In big Italian-American families like mine, food is love. Most of the food we make is pasta; I'm not a math major, but it sounds to me that means pasta is love. I've grown up with delicious (and simple) Italian pasta recipes that I've adapted over time so that I can make them even in my dorm's basement kitchen. My family's recipes have been passed down through generations, and just so happen to be either similar to or modified versions of the following Italian pasta recipes. These might not be the original handwritten versions, but they are 100% Nana approved. 

I, as the youngest in the family, have always been a rebel with only one cause: pasta. I've been making these recipes since I could pick up a spoon, and so now I like to experiment when I make pasta. Since I eat pasta so often, I like to substitute dried pasta with Dreamfields pasta. Dreamfields is just a brand of pasta that has a higher protein content and fewer carbs than traditional pasta, but still tastes just as good (trust the Italian on this one). Fair warning though, Dreamfields cooks much faster than regular dried pasta, so watch it carefully - there's nothing worse than overcooked pasta.

I'll be ranking how simple each Italian pasta recipe is to make with 1 🍝 being the easiest meal I've ever prepared, and 5 🍝s being the most difficult recipe I've ever made (hint: none of these will be 5 🍝s.)

Cacio e Pepe

macaroni, spaghetti, pasta, sauce, cheese, fettuccine
Marissa Laliberte

Translation: (spaghetti with) cheese and pepper

How easy is it to make in a dorm kitchen? 🍝

Description: This comfort food is one of my 1 am go-to meals. Unless you overcook the pasta, there's really no way to mess up this traditional Roman dish. All you will need to make the sauce is parmesan cheese, pecorino romano cheese, black pepper, and butter. Although this recipe from Bon Appetit calls for two types of cheese, I've found that it tastes just as cheesy and creamy with only parmesan if I'm on a budget (although of course, the more cheese the merrier).

Spaghetti aglio e olio 

Meal, plate, Dinner, pasta, cheese, parsley
Josi Miller

Translation: spaghetti with garlic and oil

How easy is it to make in a dorm kitchen? 🍝

Description: My mom and I have been ordering this simple Italian pasta dish on the side of our eggplant parmesan since I was little, but spaghetti aglio e olio also makes for a delicious stand-alone meal. This cheap meal can be prepared simply with olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and pepper. Although not written into this particular recipe, I like to cook the garlic in the olive oil for just about 30 seconds first to infuse the garlic flavor into the oil before mixing everything together. Top with a little parsley and cheese and you have yourself a classic Italian meal.

Marcella Hazen's Tomato Sauce

spaghetti, vegetable, sauce, penne, pasta, carb
Caroline Ingalls

Translation: this one speaks for itself

How easy is it to make in a dorm kitchen? 🍝

Description: Marcella Hazen, sometimes hailed as the grandmother of Italian cooking (sorry, Nana) was at the forefront of introducing traditional Italian cuisine to the U.S and U.K. Her most well-known recipe is the fastest tomato sauce you could possibly make. This stripped down tomato sauce based on canned tomatoes, onion, and butter highlights the purity of traditional Italian flavors. Because it's so simple, it's also the perfect backdrop for other flavors; add some dried oregano or dried basil to give it more of a pasta with marinara flare, some red pepper flakes for a kick that will give the dish a spaghetti al arrabbiata vibe. 

Spaghetti Puttanesca 

spaghetti, pasta, sauce, vegetable, basil, tomato
Wendy Nieuwkamer

Translation: spaghetti in the style of a prostitute (but more on that later)

How easy is it to make in a dorm kitchen? 🍝🍝

Description: This recipe's provocative title comes from the old Italian rumors that prostitutes prepared it to lure men into their homes, but it seems like that's just a linguistic misunderstanding. Martha Stewart's version of the sauce is just like my mom's. It calls for tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies, olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes. This recipe says the anchovies are optional. As the youngest cousin, I'm still a bit of a picky eater, and so I'm with Martha on this one: this Italian pasta sauce doesn't need the anchovies, and it's cheaper and less salty without them. 

Spaghetti Alla Carbonara

Rose Lang-Maso

Translation: spaghetti with egg and pancetta sauce

How easy is it to make in a dorm kitchen? 🍝🍝

Description: The only recipe that causes some controversy in the family, spaghetti alla carbonara is not a purely Italian dish, but one that is said to have been made to cater to homesick American GIs during WWII. Reminiscent of bacon and eggs, this decadent recipe is best with fresh eggs, parmesan, pancetta, garlic, olive oil, and pepper. I like to substitute in bacon for pancetta: bacon is cheaper, is easier to get crispy and in my opinion, generally better overall (but don't tell anyone I said that). You might have noticed this recipe doesn't have a helpful little hyperlink, and that's because my favorite recipe for carbonara, Giuliano Bugialli's, is only his printed cookbook, The Fine Art of Italian Cooking. Here's the old school recipe:

Rose Lang-Maso

The Bottom Line

Even if your dorm kitchen is in the basement, with just a few basic ingredients and a pasta strainer, you can make delicious pasta recipes. These easy recipes are the perfect basic canvas for further experimentation with pasta type and flavor. But please, for me,  just don't overcook the pasta.