• Mean green pesto (Donna Hay)Source: Donna Hay
The Italians know that a bowl of homemade goodness for lunch supercharges your afternoons. So, we're following suit...
3 Feb 2021 - 1:34 PM  UPDATED 25 Oct 2021 - 9:51 AM

In Italy, the midday meal, or il pranzo, is traditionally the biggest and most substantial meal of the day. Naturally, it almost always involves a plate of pasta, generally served as a first course to be followed by a second hot meal of protein and vegetables.

Pasta for lunch makes a lot of sense. A dose of carbs partway through your day provides plenty of energy to keep you going full steam ahead. The hit of dietary fibre that pasta provides can also be useful for, um, steaming in other ways.

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However, the best thing about pasta for lunch has got to be the way eating a 'proper meal' forces us to slow down and take a moment to really enjoy our midday repast(a). Pasta needs preparation, it needs cooking time (though only a little - lunch is not the time for baked or slow-cooked dishes) and it needs cutlery. It's basically an exercise in mindfulness and guaranteed to fuel your soul as well as your tum.

Eating a 'proper meal' forces us to slow down and take a moment to really enjoy our midday repast(a).

Each of these pasta recipes is quick to make and delightful to eat. It's definitely time for a midday conference with your inner Italian.

One-pot ripper

Puttanesca might be named for the 'ladies of the night', but it goes really well in the day time too. Big flavours like anchovies, garlic, capers and olives give you plenty of bang for the 20 minutes a bowl takes to put together. You'll be satisfied right up until dinner.

Clam it up

A big bowl of seafood at lunch feels like such a treat, but you can pull together the clam sauce for this spaghetti e vongole faster than the pasta will take to cook. It's a quick one-pan job that you only need to toss around a little, then serve and devour.

Mild meets spice

Super-spicy nduja sausages are the perfect balance for the gentle creaminess of ricotta in this tasty penne dish. If you can't find nduja at your local supermarket or deli, a good-quality Italian sausage, or even a salami, will work just fine.

Garlicky good

Garlic prawn pasta

If you're WFH right now, this is the pasta lunch for you. It's positively rolling in garlicky goodness with four cloves melting into the butter and lemon sauce. If you happen to be working with others, eating a sprig of parsley after your meal should take care of any breath issues.

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Mean and green

This is surely the finest way to get your greens in. This pesto pasta is heaving with broccoli, basil, mint and parsley. The whole dish takes less than half an hour to pull together, but if you make the pesto sauce in advance it'll be ready in around ten.

Cauli on

A combination of anchovy, capers, olives and chilli turns roasted cauliflower into one very bold meal. Make this dish in advance to reheat at lunchtime. 'Resting' will enrich the taste even more and reheated pasta is actually better for you.

Healthy mac

Sometimes you need a bit of midday comfort, and mac 'n' cheese is where it's at. You could go for broke with a full-fat traditional mac, or you can try this lighter recipe to ensure you're not comatose by 2pm.

Coma sounds good, thanks
Beany mac and cheese

While you may think there's no bettering mac and cheese, adding white beans boosts the protein levels of the dish, as well as adding extra textural and creaminess dimensions. 

Cauliflower mac and cheese

Poaching the cauliflower in milk before baking it is a simple trick that makes this dish extra creamy. 

Roast cauliflower and bacon mac 'n' cheese

Who doesn’t like macaroni cheese? Here, this perennial favourite becomes a one-pot meal, complete with plenty of cauliflower, streaky bacon and a crusty cheesy topping, thanks to the ideal melting qualities of Perfect Italiano Perfect Bakes blend. It’s beyond delicious.

Tuna cheer

Spaghetti with tuna, croutons and parsley

Put your hand up if tinned tuna features in your lunch choice at least once a week... 🙋. Chances are you generally add it to a salad, sambo or a toastie, but putting it in this zingy pasta dish is best. All of the ingredients in this recipe can be kept in the pantry until you're ready to unleash your next-level lunch moment.

Wake up siren

As if we needed another excuse to eat bacon, along comes this extra-tasty bowl of yes-please-thank-you-very-much psata. It's even got a hit of chilli to wake us up right when the midday slump happens.

Chilli loves pasta
Prawn and chilli pasta

Try this take on the classic aglio e olio - al dente spaghetti gets tossed in with garlic, prawns and browned butter. 

Pasta with pork salsicce, fennel seeds and chilli

This recipes looks to the flavours of our Southern Italian friends. Traditionally, pork is seasoned with fennel seeds that have an almost aniseed-like, slightly sweet flavour, and dried chilli. This particularly excellent flavour combination also happens to be one of my favourites. To make this rustic, easy to whip up dish, I’ve suggested the use of casarecce, a short dried pasta originally from Sicily that curls in on itself, but do feel free to use any other pasta you think may be appropriate.

Broccoli, pine nut and chilli penne

This quick vegetarian pasta is perfect for curbing hunger before cocktail parties.


Brain feed

If you've got a big afternoon coming up at work, this sardine pasta dish is exactly what you need to eat for lunch. Sardines are packed with long chain omega-3, which are important for brain development, improved eyesight and reducing your risk of fatal heart attacks. So, plenty of good stuff for sailing through your PM workload there...

Mangia mangia
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Red lentil penne with Sicilian pesto

Sicilian pesto is made with tomato as well as basil, giving it a light red colour. Here we add ricotta to give it a creamy texture and a lighter flavour.

Pasta stuffed with potato, cheese and mint (culurgiones)

This takes inspiration from the island of Sardinia - the lovely soft, supple pasta dough is easy to make, and the filling is a great combination of cheese and potato. 

Rustic summer crumb pasta

Toasted sourdough crumbs give this summery pasta a delightful crunch, perfect alongside the soft buffalo mozzarella.

Italian meatballs and spaghetti

Grated potato subs in for breadcrumbs in this meatball recipe and ensures they retain a nice tender texture.

Wholemeal linguine with cauliflower, mushroom and pine nuts

Cauliflower is an underrated vegetable that, with a bit of love, can be very rewarding. Steamed and pureed to make a delicious sauce, the combination of mushrooms, cauliflower and Parmesan will convert most cauli-phobes in an instant.

Fettuccine with fresh seafood and a green harissa dressing

Originally, I wanted to use a combination of parsley and coriander in the green harissa sauce, but I couldn’t get any on the filming day, so I used parsley only. If you are a fan of coriander, as I am, substitute half the parsley used in this recipe with coriander leaves and stems.