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9 Lighter Old-Fashioned Italian Dinner Recipes To Make Tonight

Sweet and spicy tomato sauce, fresh pasta, seafood, and lots of cheese.
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When there's a chill in the air, there's not much more craveable than homemade Italian-American dishes. While we can't vouch for all of these dishes being straight from the old country, they're straight out of our family kitchens and are so satisfying. If you're craving sweet and spicy tomato sauce, fresh pasta, seafood, and lots of cheese, you're in the right place. Read on for the best old-fashioned Italian dishes that are sure to get your tummy growling. 

Plus, don't miss The #1 Order to Never Make at an Italian Restaurant, According to Chefs


Courtesy of The Girl Who Ate Everything

The starting point for many great Italian meals, antipasto usually features cured meats like salami, hunks of nutty parmesan, olives, banana peppers, and other veggies. Combine it all into a salad for a tasty dinner or lunch.

Get the recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything.


Courtesy of Foodie Crush

This healthy Tuscan-style bread salad is a classic summer meal, made with ripe tomatoes, hearty chunks of cucumber, and onion tossed with a simple vinaigrette. Leave the bread for last and let it soak up all the juice from the dressing and the veggies. 

Get the recipe from Foodie Crush.

Baked Ziti

Healthy baked ziti
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Melted mozzarella, creamy ricotta, sweet tomato sauce, and pasta—drooling yet? Baked ziti has all of the elements of a perfect American-Italian dish, and it's easy to pull off on a weeknight. In this recipe, we've cut down on the cheese without sacrificing flavor.

Get our recipe for Baked Ziti.


Low-calorie sausage lasagna
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Speaking of ooey gooey cheese, there's no crowd-pleaser like lasagna. Try swapping out typical ground beef for a leaner option like chicken sausage makes this recipe a whole lot healthier. The addition of basil leaves and red pepper flakes hidden inside the layers of pasta and cheesy goodness give this dish so much flavor. 

Get our recipe for Chicken Sausage Lasagna.


Healthy cioppino
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a flood of Italian immigrants made their way to San Francisco, and they brought with them, cioppino, a hearty fish and shellfish soup based on the classic seafood soups of the old country. Packed with fresh seafood, it's satisfying with a gorgeous hunk of bread.

Get our recipe for Cioppino.


parmesan mushroom risotto
James Stefiuk

Beautiful, creamy risotto, studded with mushrooms, sausage, or served plain, is comfort in a warm steaming bowl. It's easier than ever to make with our recipe, which uses Instant Pot pressure to make this delectable dish fast. 

Get our recipe for Instant Pot Risotto.

Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan
Courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

Crispy eggplant topped with tomato sauce served over pasta or with a nice hunk of bread might be the perfect meat-free meal. Try this version of the Italian classic with baked eggplant instead fried. It uses a special trick of salting the rounds to remove any unwanted bitterness.

Get the recipe from Gimme Some Oven.

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Linguine with Clams

Paleo linguine with clams
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Briny bivalves and linguine slick with olive oil and garlic is a true Little Italy classic, and our recipe for a bowl of linguine with clams recipe is heavier on the clams than pasta, which also gives it a tastier and healthier ratio.

Get our recipe for Linguine with Clams.

Spaghetti with Meatballs

healthy spaghetti meatballs
Mitch Mandel and Thomas MacDonald

Get our recipe for Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs.

This super traditional dish might just be every dad's order at the local Italian restaurant, and it's no surprise. Tender, savory balls of meat paired with swirls of pasta, what's not to like? This version uses lean and tender turkey, saving you major calories while simultaneously providing your taste buds with major yum. And if anything, go heavy on the meatballs and light on the pasta.

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Tanya Edwards
Tanya Edwards is a seasoned food and health journalist, who has held roles at Yahoo Health as Managing Editor and at Food Network as Programming Director. Read more about Tanya