15 Easy And Traditional Italian Foods To Cook At Home

Author: Veruska Anconitano, Award-Winning Food Travel Journalist, Sommelier & Outdoor LoverAuthor information
About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a a food travel journalist with awards to her credit, such as World Best Food Travel Journalist. She holds a certification as a sommelier and she is also an ardent lover of the outdoors. Aside from this, Veruska is a Multilingual SEO and Localization Consultant and co-owns multiple websites that cater to a global audience.
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Italian cuisine, renowned for its flavorful dishes and rich history, is a testament to the country’s deep-rooted culinary traditions. Central to Italian foods and cuisine is emphasizing fresh, high-quality ingredients. These fundamental elements are pivotal in creating simple and satisfying dishes, from ripe tomatoes and fragrant basil to fine olive oil and aged cheeses. At the heart of Italian cooking lies a philosophy prioritizing simplicity and quality.

Traditional Italian foods and recipes often involve minimal ingredients, allowing each component to shine. This approach to cooking emphasizes the importance of seasonal and locally sourced produce, ensuring that every dish reflects Italy’s natural bounty and regional flavors.

Fresh ingredients are not just a preference in Italian cuisine but a cornerstone. Whether it’s seafood caught from the Mediterranean, vegetables plucked from the garden, or pasta made by hand, the freshness of the ingredients contributes significantly to the authenticity and taste of Italian dishes. This dedication to quality ingredients makes Italian cuisine unique and universally loved, offering a culinary experience rich in flavor and steeped in tradition.

Brimming with flavor and rooted in centuries-old traditions, this article offers a selection of 15 easy and traditional Italian foods to cook at home, handpicked by a native Italian. These dishes are more than mere meals; they embody a culture and way of life, representing essential recipes from an authentic Italian household kitchen.

Italian Ragù


Italian Ragù is a treasure from Italy, offering deep, rich flavors developed through slow cooking and it’s one of the most important Italian foods to cook at home. Traditionally made with a blend of ground meats such as beef, pork, or veal, the meat is browned to perfection and then simmered in a sauce of tomatoes, finely chopped vegetables (carrots, celery, and onion – the classic “soffritto”), and often enriched with red or white wine.

For aromatic depth, herbs like rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves are added. In some regions, a touch of milk or cream is added towards the end of cooking, softening the acidity of the tomatoes and giving the sauce a luxuriously smooth texture. The ragù is typically left to simmer for several hours, allowing the flavors to meld and intensify. It’s commonly served over wide pasta like pappardelle or used in layered dishes like lasagna, topped with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for a nutty finish.

Italian Meatloaf

Perfect meatloaf recipe

Italian Meatloaf, or “Polpettone,” is a hearty dish. It combines minced meats, fatty and lean types, for a rich flavor and moist texture. It involves a unique preparation method that includes double grinding of the meat, carefully selecting binding ingredients like white bread, milk, and egg, and a distinctive cooking technique that prefers pan-cooking over baking to ensure the meatloaf remains juicy. Fresh parsley, Parmesan cheese, and various vegetables are also incorporated to enhance the flavor.

The entire process, from preparation to cooking, takes about two hours, promising a delectably moist and flavorful meatloaf.

Italian Meatballs

Meatballs with tomato sauce

Italian Meatballs, or “Polpette,” are much more than just a simple meat dish. They are made from a well-seasoned blend of ground meats, usually beef and pork, or sometimes veal for a tender texture. Finely minced garlic, onions, fresh parsley, eggs, and grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese are added for flavor and binding.

Seasoned breadcrumbs or soaked bread is mixed in to give the meatballs a light, tender texture. Each meatball is rolled by hand and can be cooked in various ways: frying for a crispy exterior, baking for a healthier option, or simmered directly in a marinara sauce, infusing the sauce with rich, meaty flavors.

Italian Lasagna

Homemade Italian Lasagna Recipe

Italian Lasagna is one of the many beloved and traditional Italian foods, where each layer tells a story of Italian culinary history. It starts with sheets of lasagna pasta, each cooked until al dente. A rich and hearty meat ragu sauce is spread between these layers, typically made from a slow-cooked mixture of ground beef, pork, tomatoes, and aromatic herbs. Alternating with the ragu are layers of creamy béchamel sauce, a rich white sauce made from butter, flour, and milk, seasoned with a hint of nutmeg. Generous amounts of grated mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheese are added to each layer, melting into the sauces and creating a gooey, cheesy delight. The lasagna is carefully assembled and then baked until the top layer of cheese becomes bubbly and golden brown.

The result is a harmonious blend of flavors and textures – the pasta’s softness, the meat sauce’s richness, the béchamel’s creaminess, and the gooey, stretchy cheese.

Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara is a testament to the elegance of Italian cooking, using simple ingredients to create a remarkable complexity and flavor. Originating from Rome, this dish traditionally uses spaghetti, though other long, thin pasta like bucatini or rigatoni can also be used. The key to its creamy sauce combines fresh eggs, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and black pepper whisked together. Pancetta or guanciale, cured Italian pork, is rendered until crisp and combined with the cooked pasta. The heat from the pasta slightly cooks the egg mixture, creating a rich, creamy sauce without using cream.

The dish is finished with a generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper, adding a warm, spicy note. It’s a dish that balances the richness of the eggs and pork with the cheese’s sharpness and the pepper’s heat, creating one of the most deeply satisfying Italian foods ever.

Pomodoro Sauce

Pomodoro Sauce is a classic Italian tomato sauce loved for its simplicity and fresh, vibrant flavor. Made with ripe, juicy tomatoes, it’s simmered to the perfect consistency.

The sauce starts with a base of finely chopped onions and garlic, gently sautéed in olive oil until translucent and fragrant. Crushed tomatoes are added, along with a handful of fresh basil leaves, salt, and a touch of sugar to balance the acidity. Some variations include a splash of red wine for depth or a pinch of red pepper flakes for heat.

The sauce is cooked over low heat, allowing the flavors to meld and intensify. The simplicity of the ingredients highlights the natural sweetness and robustness of the tomatoes, making it an ideal sauce for pasta dishes, a base for pizzas, or a dipping sauce for appetizers.

Pasta Arrabbiata

penne arrabbiata

Pasta Arrabbiata is a passionately spicy dish that embodies the bold flavors of Italian cuisine. The name “Arrabbiata” means “angry” in Italian, a reference to the heat of the chili peppers used in the sauce. The sauce is a fiery mixture of fresh or canned tomatoes, garlic, and red chili peppers, cooked in olive oil to infuse the oil with their spicy essence. The amount of chili can be adjusted to suit one’s heat preference. The sauce is typically simmered until it thickens slightly, concentrating the tomato flavors and allowing the heat from the chili to meld into the sauce.

Traditionally served with penne, the tube-shaped pasta is ideal for capturing the spicy sauce. It’s often finished with freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese sprinkling, which adds a sharp, salty contrast to the dish’s heat. Pasta Arrabbiata is a simple yet bold dish, perfect for those who love a touch of heat in their meals.


tiramisù fatto in casa

Tiramisù is a luxurious Italian dessert that combines the bold flavors of coffee and cocoa with the creamy richness of mascarpone cheese. The dessert consists of ladyfingers, light and airy sponge biscuits dipped in a mixture of strong espresso.

The soaked ladyfingers form the base layer, and they are then covered with a luscious mixture of mascarpone cream made with cheese, egg yolks, and sugar, whipped until smooth and creamy. This process is repeated to create multiple layers, with each layer capturing the essence of the coffee and the velvety cheese mixture. The final layer is dusted with a fine layer of cocoa powder, which adds a bittersweet complexity to the dessert. Some versions also include a dusting of finely grated dark chocolate or a drizzle of chocolate sauce.

Tiramisù is a sophisticated dessert, perfect for rich, creamy, sweet, bitter, and soft and crunchy textures.

Neapolitan Style Pizza

Best Italian Pizza Recipe

Neapolitan-style pizza is the original and iconic form of pizza, with a history deeply rooted in Naples, Italy. This pizza is distinguished by its thin, soft base with a puffy, blistered crust, known as “cornicione,” achieved using highly refined Italian type 00 flour, fresh yeast, water, and salt.

The dough is hand-kneaded and then left to ferment for several hours or even days, developing its unique texture and flavor. It’s then stretched by hand to a thin base and topped with simple, high-quality ingredients: San Marzano tomatoes crushed into a sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. The pizza is cooked in a wood-fired oven at extremely high temperatures for just a few minutes, resulting in a soft and chewy crust inside with a light char on the outside. The toppings remain fresh and vibrant, with the mozzarella melting just so, and the basil adding a fresh, aromatic touch.

True Neapolitan pizza is an art form that reflects the simplicity and passion of Italian cooking and it’s one of those Italian foods you need to make at home at least once in your life.

Pasta Cacio e Pepe

Cacio e Pepe - spaghetti with cheese and pepper

Pasta Cacio e Pepe is a quintessential Roman dish, eloquently translating to “cheese and pepper pasta.” This deceptively simple dish is a marvel of Italian cuisine, crafted with a minimalistic yet precise selection of ingredients: pasta, usually the long and slender spaghetti, finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, and a generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. The true artistry of this dish lies not in its components but in the method of preparation. Cooks skillfully utilize the starchy pasta water, combining it with the cheese to create a velvety, emulsified sauce that beautifully clings to each strand of pasta. The black pepper adds a subtle heat, elevating the dish’s flavors.

Pasta Cacio e Pepe is a testament to Italian culinary philosophy, where elegance emerges through simplicity, showcasing how a few ingredients, when expertly handled, can produce a dish of remarkable depth and flavor.

Italian Biscotti Cantucci

biscotti di prato

Italian Biscotti Cantucci are more than just cookies; they are a storied tradition from the heart of Tuscany, celebrated for their delightful crunch and rich, nutty essence. These beloved cookies are meticulously crafted using a select assortment of high-quality ingredients: whole almonds, granulated sugar, finely milled flour, fresh eggs, and a hint of aromatic lemon zest or anise. This unique combination imparts a distinctive, subtly spiced flavor profile.

The signature of Biscotti Cantucci lies in their preparation—they are baked twice, resulting in their trademark crisp texture. They are commonly enjoyed as a post-dinner indulgence, traditionally dipped in Vin Santo, a revered Italian dessert wine, which softens them slightly and complements their robust flavor.

Biscotti Cantucci are not merely treats; they are a vibrant expression of Tuscan baking traditions and cultural heritage.

Pasta al Pomodoro

Pasta Pomodoro Recipe Italian

Pasta al Pomodoro is an iconic dish in the Italian culinary repertoire, encapsulating the essence of traditional Italian cooking by focusing on simplicity and the purity of flavors. This dish involves delicately tossing pasta—often the classic choices of spaghetti or penne—in a luxuriously rich tomato sauce. This sauce is a harmonious blend of ripe, juicy tomatoes, aromatic garlic, high-quality olive oil, and fragrant fresh basil.

These ingredients are simmered until the sauce reaches the perfect consistency, rich and fragrant, ensuring each strand of pasta is evenly coated. The result is a dish that radiates comfort and warmth yet remains refreshingly vibrant.

Pasta al Pomodoro is a staple, embodying the heart and soul of Italian cuisine in every bite.

Do you want to cook the best Italian foods at home?
Read our selection of some of the best cookbooks to find the best Italian food books.

Pasta Amatriciana

Originating from the small town of Amatrice, Pasta Amatriciana is a robust, flavor-packed dish that is a cornerstone of Roman culinary tradition. At the heart of this dish is the sauce, an exquisite blend of guanciale—a rich, cured pork cheek—ripe tomatoes, tangy Pecorino cheese, and a hint of chili pepper for a subtle kick.

These elements come together to create a rich, mildly spicy sauce, and deeply savory, enveloping the palate with its complex flavors. Traditionally, this sumptuous sauce is paired with bucatini, a unique type of pasta resembling thick spaghetti with a hollow center, allowing the sauce to cling both inside and outside the pasta.

Pasta Amatriciana is more than a meal; it is a celebration of Italian heritage, a beloved classic that continues to captivate the hearts and taste buds of locals and gastronomes worldwide.

Risotto alla Milanese

Milanese risotto

Risotto alla Milanese is a classic, luxurious dish hailing from Milan, embodying Northern Italian cuisine’s rich and refined flavors. This exquisite risotto is renowned for its creamy texture and vibrant golden hue, achieved by the key ingredient, saffron, one of the most precious spices in the world. The dish begins with Arborio rice, a high-starch variety that lends the risotto its characteristic creaminess.

The rice is gently toasted in butter until translucent, then slowly simmered in a flavorful broth, which is ladle by ladle, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid and release its starches. The saffron, infused in the broth, imparts a unique, slightly floral flavor and a striking color. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a touch more butter are stirred at the end, adding a rich, velvety depth.

Risotto alla Milanese balances delicate flavors and textures to create a dish that’s both comforting and elegant, often served as a sumptuous accompaniment to Ossobuco or enjoyed on its own as a testament to Milan’s culinary prowess.



Arancini, a jewel in the crown of Sicilian cuisine, are deep-fried rice balls that have captivated the palates of food lovers across the globe. These crispy orbs of joy are traditionally made by encasing a filling of ragù, a rich and savory meat sauce, creamy mozzarella, and sometimes peas, within a ball of risotto or leftover rice. The rice ball is coated in a golden breadcrumb crust, ensuring a satisfyingly crunchy exterior that gives way to the warm, flavorful, and often gooey center. Each bite of an arancino offers a harmonious blend of textures and flavors – the creamy rice complements the hearty ragù, while the melted mozzarella adds a stretchy, indulgent quality.

Often served as street food or an appetizer, arancini are not just a dish; they are a testament to the creativity and resourcefulness of Italian foods and cooking, transforming simple, everyday ingredients into a culinary masterpiece that is as much a pleasure to behold as it is to eat.

Bringing Italian Foods to Your Table

Bringing the essence of Italy into your home kitchen is about more than just following recipes; it’s about embracing a whole culinary philosophy. Authentic Italian foods are a celebration of simplicity, quality, and passion.

Here are some tips to help you create a truly Italian dining experience right at your own table:

  1. Focus on Fresh Ingredients: The secret to genuine Italian cooking lies in the quality of the ingredients. Use fresh, seasonal produce, high-quality olive oil, and authentic Italian cheeses. Fresh herbs like basil and rosemary can elevate your dishes significantly.
  2. Cook with Passion and Patience: Italian foods require patience and care. Take your time with each recipe, savoring the cooking process as much as the eating. Remember, good food is worth waiting for.
  3. Serve in Courses: To replicate a traditional Italian meal, serve your dishes in distinct courses. Start with antipasti, followed by a primo (first course, usually pasta or soup), a secondo (main course, often meat or fish), and a contorno (side dish). Finish with dolci (dessert).
  4. Pair with the Right Wines: Italian cuisine and wine go hand in hand—pair light wines with delicate dishes and robust wines with heartier meals. Don’t hesitate to research or ask a local wine seller for recommendations.
  5. Create a Welcoming Atmosphere: Italian meals are as much about the ambiance as the food. Create a warm, inviting atmosphere with comfortable seating, soft lighting, and perhaps some Italian music in the background.
  6. Enjoy with Family and Friends: Lastly, remember that Italian dining is a communal experience meant to be enjoyed with loved ones. Gather your family and friends, share stories, and enjoy the feast together. This is the Italian way – meals are a time for joy and connection.

By incorporating these elements into your meals, you’ll enjoy delicious Italian foods at home and capture the true spirit of Italian dining. Buon appetito!

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