From the region of Apulia, located in the south of Italy, comes orecchiette pasta, a variety of small, dimpled noodles, which are thought to resemble an ear. Traditionally, this pasta type is dressed up with a tomato sauce, broccoli, meatballs, or a sprinkle of ricotta cheese. No matter how you prepare this versatile pasta, you'll be left with a hearty, comforting Italian dish perfect for a simple weeknight dinner, or even a date night in. Take a look at these mouthwatering orecchiette recipes and be inspired to break bread, pop open a bottle of wine, and mangia.
Read on for our favorite orecchiette recipes to whip up tonight.
Creamy Parmesan Orecchiette With Butternut Squash and Broccolini
The Hero Ingredient: Butternut squash. After roasting the vegetable in the oven, toss the tender squash into your creamy pasta creation full of flavorful garlic and thyme in Pinch of Yum's orecchiette recipe.
The Pro Tip: This pasta will stay fresh for several days, so recipe creator Lindsay recommends making this recipe in a big batch to be enjoyed as leftovers.
Orecchiette With Yellow Tomatoes and Bocconcini
The Hero Ingredient: Bocconcini. The unusual ingredient is the standout of this orecchiette recipe by I Am A Food Blog. It's a small ball of mozzarella cheese that adds major flavor to this dish. Plus, if you're preparing this for others, you can impress your dinner guests with your knowledge of this Italian ingredient.
The Pro Tip: Be sure to crush the tomatoes when heating them on the stove. This will release their juices and create a thicker texture, according to recipe creator Stephanie.
Butternut Squash and Pancetta Orecchiette
The Hero Ingredient: Saffron threads. The spice is thought to be a powerful antioxidant, and it adds a lovely color and fragrance to this pasta recipe by Spoon Fork Bacon.
The Pro Tip: Recipe creator Jenny likes to use grated pecorino Romano cheese to garnish this pasta dish. She explains that because it's made of sheep's milk, it has a stronger flavor that adds something special to the dish.
Carbonara Pasta With Charred Brussels Sprouts
The Hero Ingredient: Shiitake mushrooms. The mushrooms aren't a traditional topping for carbonara, but they add a lovely flavor to this Foodie Crush recipe after they're sautéed and covered in creamy sauce.
The Pro Tip: "Mixing the egg yolks into the pasta really, really well is the key," writes recipe creator Heidi. This gives the sauce its body and keeps anything resembling a hard-boiled egg yolk out of your pasta.
Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Orecchiette
The Hero Ingredient: Italian sausage. Delicious spicy Italian sausage earns this orecchiette recipe by Life as a Strawberry serious flavor points. The traditional meat has a strong taste that mixes nicely in the shelled pasta once ground up.
The Pro Tip: Recipe creator Jessie suggests cooking the orecchiette in generously salted water for a true Italian flavor. It's a simple but important step.
One-Pot Vegan Pasta
The Hero Ingredient: Eggplant. This one-pot pasta by Minimalist Baker is incredibly customizable, but eggplant takes the cake for adding unique flavor and texture to the recipe that also calls for mushrooms, garlic, and vegan marinara sauce.
The Pro Tip: Cook this meal in one pot for a quick cleanup. Sautée the veggies in a big pot before setting them aside to add pasta, sauce, and seasonings, recipe creator Dana explains.
Butternut Orecchiette Pasta With Arugula
The Hero Ingredient: Chickpeas. Chickpeas offer this fall-inspired orecchiette recipe by The First Mess something extra. Add a few cups of cooked chickpeas to the pasta with pecorino, arugula, and pine nuts before serving.
The Pro Tip: Even if you don't have a blender or food processor to prepare the sauce in, recipe creator Laura suggests mashing the squash and garlic with a potato masher before whisking the ingredients together in a pan with vegetable stock.
Orecchiette Pasta With Lemon Asparagus
The Hero Ingredient: Asparagus. A Couple Cook's orecchiette recipe with lemon asparagus is basically spring on a plate. We love that it's light, tasty, and comes together quickly (it's ready in just 15 minutes!), making it perfect for busy weeknights.
The Pro Tip: When preparing the asparagus, "roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until tender (timing will depend on the thickness of the asparagus)," says recipe creators Sonja and Alex.
Though this recipe is vegetarian, you can make it vegan by subbing vegan Parmesan cheese for feta.
Pasta With Turkey Sausage and Peas
The Pro Tip: "Subbing ground turkey for pork sausage is an easy switch to make, and it’s one that’s not even noticed because I have the secret to losing the fat but keeping all the flavor, and it’s all thanks to adding the same herbs and spices to ground turkey that make regular sausage taste so good," Heidi says.
Zucchini and Dill Pasta Salad
The Hero Ingredient: Dill. Foodie Crush added dill to this pasta salad recipe, which when combined with the lemon in the dish, creates the ultimate summer flavor combo. Serve it as a side or main.
The Pro Tip: "Serve as a meatless option for a vegetarian main dish or toss in some grilled chicken or canned white tuna for even more extra added protein.," Heidi says.
Tuscan Summer Minestrone Soup
The Hero Ingredient: Sun-dried tomato pesto. We love the addition of sun-dried tomato pesto in this minestrone soup recipe by Half Baked Harvest. It's a new take on the Italian classic that's perfect for summer.
The Pro Tip: "It’s perfect to make on a Sunday and then eat the leftovers throughout the week. You can eat it cold, but I prefer it warm with some freshly grated parmesan and a side of crusty bread," recipe creator Tieghan Gerard says.
Pancetta Sweet Pea Orecchiette
The Hero Ingredient: Goat cheese. In this pasta recipe from Joyful Healthy Eats, recipe creator Krista topped orecchiette, peas, and pancetta with a creamy goat cheese sauce that's comfort food epitomized.
The Pro Tip: "Adding citrus to a dish will enhance the flavors! I usually add citrus (lemon, orange, or lime juice) before I add more salt – healthier way to make the dish taste more bold in flavor," Krista says.
Salmon Pasta With Homemade Pesto
The Hero Ingredient: Salmon. We don't typically think of salmon as a pasta addition, but this pasta recipe from The Modern Proper has convinced us otherwise. It's a healthy way to add protein to a carb-heavy dish.
The Pro Tip: " Simply bake a one-pound filet of salmon for 12 minutes. This pasta is also a great way to use up leftover salmon," says recipe creators Holly and Natalie.
San Marzano Pasta e Fagioli
The Hero Ingredient: San Marzano tomatoes. A classic red sauce tastes so much richer and indulgent when made with San Marzano tomatoes, like in this recipe from Pinch of Yum. Combined with fresh basil, it's the next best thing to an Italian vacation.
The Pro Tip: "When this all cooks up, it’s going to look like a lot of sauce at first. But just when you’re questioning whether you actually need this much sauce or not, you add the pasta, and the sauce just soaks right into the pasta and you’re left with this velvety texture that is both saucy and thick," says Lindsay.