Italy is known for passion, romance and wine but around the world it’s probably most recognized for some truly amazing food. One of the great things about Italian cuisine is that the recipes are pretty easy to follow, whether you’re cooking for the family or planning a romantic meal for two.

If you’re looking for a fantastic feast with more than a hint of Mediterranean flavor, here are our top ten Italian dishes for you to try.

1. Spaghetti Bolognese

Mention Italian food and spaghetti bolognese is probably the first thing that comes to mind if you’re in the US. Although it’s not a traditional Italian dish,  it’s a great family dish that is relatively cheap to make – all you need is some ground beef or lamb, tomatoes, onions, a generous slug of red wine and stock and some garlic and herbs like oregano.

As with any dish, the quality of the ingredients is important and the fresher they are the better. The cooking process involves sauteing the onions and garlic and then browning the meat before adding the wine, stock and herbs.

Cook until the meat is tender, and the sauce infused with flavor, and you’re ready to make the pasta.

*Top tip: Spaghetti is common but most top chefs say chunkier tagliatelle or fettuccine is better because it helps mop up the sauce.

2. Bruschetta

If you’re looking for a starter or just want a lunchtime snack that isn’t too heavy on the stomach, then Bruschetta is a great option. You start with some homemade, fresh bread (sourdough is perfect) that you lightly toast in a pan, then rub with garlic and olive oil.

Slice some tomatoes, rip some fresh basil and put these on top with a little cheese like mozzarella along with a further drizzle of olive oil. There are variations you can try, including adding finely sliced meats. A little balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top is also another good option.

3. Margherita Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza?

If you want something with that authentic Italian feel, then this is well worth a try and it’s a real crowd-pleaser. Make the pizza dough yourself for a fresher taste and then top this with thinly sliced tomatoes, shredded basil, some sliced mozzarella and a trickle of olive oil to finish. It takes just a few minutes to put together and about 12-15 minutes to bake in a hot oven.

Top tip: When it comes to fresh basil, always shred or tear the leaves rather than cut. It releases more flavor and that distinctive aroma.

Spaghetti pasta and pesto
photo of delicious italian pasta with pesto sauce

4. Pesto Pasta

For an amazingly versatile Italian dish then pesto pasta certainly ticks all the boxes. It’s wonderfully tasty either hot or cold. Pesto sauce is a mix of pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, basil and parmesan cheese with a little salt. For a vegan alternative, you can omit the parmesan. All you need to do is put everything in a food processor and give it a solid zap.

Pesto can be mixed with any type of pasta on its own or you can add something extra by including, for example, fresh seafood such as mussels, scallops and prawns. It’s the perfect food for outdoor eating and the sauce is always worth keeping in your fridge.

5. Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine is the thicker strips of pasta. Alfredo refers to a luxurious sauce that includes cream, butter, garlic and parmesan cheese. All you need to do is mix the two.

This is another great dish that has a lot of different applications and, with just 3 main ingredients for the sauce, is a great option if you want something filling but cost-effective for all the family. It’s perfect with a simple side salad or some fresh, crusty bread.

6. Caprese Salad

One of the great things about Italian dishes and a Mediterranean diet, in general, is that all the food is pretty healthy.

Recipes don’t have to be complicated if you want amazing flavors and the caprese salad perfectly illustrates this, and with veggies and salads being a large part of the Italian diet, this dish is very popular in Italy. This is great with pasta dishes or pizza and simply combines sweet basil, mozzarella and tomatoes with good olive oil and some salt and pepper.

Chicken picatta
Italian chicken piccata schnitzel with artichoke hearts served on fettuccine

7. Chicken Piccata

You can prepare this dish in less than half an hour and it looks fantastic either served with fresh broccoli and sautéed potatoes, pasta or a side salad.

Take some breast fillets and slice them, then rub them in some flour. The fillets are fried until they are browned and crispy on the outside. With this, you can make a simple sauce that is made from butter, capers, some lemon juice and a generous helping of white wine.

8. Risotto

Risotto rice is popular in the northern areas of Italy and it’s easy to cook, though you need a little patience. If you’re looking for a hearty one-pot dish for all the family, this is a great option. Cook the rice in a hot pan and gradually add wine and stock, stirring regularly, until the rice softens and takes on a creamy texture.

You can add all sorts to the risotto base, from roasted vegetables and parmesan to seafood like prawns and salmon. This is perfect for cold evenings and goes wonderfully well with some crusty garlic bread.

9. Minestrone Soup

Minestrone is the classic Italian soup – thick and full of goodness and it’s an excellent option if you want to batch cook and freeze up for later.

There are various recipes but the base should be gently sauteed onion with garlic, and chopped tomato for the base which is topped up with stock and wine. You can add any kind of vegetable and finish with pasta. Sprinkle some shredded basil leaves on top and you’ve got a heartwarming meal for all the family.

Tiramisu from SESAMO

10. Tiramisu

Finally, we can’t forget the dessert!

One of the most popular Italian dishes is tiramisu. Which is why we actually serve Tiramisu on our menu! This looks complicated but is much easier than many people think. It’s made from thin ladyfingers that are soaked in coffee. These are then arranged in layers in a serving dish with a mix of eggs, sugar, cocoa and mascarpone cheese.

It’s the perfect surprise ending for any family meal and the best thing is there’s no cooking involved.