The 17 pasta recipes Americans eat the most

The 17 pasta recipes Americans eat the most

Pasta seen by Americans: here are all the first courses that have become part of American culture.

Carbonara is just the tip of the iceberg that hides a not too underground world made up of first courses, revisited and enriched, which have become part of American culture starting from our local tradition. And it is precisely taking a cue from the article published a few days ago in the New York Times on the Smoky Tomato Carbonara , in which a preparation based on eggs, parmesan and bacon (instead of bacon and pecorino romano) is suggested, that we investigated what it means to eat pasta for Americans. And we did it through the most popular and consumed first course recipes in the United States .


  1. Spaghetti and Meatballs. Let’s start with an exemplary – and I would say very successful – case of contamination between Italian and American cuisine: spaghetti with meatballs (also in a flan and baked pasta version) is one of the pillars of the culinary tradition of Southern Italy. The phenomenon of Italian immigration in America has brought a real gastronomic melting pot. The Italians of Southern Italy have never stopped – not even in America – cooking their beloved meatballs. Of course the ingredients weren’t our own, but a satisfactory result was still obtained. This is where American restaurants put their hand in adapting the Italian recipe to the taste of Americans and their habit of combining carbohydrate with protein:
  2. Mac & Cheese . The road to the popularity of Mac & Cheese has followed a path very similar to that of our own pasta and potatoes. From a simple and poor dish reserved for the tables of the people in the early twentieth century to comfort food appreciated also and above all by the youngest. After all, it is a delicious baked terrine based on macaroni, stringy cheese – usually cheddar – and bechamel. But there was a very specific period to mark the fortune of this dish: during the Second World War, in fact, the industrial production by Kraft Foods allowed Mac & Cheese to be purchased in large quantities, becoming the usual American meal of a weather.
  3. Baked ziti . If a Campania pasta shape, like that of the ziti, has achieved popularity overseas it is thanks to the recipes prepared by Donna Carmela, the wife of Tony Soprano, protagonist of the homonymous series The Sopranos, broadcast in the United States between 1999 and 2007. Halfway between parody and augmented reality, the series portrays the culinary habits of the Italian American community with vivid and effective colors. And among cannelloni, lasagna and fried foods, there are also them: baked ziti topped with meatballs, parmesan, ricotta, mozzarella and tomato sauce.
  4. Chicken pasta . Here, unfortunately, even the most elastic feeling of identification would hardly be able to take effect. Thinking of a cut of chicken breast that dominates a nice plate of creamy and super-seasoned spaghetti is certainly not part of the imagination of the average Italian. The Americans, however, contributed to the success of Chicken pasta by borrowing some of its characteristics from the more classic fettuccine Alfredo. In addition to the presence of chicken – usually cooked in a pan – and the use of spaghetti, we find the replacement of cream with a sauce based on sautéed, cheddar and lemon.
  5. Sleeves. Halfway between rigatoni and cannelloni, manicotti are distinguished by a shape that lends itself well to being generously stuffed and seasoned. That’s why, Italian Americans use it on special occasions like Thanksgiving. Before serving the turkey, this first dish stuffed with ricotta and seasoned with a marinara sauce based on gravy and garlic is brought to the table.
  6. American chop suey. A recipe created by correspondence, thanks to a letter sent by a San Francisco reader to a Brooklyn newspaper around the early 1900s. The origins of this dish actually have their roots in Chinese culture, where the termchop sueymeansjunk. It is therefore not difficult to understand the meaning of American chop suey: a greedy and rich mix based on macaroni, tomato sauce, onions and beef, accompanied by bread, often seasoned with Worcestershire sauce and parmesan. Hence also the name of “American goulash” with which it is identified not only in New England but also in the state of Illinois.
  7. Spaghetti Bolognese . An unmissable dish in any self-respecting tourist menu, spaghetti Bolognese – also known as Spag Bol – are actually a very popular recipe among American tables. Despite the uncertain origins (perhaps brought to America by soldiers returning from Italy, or by the Italian immigrants themselves), spaghetti Bolognese represent a clear reference to Italianness by emulating one of the cornerstones of our cuisine, namely ragù. Obviously, the differences with our recipe are there and can be felt: the fettuccine are replaced by spaghetti and the sauce is prepared with tomato sauce, minced meat, garlic and chilli.
  8. Cincinnati chili . If the ragù is imitated so often and from kitchens all over the world there will be a reason. This time bringing the Italian banner is a Greek immigrant named Nicholas Lambrinides, who in 1949 founded a famous chain of chili restaurants in Cincinnati, Ohio. The distinctive feature of this recipe lies in the high degree of spiciness thanks to the use of a skilful mix of spices and a variety of chilli pepper that is stronger and more intense than our local one. Another secret lies in the very slow cooking of the meat and in the overnight refrigeration that makes it even more tasty and appetizing.
  9. Toasted ravioli . Better known as St. Louis Toasted Ravioli , this first course represents one of the best examples of successful recipes born from a mistake. The original mistake was to throw the ravioli in oil instead of water: a German dishwasher at Angelo Oldani’s well-known restaurant in The Hill – the Italian neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri – seized by a moment of panic in the chaos of the kitchen , put a pot of boiling oil to cook the ravioli, only to recover them immediately. Too late, because the Toasted ravioli had already been born. Delicious and tasty with a taste that vaguely recalls that of toasted bread (hence the adjective toasted) and a stringy cheese filling, were so appreciated by the restaurant’s customers that they are still talked about today.
  10. Penne with vodka . A real viral spread that has made the new stars and stripes culinary trend one of the most vintage and well-known Italian dishes. It was enough to publish on the Instagram stories the preparation of the vodka pens that the famous American model Gigi Hadid was picked up by millions of followers overseas until arriving on the TikTok platform and becoming an absolutely unbeatable trend. The vodka sauce recipe appears in numerous versions, but the most popular one is undoubtedly the one based on onion, tomato sauce, fresh cream, vodka and chilli, to be enriched if you want with bacon and parmesan.
  11. Spaghetti pie . Those from Southern Italy may fail to review the classic recipe for spaghetti omelette in the version cleared by the Americans. It is known that everything that comes close to lasagna calls for a certain attention and a constant attempt at emulation. Americans are absolutely used to this, as for spaghetti with meatballs, also in this case the variations on the theme are numerous. The crust on the surface is obtained from a mix of cheese and eggs that is poured over spaghetti (sometimes noodles) cooked al dente and dressed with a concentrated tomato and cheese sauce of your choice between ricotta and cheddar. All baked and usually served with garlic bread and salad.
  12. Spaghetti barbecue . American barbecue culture meets a classic of Italian cuisine, namely spaghetti. The result is a first course topped with a sauce made from shredded smoked pork, vegetables and barbecue sauce. Spaghetti BBQs are particularly popular in Memphis, Tennessee where half a century ago a former railroad cook named Brady Vincent opened a barbecue restaurant called Brady and Lil’s where he invented the original recipe. In later years, Vincent himself taught the secrets of the dish to Jim Neely, owner of the famous Interstate Bar-BQ.
  13. Chicken noodle soup . What does pizza have in common with soup? In America the association between the two dishes is not so strange and has its origin in the BBQ Chicken Pizza, much appreciated and popular in the United States. Being able to enjoy the same flavor in a light recipe is not an impossible task. The solution has the name of Chicken noodle soup: a rich soup based on noodles, grilled chicken breast, beans, garlic, tomato and corn sauce that recalls our soups, with the only difference being much more caloric and nutritious .
  14. Alphabet soup . The broken or mixed pasta with which soups and soups are prepared represents an Italian comfort food that crosses the boot without distinction. It must be said, however, that we have not invented anything. In Paris, as early as 1800, French grocers sold bits of macaroni to be used in soup printed with the letters of the alphabet. This original and avant-garde trend was revived by Parisian restaurateurs until it was included in a Chicago Herald Cooking School cookbook in 1883 where the recipe for soup with small macaroni printed in the shape of letters of the alphabet is provided. Today it is not uncommon to find it in New York, seasoned with tomato paste, potatoes, legumes and vegetables.
  15. Johnny Marzetti . Much like American chop suey, Johnny Marzetti is a very popular pasta dish in the Midwestern United States, made with noodles, cheese, ground beef, and a tomato sauce that typically includes aromatic vegetables and mushrooms. The name of the recipe comes from the homonymous chef born in Columbus, Ohio, owner of the Italian restaurant founded in 1896 on Woodruff Avenue and High Street. One of the dishes Marzetti offered his customers was a baked casserole of minced meat, cheese, tomato sauce, and noodles which he named in honor of his brother-in-law, Johnny.
  16. Tetrazzini . The birth of this rich and tasty first course is due to the famous opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini who, on the occasion of her debut at the Tivoli Theater in 1905, offered a culinary inspiration to Ernest Arbogast of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco who conceived the recipe for the first time in 1908. Tetrazzini are distinguished by a certain complexity of flavor based on diced chicken or turkey, mushrooms, sauce based on butter or cream, cheese and wine or sherry. The shape of the pasta can vary – such as linguine, spaghetti, or egg pasta – and is usually enriched with a dressing of parsley, breadcrumbs, almonds and fried onions. As for cooking, the Tetrazzini can be cooked in the oven in a casserole so that they are crunchy and creamy at the same time.
  17. Fettuccine all’Alfredo . The simplicity that makes history, or rather, one of the most appreciated and famous culinary customs by Americans. It all started with a nice plate of fettuccine with butter and parmesan that Alfredo di Lelio, chef of the Angelina restaurant in Rome, prepared in the early 1900s to whet the appetite of his wife who had just given birth. The appreciation was immediate, so much so that it was not long in inserting the fettuccine in the menu of the new restaurant that opened in via della Scrofa a few years later. Frequent destination of the actors of American cinema, the fettuccine Alfredo were tried and tried again, until they were exported to America, where the recipe was adapted to the most demanding palates. Butter has been replaced by cream and it is not uncommon to find fish and meat additions.

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