25 Pasta Side Dishes to Upgrade Your Dinner

Pasta is one of the most versatile foods in the world. It comes in many shapes and forms - long, short, thin, thick, straight or curly, and each pasta type has numerous sauces to go along with it too. Comforting, refreshing, easy to make, and delicious, no wonder pasta is such a kitchen staple!

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Pasta is also a great side dish. No matter what the entrée is, there is sure to be a pasta dish that compliments it perfectly and brings everything together to make a hearty, substantial meal. 

Below, you’ll find 25 pasta side dishes that are sure to leave you with a hankering for everyone’s favorite carbohydrate! We have everything from carbonara to angel hair, so we’re sure to have your favorite kind of pasta listed below. 

Homemade Mac and Cheese from Tastes Better from Scratch

The appeal of mac and cheese crosses generational lines. We love a great homemade mac and cheese as much as our kids do, and the whole family is sure to love this easy mac and cheese recipe.

In fact, it’s so easy that your kids can even give you a hand. It’s a great way to introduce them to cooking, and a staple like mac and cheese is the perfect recipe to get them started on their cooking journey.

Cheesy Taco Pasta from Dinner, Then Dessert

This is no ordinary pasta. This is a pasta-taco hybrid, incorporating the best of both food items. 

This recipe may not be as crunchy as a taco, but with the melty, rich cheese and sweet and tangy salsa you won’t miss it too much. 

Jarred salsa works fantastically with this dish, as fresh salsa can be a bit watery and make the pasta a little soggy. But if you’re not a fan of salsa, then you can add fresh vegetables instead. 

You can also modify this recipe to make it as cheesy as you like! For a really cheese dish, 2 cups of cheese is recommended. 

5-Cheese Marinara from Real Mom Kitchen

While this recipe actually uses more than 5 cheeses for their Olive Garden inspired 5-cheese marinara, it’s still a cheesy delight! This recipe calls for a bag of an Italian cheese blend to get its cheesy flavor.

This certainly does save time buying 5 different cheeses, and saves on prep time too. But you can of course buy 5 different cheeses and create your own Italian blend. Whatever works for you! Either way, the result is sure to be delicious. 

Tortellini Pasta in Garlic Spinach Spinach Tomato Sauce from Eat Well 101

Source: https://www.eatwell101.com/one-pan-tomato-spinach-tortellini

This tortellini pasta is the perfect, comforting side dish. It’s simple to make, healthy to eat, and can be on the table in just 20 minutes!

The tortellini pasta shines with a rich and garlicky, spinach tomato sauce and parmesan sprinkled on top. This delicious spinach tortellini recipe will be your weekday side dish savior!

The Best Easy Pasta Salad Recipe from Pinch of Yum

Don’t let the number of carbs in this dish fool you - Italian pasta salad is not only delicious, but good for you too! 

It’s also the ultimate summer side dish, perfect to not only serve on the side of a main dish but is also a great addition to a picnic, potluck, or any summer get-together where food is involved… which is pretty much all of them, right? Well, the ones worth attending anyway!

It is also incredibly easy to make, combining pasta, juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, red onion, salami, olives, and herbs, all soaked in homemade dressing. 

Not only is this dish a culinary chameleon, but it’s a great solution to the leftover meat, cheese, and vegetables in your fridge. Whip them up into an Italian Pasta Salad and you have yourself a delicious, hearty side dish!

Pesto Pasta from Recipe Tin Eats

Pesto is not only the easiest pasta sauce to make, but one of the tastiest too. It just has a salty, comforting flavor that’s hard to resist. 

While pesto pasta is incredibly simple, one thing people struggle with is making a pesto pasta that’s juicy with plenty of pesto sauce without adding too much extra oil that makes the dish greasy. But this recipe lets you in on how to make a juicy, delectable pesto pasta without any unwanted greasiness. 

Lemon Garlic Parmesan Shrimp from The Recipe Critic

Could this dish be any more irresistible? It not only has shrimp, but a sauce made with butter, lemon and garlic. This all makes for one mouth-watering pasta side dish. 

If you weren’t already tempted to try it out, it takes just 30 minutes to cook and requires just one pot. 

Easy Angel Hair Pasta from Cooktoria

Angel hair pasta is so named due to the noodles being so thin and delicate, and this angel hair pasta recipe is definitely heavenly. It uses cherry tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil for a simply delicious dish. Plus, it’s so easy and quick to cook that it’s a great pasta side dish for a busy weekday evening. 

Baked Ziti from Recipe Tin Eats

Baked ziti is similar to a lasagna, but is much easier to make. If you’ve never made a ziti before, give this recipe a try and we’re sure it’ll be a staple meal soon enough!

Baked ziti is a big, juicy pasta bake that is packed with flavor thanks to a generous dose of seasoning and an even more genius amount of cheese. A cosy dish that is easy to make, it’s not just your average pasta bake! It’s also the perfect dish to stick in the freezer if you have any leftovers. 

Fettuccine Alfredo from Modern Honey

Fettuccine Alfredo is one of the most comforting pasta dishes, incorporating al dente flat noodles that are doused in a cheesy and creamy white sauce. It’s a must-have dish to have in your cooking repertoire. Plus, it’s so easy to make an alfredo sauce at home that you’ll never have to buy the jarred variety again. 

This homemade alfredo sauce is made with 5 ingredients; butter, cheese, heavy cream, garlic, parmesan, and some salt to taste. 

Incredible Lobster Mac and Cheese from The Recipe Critic

One of the most inspired ways to elevate mac and cheese is to incorporate lobster. The meaty, sweet, juicy lobster takes the humble mac and cheese and transforms it into something sublime. Lobster is such a rich seafood that is packed with flavor, and this recipe is sure to make you want to cook lobster more often. 

This lobster mac and cheese recipe is gooey, rich, and indulgent, full of cheese and decadent lobster. It makes a perfect side dish for a special night, or even on any other night when you’re just craving a fancy side dish. 

Chili Mac and Cheese from Cafe Delites

Speaking of twists on mac and cheese, this recipe combines two American classics: chili and mac and cheese. These two comfort food titans combine to make a harmonious side dish. 

What’s more, it’s super easy to make! Taking less than 30 minutes to have on the table, this recipe has a spicy kick and a blend of amazing flavors everyone is sure to love. This could be a great solution for leftover chili, but it’s easy and quick enough to make from scratch too.

Orzo with Mushrooms, Scallions and Parmesan from A Family Feast

Packed with mushrooms and soaked in a creamy sauce, orzo is delicious. This cheesy and tasty side dish is sure to be a new pasta favorite, and is the perfect side dish. It only takes 30 minutes to make, and is also super simple. 

If you don’t make pasta often, you can’t go wrong with this delicious, simple recipe.

Easy, Creamy Beef and Shells from The Kitchn

We all know that one-pot dinners are a great choice for weeknight cooking, but when a one-pot dinner is a hearty creamy, cheesy, beef pasta that’s even better. 

For fans of Hamburger Helper, this from-scratch cheese beef and shells recipe is for you!

It’s so easy to make from scratch. You season and brown ground beef, then add pasta shells, savory beef broth, and tangy tomato sauce. Then just finish off the whole skillet with some cream and plenty of cheese.

Macaroni Salad from Cafe Delites

Macaroni salad is so moreish we could eat it all day, every day. Good thing this recipe is so quick and simple to prepare - we can easily sate our macaroni salad fix! 

While this recipe makes an excellent side dish, it’s also perfect to take to BBQs, picnics, dinner parties, and you can even enjoy it as a lunch or dinner by itself. It goes great with barbecue and grilled meats, and the mayo/sour cream dressing really enhances the flavors.

Creamy Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad from The Novice Chef

This bacon ranch pasta salad recipe is quick and easy to make, and is super delicious. Creamy pasta salad with cheddar cheese, bacon, peas and ranch seasoning all tossed together makes for one tasty side dish.

For the bacon, you’ll want it fresh and crispy. You can pan fry it or cook it in the oven before draining and crumbling over the salad. As for what pasta you can use, elbows, rigatoni, shells, bow tie, or campanelle all work great. Just head to the salad dressing aisle of your supermarket and grab a package of dry ranch dressing mix. You can add actual ranch dressing, but the dish is fine without it.

Peas, cheddar cheese, sour cream and mayo are also extras that pack this pasta salad full of flavor!

Garlic Butter Mushroom Pasta from The Salty Marshmallow

Who doesn’t love mushrooms? They’re hearty, tender, and incredibly tasty. Combined with garlic and butter, the whole dish is ridiculously delicious.

Mushrooms already have such a distinct taste, so all you need to do is sautee them in butter and garlic and your sauce is done! 

While you can use white mushrooms for this recipe, portobello will really make this dish shine.

Farfalle Pasta with Spinach, Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions from Rich Flavor

Farfalle is often paired with creamy or tomato-based sauces, and can often be found in salads too. Due to its shape, it’s named ‘farfalle’ after the Italian word for butterfly.

This recipe pairs farfalle with a rich and buttery parmesan sauce, and adds spinach, mushrooms and caramelized onions for a rich depth of flavor without any meat at all.

BLT Pasta Salad from Crunchy, Creamy, Sweet

You can also find farfalle pasta in this pasta salad dish. A deconstructed BLT, this pasta salad not only contains farfalle but a creamy ranch dressing.

This BLT pasta salad not only makes a great side dish, but a great lunch to take to work and a tasty picnic addition. This recipe calls for crispy bacon that is baked in the oven, torn or chapped Romaine lettuce, chopped tomatoes (this recipe uses on-the-vine tomatoes but Roma is a good alternative).

These are then tossed with cooked and cooled pasta and creamy Ranch dressing. Keep the dressing separate until you are ready to eat, and then viola! A delicious pasta side salad!

Garlic Parmesan Orzo Recipe from Taste of Home

Orzo is a risotto-like pasta that is incredibly easy to cook with, and is ready in less than 9 minutes.

It’s also simple to add flavor to, and can be a refreshing alternative to other pasta shapes. Orzo makes an excellent side dish, and the garlic and parmesan cheese elements of this recipe make it shine. 

Creamy White Sauce Pasta from A Couple Cooks

What’s not to love about white sauce? It’s creamy, cheesy, and has the perfect blend of spices.

This recipe contains an amazing cream sauce that requires no fuss and is easy to make. It’s sure to be a crowd favorite! As a side dish you can enjoy it on its own, but you can also add vegetables or protein to upgrade it to a main meal. As a side dish though, it would go great with a crispy, tender chicken dish.

What makes this recipe stand out is that the basic cream sauce doesn’t even use any cream! All you need is a handful of ingredients you probably have in your kitchen already, and the dish is ready in 10 minutes. 

Pasta Carbonara from Simply Recipes

While pasta carbonara is an incredibly indulgent dish, this recipe makes cooking the dish super simple. You can use bacon or pancetta, but just make sure you use plenty of parmesan! This indulgent and delicious dish only takes 30 minutes to make.

All you need to make this dish is spaghetti (or any kind of long pasta), pancetta or bacon, eggs, parmesan, a splash of olive oil, and salt and pepper. The smooth carbonara sauce is created with beaten eggs that are tossed with the hot pasta and a little bit of fat from the pancetta or bacon.

If you would like to make this dish with bacon, we recommend using a high-quality bacon like guanciale. It’s a salty, fatty bacon that is rich in flavor. It is a bit more expensive than your average bacon, but definitely worth it if you want to elevate your carbonara dish!

Pasta Primavera from Two Peas & Their Pod

Full of fresh and colorful vegetables, pasta primavera screams summer and is the perfect healthy side dish. 

It’s a classic pasta dish with a delightful mixture of colorful vegetables and a lemon, parmesan cream sauce. It’s a great side dish to enjoy outdoors in the spring and summer. 

As well as being easy to make, it’s easy to customize too. Since every recipe calls for different vegetables, you can hone this dish over time to find the right veggie combination for you. 

Easy Garlic Parmesan Pasta from Together as Family

This easy garlic parmesan pasta is ready in 20 minutes and is sure to be a new family favorite. Covered in a creamy garlic parmesan white sauce, this pasta is a hearty side dish and can also be served as a vegetarian main meal too.

Creamy Garlic Shells from Wishes and Dishes

This one pot recipe is not only easy to make, but easy to clean up too - oh, the wonders of one pot cooking! 

This dish contains sauteed fresh garlic that has an almost roasted flavor, as well as garlic powder to really drive home the garlic flavors. It’s a cheesy, delicious dish that works just as well as a main meal as it does as a side dish. 

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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community.
She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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