Most people struggle with what to make for a quick dinner that everyone will love. These 20 minute pasta recipes are family favorites that are quick, easy, and delicious. Bonus – they can be served in about 20 minutes.
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What Does Al Dente Pasta Mean?
The term al dente is Italian and the literal translation means “to the tooth”. In other words, it means cooking the pasta to the point that it has a slight chew to it. Slightly firm when chewed and yet still tender.
Importance of Al Dente Pasta
Italians almost always toss their freshly cooked hot pasta in the sauce and cook the two together for approximately 1-2 minutes. The pasta will continue to cook not only from the residual heat but also within the sauce. Because of this, the sauce will thicken and the pasta cooks to the perfect texture. Basically the process makes for a satisfying and delicious dinner.
Tips For Cooking Al Dente Pasta
- Fresh pasta cooks much faster than dried pasta. Keep a very close eye on your pasta water when preparing fresh pasta.
- Add the pasta to rapidly boiling water and stir. Only lower the temperature slightly if needed to prevent water from spilling over. Pasta cooks best in boiling water.
- Heavily salting the boiling water just before adding the pasta is a wonderful way to add flavor to the noodles. Also, most of the sodium will go down the drain when straining the pasta. However, when using the starchy water for the sauce it is best to add a smaller amount of salt to the water. This will ensure the sauce does not become to salty.
- You will know the pasta is almost to the point of al dente when the water thickens and becomes starchy.
- The tried and true way to know whether your pasta is cooked to al dente is to simply taste it.
Quality Ingredients Make All the Difference
One of the easiest ways to make pasta incredibly satisfying and tasty is to use the highest quality of ingredients that you can afford. Here are a list of preferred ingredients that can make a huge difference when making pasta.
- Extra virgin olive oil that has an estate mill name on the bottle along with a harvest date. Additionally, look for bottles that are dark colored since light (and heat) is an enemy of extra virgin olive oil. These indicate you have a good quality olive oil.
- Parmigiano Reggiano sold in block form is true authentic parmesan cheese. This aged cheese makes a huge difference in the flavor of pasta dinners due to the salty and nutty taste. Additionally, the granular and crumbly texture adds a wonderful layer of interest to recipes.
- For garlic lovers, fresh garlic makes all the difference. It is very appealing to many home cooks to use the bottle minced garlic that can be purchased at the grocery store. However, there is a night and day difference between fresh vs jarred garlic in freshness and the vibrancy of the garlic flavor.
Most Helpful Kitchen Tools
Here are some of the most important tools that can simplify cooking pasta.
- Pasta Server– This unique shaped spoon easily grabs holds of all different shaped pasta, making for clean and simply serving of the noodles.
- Spider Strainer– Makes for easy transfer of cooked pasta directly from boiling water into pasta sauce.
- Stainless Steal Pots and Pans– Having a good quality and large enough stockpot and frying pan for both boiling the pasta and making the sauce is a must when cooking from scratch.
- Colander– Using a durable stainless steel colander vs a plastic colander eliminates the risk of the plastic melting when coming into contact with heat. Additionally, stainless steel lasts forever and is much more efficient at straining than their plastic counterparts.
SIMPLE ANGEL HAIR PASTA
This recipe has only 5 ingredients but feels like an Italian feast. Add your favorite protein or leave as is for a favorite vegetarian meal. Perfect for a quick and easy dinner. (Click Image for Recipe)
Creamy homemade Alfredo Sauce is flavorful and very easy to make. With hints of garlic, nutmeg and lemon, this from-scratch sauce is a simple recipe that has big impact. Elegant enough for romantic dinners or when hosting a dinner party and yet easy enough for cozy nights on the couch. (Click Image for Recipe)
Sausage Pesto Pasta
Sausage Pesto Pasta is a dish the whole family will love. Made with pesto, Italian sausage, al dente pasta, broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes. An easy under 30 minute meal perfect for busy weeknights. (Click Image for Recipe)
Easy Peanut Noodles
Easy Peanut Noodles is a quick and comforting meal perfect for peanut butter lovers on busy weeknights. This Thai inspired dinner has simple ingredients and can be adjusted easily with spice levels and various add ons. Leftovers make a delicious packed work lunch. (Click Image for Recipe)
Tomato and Burrata Penne Pasta
Tomato and Burrata Penne Pasta is a quick and light homemade Italian meal that the whole family will adore. So easy and delicious with fresh herbs and al dente pasta. Top with creamy burrata and you will feel like you’re eating dinner at an Italian sidewalk cafe. (Click Image for Recipe)
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca
Spaghetti alla Puttanesca is an incredibly simple dinner that is perfect for busy weeknights. This authentic Italian recipe has delicious flavors of garlic, capers, anchovies, olives and tomatoes. (Click Image for Recipe)
Creamy Pesto Vegetable Pasta
Creamy Pesto Vegetable Pasta recipe is a quick Mediterranean dinner and delicious way to eat veggies that are in season. Made with roasted veggies, pesto and goat cheese, it is a perfect solution for healthy lunch meal prep. (Click Image for Recipe)
Easy Weeknight Spinach Pesto Gnocchi
A quick and healthy meal perfect for busy days! Easy Weeknight Spinach Pesto recipe comes together in just under 30 minutes. An absolutely comforting dish with fluffy gnocchi, herby pesto and sprinkled with parmesan. (Click Image for Recipe)
Tomato Caper Pasta
Tomato Caper Pasta is a light and savory dish with capers, thinly sliced garlic and fresh tomatoes. Full of flavor and incredibly simple to make. Have this with a glass of chilled white wine and you will feel carried away to a sidewalk café in Italy. (Click Image for Recipe)
Pasta with White Beans
Pasta with White Beans is a perfect under 30 minute meal to throw together for company or if you are craving a scrumptious Italian meal. A satisfying pasta dish that is loaded with the flavors of bacon, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. (Click Image for Recipe)