20 Wonderful Pasta Side Dishes

Baked meatballs recipe

​The Spruce

Pasta is a beloved and nutritious meal that could only be improved with an equally tasty side. If you find yourself looking for a dish to give your pasta meal extra greens, protein, healthy fats, or simply a flavorful addition, this collection of recipes has many dishes to choose from. Easy bread recipes, crispy rolls, filling salads, veggie sides, meatless dishes, and meat-full preparations—choose what suits your taste, time, and main pasta dish for an unforgettable Italian-inspired dinner.

  • 01 of 20

    Cheesy Garlic Bread

    Cheesy garlic bread

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

    There is no need to buy premade garlic bread. Skip all the additives and frozen loaves and go for the real thing with this easy and cheesy garlic bread. Three types of cheese, butter, mayonnaise, and plenty of garlic make this decadent bread the perfect accompaniment to any kind of pasta dish. A slice of this garlic bread will beautifully complement a creamy tomato pasta or perhaps a lighter mascarpone pasta.

  • 02 of 20

    Sautéed Zucchini

    Sautéed zucchini

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

    This is a great recipe for the overly big and abundant zucchini that come during summertime. A simply sautéed zucchini makes a great side for just about any pasta dish. Tangy Parmesan adds some depth to the sweet and mild zucchini flavor, and generous amounts of salt bring out the bright flavor of this favorite summer squash. The recipe includes numerous variations, from added vegetables to crunchy bits of fatty bacon.

  • 03 of 20

    Brussels Sprouts Parmesan Salad

    Brussels sprout Parmesan salad

    The Spruce / Stephanie Goldfinger

    Thinly sliced sprouts take on a whole new personality in this vibrant, crunchy salad. Loaded with great textures like crispy almonds and fresh flavors like dill and shallots, this easy salad comes together in minutes as the sprouts need no cooking. Serve this unconventional side with an equally fresh pasta dish like asparagus bow ties or a veggie whole wheat pasta for a delicious vegetarian spread.

  • 04 of 20

    Pull-Apart Garlic Bread

    Pull-apart garlic bread rolls

    The Spruce / Pete Scherer 

    For a fun side that everyone will reach for, try this unique pull-apart garlic bread. Although time-consuming, these rolls have no equal in tenderness and fluffiness. And once made, they are easily frozen to have at hand whenever other pasta meals come your way, and you're in need of a tasty side. Bake with shredded cheese on top during the last few minutes in the oven for an extra-decadent roll. Serve these rolls with a filling chicken and broccoli pasta or an herby shrimp fettuccini.

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  • 05 of 20

    Grilled Caesar Salad

    Grilled Caesar salad

    The Spruce / Anita Schecter

    To make this innovative Caesar salad, you need whole hearts of romaine and a hot grill. With a slight charring, the lettuce takes on a sweet note of flavor. This beautiful salad will rival your main pasta dish. An easy no-anchovies dressing completes the dish. Because of the mild flavor, this is a great side for bold pasta sauces. Serve with a wild boar ragù with fettuccini or a beef stew with orzo.

  • 06 of 20

    Roasted Whole Artichokes

    Roasted whole artichokes

    The Spruce

    It can't get much easier than this. By simply cutting off the stem and one inch from the top, these tasty vegetables are almost ready to go into the oven. Lemon, garlic, olive oil, and salt make a simple seasoning. Place in the oven and get on with the rest of the meal. These whole artichokes result in a slightly sweet, buttery vegetable that can be served either warm or chilled and are a great accompaniment to fresh pasta dishes like spaghetti with green garlic pesto or a tuna pasta salad.

  • 07 of 20

    Crusty No-Knead Bread

    Crusty no-knead bread

    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

    Making your own bread seems daunting, but this no-knead recipe gives you a crusty, rustic loaf that will sop up all of your pasta sauce. You need five ingredients and a little patience, but the wait is worth it. Bake the bread in a Dutch oven and do let the dough rise between 12 to 18 hours, so plan accordingly. Serve it with a juicy meat ragú and spaghetti or a creamy tomato sauce for either gnocchi or short pasta.

  • 08 of 20

    Baked Eggplant

    Baked eggplant slices

    The Spruce 

    Classic Italian dishes with different takes on baked eggplant make wonderful sides, with their delightful flavors and creamy textures. By using the oven, you get the same melt-in-your-mouth interior as if you were frying them but without the mess of splattering oil. Serve it with just a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and some fresh basil. Perfect for heavy sauces, this bright dish will make the best side to a four-cheese pasta or a cheesy pasta frittata.

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  • 09 of 20

    Caprese Salad With Avocado

    Avocado, tomato, and mozzarella Caprese salad

    The Spruce / Emily Hawkes

    Our summery Caprese salad with bright ripe tomatoes and rich fresh mozzarella takes on new angles with creamy slices of avocado. Balsamic and olive oil make the perfect dressing, and with just 10 minutes of active work in the kitchen, this recipe might be your new favorite side to pasta and other mains alike. Complement the refreshing quality of this bright salad with a chilly serving of a salmon pasta salad or a feta and olive pasta.

  • 10 of 20

    Vegan Bruschetta

    Easy vegan bruschetta

    The Spruce

    Our bruschetta comes together in a flash and really makes the most of fresh, sweet summer tomatoes. Because this vegan version has so few ingredients, try finding the season's very best, like juicy heirlooms and organic basil. Serve a couple of slices alongside your favorite pasta—an unforgettable carbonara or an unconventional sweet potato ravioli—for a different twist on the classic bread basket.

  • 11 of 20

    Panzanella Salad

    Panzanella salad

    The Spruce / Anita Schecter

    Don't let your day-old crusty bread go to waste but turn it into a tasty side salad with this simple panzanella recipe. A tangy dressing of garlic and mustard coats cubes of bread and chopped up crunchy veggies for a colorful and filling side dish. Because the salad is already heavy on carbs, try it with a lighter Italian-inspired dish like spiralized zucchini pasta or a serving of light spaghetti squash with tomatoes.

  • 12 of 20

    Roasted Peppers and Zucchini

    Roasted red peppers and zucchini

    The Spruce

    Roasting bell peppers, summer squash, zucchini, and onion brings out their natural sweetness in an easy one-dish recipe. Chop, season, bake, and serve. There's nothing else to this flavorful vegetable side. Because of their bright and fresh flavor, these roasted veggies are a wonderful addition to a pasta dish that might be heavier in texture and bolder in flavor, like a skillet lasagna or a white chicken lasagna.

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  • 13 of 20

    Sautéed Brussels Sprouts With Onions

    Sautéed Brussels sprouts with onions

    The Spruce / Katie Workman

    Sautéing slivered Brussels sprouts with onion tames their bitter assertiveness and makes them the perfect side for pasta or add-in to any number of sauces, salads, or casseroles. Cook them until just wilted for a little crunch or further down for a softer texture. Serve with an equally bright pasta dish like an oven-baked spaghetti al cartoccio or an earthy ham and mushroom Caruso pasta.

  • 14 of 20

    Roasted Broccoli Rabe

    Roasted broccoli rabe

    The Spruce / Molly Watson

    A classic Italian side of broccoli rabe often appears next to veal or chicken dishes. But the bitterness and brightness of this flavorful vegetable make it ideal for cutting through other rich main dishes. Three ingredients and less than 30 minutes are all that you need to plate the rabe next to a rich pasta with pork ragù or a bowl of creamy two-cheese pasta.

  • 15 of 20

    Instant Pot Meatballs

    Instant Pot meatballs

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    Let your Instant Pot do all the work while you cook the pasta. This is an easy and filling recipe, and these meatballs make a great side to pasta, gnocchi, or cheese ravioli. For an oven version that might require a little more time, try the equally delicious and moist beef and sausage meatballs.

  • 16 of 20

    Antipasto Salad

    Antipasto salad

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    This antipasto salad, loaded with lots of charcuterie, olives, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, and mozzarella, tastes like a deli platter in a salad form. Use it to turn any Italian supper into a feast, and serve it for a special occasion to accompany cheese tortellini or some rich winter gnocchi.

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  • 17 of 20

    Eggplant Parmesan

    Authentic eggplant Parmesan (Parmigiana di Melanzane)

    The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck

    Parmigiana di Melanzane is as classic as you can get. Hearty, cheesy, with a beautiful golden top, these tomatoes and eggplants combine into a beautiful vegetarian dish that can accompany the simplest of pasta preparations for an unforgettable dinner. This traditional Italian version doesn't require frying the eggplant beforehand, resulting in a lighter dish that really highlights the eggplant's flavor. Try it with a spaghetti aglio e olio (garlic and oil) or an easy buttered herb pasta.

  • 18 of 20

    Fontina and Mozzarella Arancini

    Fontina and mozzarella arancini

    The Spruce / Leah Maroney

    These gooey fried rice balls are a cheese extravaganza that can complement saucy pasta meals or even top them. Fontina and mozzarella make a buttery filling, and Arborio rice gives them a crumbly texture. Make ahead and refrigerate or freeze them until you're ready to fry and serve. Pair them with a bright pasta with kale or dill and mint pesto.

  • 19 of 20

    Cauliflower Parmesan

    Cauliflower Parmesan

    The Spruce / Jennifer Perillo

    This cheesy, saucy version of roasted cauliflower gives it a tender, slightly caramelized texture. Long gone are the boiled or steamed cauliflower florets. With this simple recipe, you can have a colorful and delicious side to serve with an equally flavorful broccoli ham and Parmesan pasta or a decadent stuffed manicotti.

  • 20 of 20

    Parmesan-Stuffed Mushrooms

    Parmesan stuffed mushrooms

    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

    While you may think of stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer, these cheesy little bites also complement pasta perfectly as a vegetable side dish. Easy to put together, the mushrooms can be tossed with the pasta or served on the side. Their earthy and herby flavor makes them perfect for a butternut and sage pasta or a lemon and garlic pasta salad.