These pasta side dishes are tasty and versatile, pairing with almost any meal! The sides are easy enough to whip up with an entrée.
Stuck in a rut with side dishes? While vegetable side dishes have our heart, it’s easy to forget about a no-fail way to round out a meal: pasta! Pasta side dishes can be some of the tastiest out there. What to look for in pasta sides? Recipes that are fast and easy to whip up so you can give your focus to the main dish. Often we simply sauté garlic in some butter, add it to pasta with Parmesan and call it a day. But if you’re looking for something more creative…here are our top easy pasta recipes to pair with a meal! (Also, see our top pasta recipes for dinner!)
And now…12 great pasta side dishes to pair with a meal!
Need a quick and easy pasta side dish? Try this White Sauce Pasta! The basic cream sauce is so creamy and full of flavor, and get this: it doesn’t even use cream! All you need is a handful of ingredients you probably already have on hand. The sauce takes just 10 minutes: enough time to make the pasta.
The simplicity of pesto pasta with homemade basil pesto and a splash of cream can’t be beat. It makes the best easy pasta side dish that will blow your mind every time. It works with nearly any entrée, from chicken to fish to vegetarian.
Here’s a pasta side dish that's deliciously light: Angel Hair Pasta! These delicate noodles are very quick to cook (think 4 minutes!). But they’re also a little devious: they soak up a good sauce in an instant, quickly transforming to dry and tasteless. They also expand to a huge mess of noodles, making it hard to judge portion size. Here’s how to make angel hair pasta into a quick and easy side dish that’s tasty every time.
Making this comfort food from scratch makes it taste infinitely better than the kind from a box. Want to impress everyone? This homemade mac and cheese tastes homey and cozy, with the best gooey, cheesy sauce and crunchy breadcrumbs.
Looking for a simple sauce that packs a big flavor punch? Try this Garlic Butter Sauce Pasta! It’s easy to whip up with only a handful of ingredients, but man is it irresistible. This is the recipe we run to when we need a pasta side dish using only pantry ingredients.
Need a quick pasta side dish? Try this cheese tortellini in creamy marinara sauce! In just 15 minutes, you’ve got a pasta skillet that’s a literal symphony of flavor. The fresh basil-infused marinara sauce is perfectly complimented with pillows of tangy goat cheese.
Here’s a lusciously creamy pasta that will become the meal of your dreams. Try this Lemon Pasta! It’s rich and silky, with just the right balance of sharp citrus from loads of lemon zest. Don’t consider this a health food or even a healthy spin: it’s here for when you need a properly indulgent bit of pasta.
Corkscrew-shaped cavatappi is perfect for pasta’s partner: basil pesto! This pesto cavatappi recipe is a tasty way to enjoy them both that everyone around the table will love. You’ll make a quick and easy pesto cream sauce, then drench the curly noodles and add a few handfuls of shredded Parmesan cheese. It’s simple, but it’s got mighty big flavor!
This Everything Bagel pasta is everything you love about the Everything Bagel, reconstructed into pasta. And it’s so, so simple: it takes just 3 ingredients and 15 minutes to make! It's a fun pasta side dish that fits with just about any meal.
This 20-minute creamy goat cheese pasta is so tangy and creamy, sweet from the tomatoes and lightly peppery from the fresh basil. The secret to the creaminess is that goat cheese, which brings a body to the sauce that’s almost like a vodka sauce. Combined with chewy penne, it’s out of this world!
Here’s a tasty pasta recipe that’s comfort food with a healthy spin: our creamy cavatappi pasta! It’s cheesy but not too rich, made with a secret ingredient to infuse nutrients: cauliflower! This cauliflower sauce is like a healthy alfredo sauce that blends cauliflower with garlic, spices, and a little Parmesan.
Oh hey there, creamy pesto mac and cheese! This seriously cozy pasta is just as gooey as it looks, and adding a swirl of bright green basil pesto is a total genius move. And the way the Havarti cheese melts into the creamiest sauce is a bit of magic.
Dinnertime just got easier. This cauliflower fettuccine alfredo is a winner with everyone: it’s just that good! The impossibly creamy sauce is a healthy spin on the traditionally rich pasta. It’s made with nutrient-dense cauliflower and protein-packed cashews instead of dairy.
More side dish recipes
Pairing sides with a meal is an art form, and we’ve got all the resources you need to study it! Outside of these pasta side dishes, here are a few more recipe collections to browse:
Start a pot of well salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until it is just al dente (start tasting a few minutes before the package recommends: you want it to be tender but still a little firm on the inside; usually around 7 to 8 minutes). Drain.
Meanwhile, measure out all ingredients in advance; the cooking process happens fast!
Right after you add the pasta to the pot, start the sauce: In a small or medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the grated garlic and cook 30 seconds until fragrant but not browned.
Add the flour and whisk constantly for 1 minute to 90 seconds, until bubbly and golden. Do not overcook it: the flour can turn brown within a few seconds. Keep an eye on it!
Add a splash of milk and whisk it in: the sauce will instantly turn chunky. Constantly whisking, continue to add splashes of milk and whisk them in until the entire quantity is incorporated and the sauce is smooth.
Reduce the heat and whisk until the sauce thickens and no longer tastes like raw flour, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and Parmesan cheese. Taste and add a pinch or two more salt if desired.
Drain the pasta, then add the sauce. Add a splash or two of milk to loosen the sauce and stir until you have the right consistency. Taste and a few more pinches of salt, if necessary. (The sauce is best freshly made, so we don’t recommend making it in advance). Serve with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.