cooking, for simple and summery weeknight meals.
Italian Seafood-Salad Pasta Salad With Vietnamese Noodles
Two classic dishes—Italian-style seafood salad and refreshing pasta salad—collide in this summer dish, bright with lemon and olive oil. The secret is in the selection of pasta: Asian rice noodles deliver the perfect texture and flavor-absorbing powers to make every bite taste like pure seafood-salad bliss.
Beet Green and Radish Green Pesto Pasta With Roasted Beets and Radishes
Beet and radish greens make a pesto that's bolder and spicier than your average basil variety, but just as versatile. Blanched greens are ground up with toasted walnuts, raw garlic, and plenty of olive oil. The greens are reunited with their roots in the form of roasted beets and radishes.
Ricotta and Black Pepper Gnudi With Sage and Brown Butter
Thin, thin pasta surrounds cores of creamy, explosive sheep's milk ricotta, and it's all served in a brown butter and sage sauce. The gnudi are easier to make than you'd think, and the recipe requires a mere six ingredients.
Uovo in Raviolo (Runny Egg Yolk Ravioli)
Picture this: gorgeous over-sized ravioli filled with a ring of creamy ricotta surrounding a perfectly intact, perfectly runny yolk. They're rich, delicious, and beautiful. This is the kind of dish that leaves people talking, but little do they know, it's actually pretty effortless.
The Best Spinach Lasagna
Sometimes you need a giant casserole dish full of Italian comfort food. This creamy, cheesy spinach lasagna is flavored with a hint of nutmeg and a combination of white sauce and fresh ricotta. Store-bought fresh pasta in place of no-boil noodles takes this lasagna to new heights.
Skillet Pasta With Mushrooms, Pancetta, and Wilted Greens
This easy one-pot pasta dish is filled with browned bits of pancetta, earthy shiitake mushrooms, and wilted greens, and comes together in just 25 minutes. Finished with nutty shavings of Parmesan and freshly cracked black pepper, it's a perfect weeknight meal.
Spanish Pasta Salad With Chorizo, Piquillo Peppers, and Pickled Onion
Most pasta salad is a crime against good taste, but not this one. Crispy chorizo, sautéed garlic, roasted piquillo peppers, and plenty of fresh parsley and lemon zest make a pasta salad that you'll actually want to eat...a lot.
Penne With Melted Vegetable Sauce
Made with vegetables that have been cooked until meltingly soft, this penne pasta dish makes the most of humble and unassuming ingredients by turning them into something downright delicious. Pasta and vegetables are cooked using the same pot, making for an especially easy clean-up.
One-Skillet Orecchiette With Shrimp, Spinach, and Mushrooms
Earthy, meaty mushrooms, tender shrimp, and silky strands of spinach are the stars of this easy one-pot pasta dish. A perfect choice for a weeknight dinner, it comes together in less than 30 minutes and makes minimal mess since all the action occurs in a single pan.
Pasta With Chickpea Sauce
Turning a bean purée into a pasta sauce may sound strange, but just think of it as a variation on the classic Italian soup pasta e fagioli, just with a lot more pasta and only enough "soup" to coat the noodles. It's delicious, and it just happens to be vegan (though we won't snitch if you decide to add grated Parmesan to the mix).
Lighter Fettuccine Alfredo
Let's face it: the feeling you get after downing a bowl of creamy, cheesy Fettuccine Alfredo isn't the best. Wouldn't it be great to have a quick and easy version that has all the flavor of the cream-packed original, but without putting you in a food coma? Starchy pasta water and egg replace much of the cream in this recipe without sacrificing flavor or texture.
Soba Salad With Seaweed, Cucumbers, and Asparagus
This simple and refreshing pasta salad is made with soba (buckwheat) noodles, raw cucumber, lightly cooked asparagus, and wakame seaweed. It's tossed in a lemon-soy vinaigrette with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and a hit of fresh ginger.
Vegetarian Citrus Pasta With Swiss Chard
A quick vegetarian dish comes together in less than 20 minutes and requires minimal prep work. Even though it's easy, it doesn't lack in flavor, with fresh citrus, garlic, shallots, and sumac (you'll most likely find ground sumac in the international section of your supermarket).
Squid Ink Pasta With Shrimp and Scallops
Aside from its arresting color, squid ink pasta has a subtle briny flavor that pairs well with seafood. Play up the fun black and orange colors of this dish and let the light flavors shine by tossing it in a simple white wine sauce. It's a light dish that's great for warm weather dining.
Spaghetti al Limone with Poached Chicken
In spaghetti al limone, a generous amount of lemon zest and lemon juice liven up a sauce of cream, basil, and Parmesan cheese. Chicken keeps the vibe of the dish light, but its substance elevates the pasta into more than just a plate of noodles.
Pasta with Snap Peas, Garlic, Lemon Zest, and Black Pepper (vegan)
For a light meal, try this quick and easy vegan pasta dish, starring snap peas, garlic, and black pepper. A touch of cornstarch helps the sauce to emulsify into a pasta-coating texture without the need for cream or eggs.
Pasta With Figs and Prosciutto
Here's another easy pasta dish that comes together in mere minutes, but it's made seasonal with an addition of fresh figs. With prosciutto, onions, and garlic, it's salty and sweet, finished off with a sprinkling of cheese.
Easy One-Pot, No-Knife, Lighter Tuna Noodle Casserole
Pasta with a light and creamy sauce, tender chunks of tuna, and bright green peas is ready in about 15 minutes start to finish. All it takes is a single large skillet or pot, one burner or hot plate, a bowl, and a fork. That's it!
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.