With its comforting carbs and easy preparation, pasta is the ultimate go-to meal.
But when it comes to sides, many of us don’t know where to start.
Sure, there’s always salad — but why limit yourself? From zesty to smoky and even a bit sweet, we’ve rounded up 9 of the best options for accompanying your favorite noodles to create a complete savory culinary experience.
From veggie-filled dishes to cheesy delights and inventive takes on classics, these recipes make sure that you can savor every bite of your favorite entree — minus the stress of figuring out what sides pair well.
So if you’re looking for the perfect accompaniment to take your Italian meal from ordinary to extraordinary, look no further than this list of delicious side dishes.
Why You Need Sides with Pasta?
Having sides with pasta can help you make a complete and balanced meal that provides nutrients that you need.
Eating the traditional Italian way – filling one-third of your plate with whole grain pasta, one-third with vegetables, and one-third with proteins – provides a more balanced meal.
Pairs such as proteins and whole grains not only help you to feel full but they also provide essential building blocks for important bodily functions.
Moreover, including different ingredients helps to enhance flavors and add interesting textures to a plate.
This helps to keep dishes interesting even if you are cooking the same dish multiple times.
Adding sides also helps reduce food waste as any side or ingredient that is not used in the dish can usually be added in another meal or kept for later use.
Finally, adding sides will often mean fewer dishes so less washing up afterwards.
Criteria for Choosing the Best Sides
When it comes to choosing the best sides to accompany your favorite pasta dishes, there are several factors to consider.
Here are some criteria to keep in mind when selecting the ideal side dish:
- Flavors: Choose a side that will complement the flavor of the pasta and provide an interesting contrast. Be sure to balance sweet, salty and acidic flavors.
- Texture: Select ingredients that will create a variety of textures, such as crunchy vegetables or crumbly cheese.
- Aesthetics: Consider how each side dish looks on the plate, ensuring you have a colorful presentation of flavor and texture.
- Nutrition: Opt for nutrient dense variations by incorporating whole grains, nuts and seeds when possible.
By focusing on these criteria when selecting your sides, you can enjoy a healthy and flavorful meal that will truly bring out the best in your favorite pasta dishes.
9 Best Sides to Eat with Pasta (Besides Salad)
Pasta and salad might be the classic pairing, but there are plenty of other sides that pair just as well with pasta dishes.
If you’re looking for a little inspiration to add variety to your meal planning, we have compiled a list of our top ten favorite pasta side dishes.
From roasted vegetables to herbed crostini, here is our go-to list for the best sides to accompany all types of pasta dishes.
1. Garlic Bread
Garlic bread is a classic side dish to serve alongside pasta.
It’s simple to make and provides a delicious complement to many of your favorite pasta creations.
To turn your bread into a garlic bread masterpiece, simply spread butter or olive oil over the top, sprinkle with garlic powder and herbs such as oregano and parsley, then toast or bake until crisp.
This savory side dish pairs perfectly with noodles drenched in tomato sauce or cheese.
2. Roasted Vegetables
Roasted vegetables are a great way to turn any meal from ordinary to extraordinary.
When paired with pasta, the tantalizing flavors of roasted vegetables add an extra layer of flavor and texture.
All you need to do is lightly coat your favorite vegetables in olive oil and herbs and then put them in the oven for about 20 minutes.
Here are some veggies that work perfectly with pasta:
- Roasted eggplant.
- Sweet potatoes.
- Bell peppers.
- Butternut squah.
Bruschetta is a classic Italian side dish that pairs perfectly with pasta.
This simple dish is made by toasting slices of Italian bread and then topping them with a variety of ingredients.
The most common combination is chopped tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil, but Bruschetta can be topped with a variety of other flavors such as pesto, artichokes or olives.
Bruschetta is best when served warm or at room temperature and makes for an easy accompaniment to any pasta dish.
4. Grilled Shrimps
Grilled shrimp is an excellent companion to pasta dishes.
The seafood flavor adds a delicious and unique dimension to your meal.
Pair grilled shrimp with cream sauce or garlic sauce for a rich and indulgent meal, or opt for a light marinara or pesto sauce if you want something lighter.
Make sure to season the shrimp lightly with salt and pepper before grilling to bring out its natural flavor even more.
Before adding it to your pasta dish, you can also add a pinch of red pepper flakes to give the meal an extra kick of heat.
Grilled shrimp is simple yet delicious, and it’s sure to be a hit at your next pasta night.
5. Antipasto Platter
A true Italian meal isn’t complete without a platter of antipasto — an assortment of cured meats, olives, marinated vegetables and cheese.
A typical antipasto platter can include items such as salami, prosciutto, mortadella, fresh mozzarella cheese, olives, roasted peppers and artichoke hearts.
A slice or two of each item accompanied by warm olive oil to dip the bread in is the perfect accompaniment to your pasta dish.
Not to mention the perfect way to enjoy a few quality carbs and some protein before diving into your main course.
6. Pesto Bruschetta
Pesto Bruschetta provides a great combination for any pasta dish.
This popular Italian side dish consists of toasted baguette slices topped with a garlic, basil and olive oil pesto and served with a variety of toppings.
For an enhanced flavor you can add Parmesan cheese and olives as toppings.
Furthermore, this dish is also extremely easy and quick to prepare, so it makes a perfect companion to your favorite pasta dishes.
Pesto Bruschetta can be served as an appetizer or a light snack.
To make this delicious side, simply slice some baguettes thinly and then toast them in the oven while you mix together some olive oil, garlic, fresh basil leaves and some salt & pepper.
Then simply spread the pesto on the warm bruschetta slices and top with your favorite goodies (such as Parmesan cheese or olives).
Meatballs are a perfect side dish for pasta, as they work well with every type of pasta and have a salty flavor that pairs particularly nicely with tomato sauces.
They are very easy to prepare in advance from a variety of recipes available online.
For an Italian-style version, use ground beef, pork or veal combined with minced onion, garlic, parsley and oregano.
To make the meatballs even more flavorful, you can also add grated parmesan cheese or pancetta slices to the mixture.
Combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl and form into balls before transferring them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.
Serve your delicious meatballs alongside some freshly cooked pasta for a hearty and comforting meal that’s sure to please the whole family.
8. Stuffed Mushrooms
Stuffed mushrooms are a great alternative and are just as easy to prepare.
These flavorful “bombs” of goodness add an unexpected element to any plate of pasta.
You can fill them with whatever your heart desires, but a good combination is chopped garlic and shallots mixed with ground turkey, oregano, parsley and breadcrumbs.
Once mushrooms have been stuffed, simply top them with shredded cheese (or leave out the cheese for a vegan option) and bake until golden brown.
Serve as a side dish to any pasta dish for an added savory punch or all on their own as a hearty appetizer.
9. Fried Zucchini
Fried zucchini is a delicious side dish that pairs well with any type of pasta.
To make this classic Italian recipe to accompany your meal, thinly slice two zucchini and lightly dredge them in a mixture of 3 tablespoons of flour, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of ground black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
Heat ½ cup of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Carefully add the slices and fry for 2 minutes per side or until golden brown.
Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and freshly grated parmesan cheese before serving.
Enjoy your fried zucchini as a delicious side to your favorite pasta dish.
Pasta dishes always make a great meal, but they don’t always have to be an accompaniment to salad.
There are many other options that can bring depth and flavor to complete the dish.
From lighter side dishes of zucchini and beans to more substantial options like roasted mushrooms and tempeh bacon, there is no shortage of tasty accompaniments that pair perfectly with pasta.
No matter which side you choose, focusing on complementary textures and flavors is key to create a well-rounded plate.
And don’t forget – in addition to sides, top your pasta dish off with your favorite sauce or finishing ingredient like Parmesan cheese or fresh herbs.
Doing so adds another layer of flavor and brings the whole meal together.