15 Pasta & Rice Dishes That Aren’t Your Average Weeknight Meals

Who says pasta and rice have to be boring? We’re here to shake things up with 15 dishes that are anything but ordinary. Imagine taking your taste buds on a little adventure right from your kitchen. Whether it’s a quiet dinner at home or a gathering with friends, these recipes are meant to bring a smile and a wow. And the best part? They’re not as complicated as you might think.

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage in a serving bowl with tomatoes in the background.
Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pasta. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Chicken Fried Rice

Chicken fried rice on a white plate with a green napkin.
Chicken Fried Rice. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Here’s a fried rice that could easily become a weeknight favorite. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s packed with flavor. Whether you’re using up leftovers or starting from scratch, it’s a satisfying meal that hits all the right notes. Plus, it’s a great way to sneak some veggies into your diet.
Get the Recipe: Chicken Fried Rice

Smoked Mac & Cheese

A skillet filled with Smoked Mac & Cheese.
Smoked Mac & Cheese. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

This isn’t your average mac and cheese. By introducing smoked cheese into the mix, you get a depth of flavor that’s simply unmatched. It’s creamy, it’s smoky, and it’s utterly indulgent. Perfect for when you’re looking to treat yourself to some serious comfort food.
Get the Recipe: Smoked Mac & Cheese

Blackstone Tortellini with Meatballs

Two large bowls of tortellini with meatballs on a counter.
Blackstone Tortellini with Meatballs. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Elevate your pasta game with this hearty dish. Plump tortellini and savory meatballs sit in a rich, tomato-based sauce, making every forkful a delightful experience. It’s a great way to bring the family together for a meal that feels special without spending all day in the kitchen.
Get the Recipe: Blackstone Tortellini with Meatballs

Pesto Orzo Salad

Orzo salad resting on a dark plate.
Pesto Orzo Salad. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

This orzo salad, tossed with homemade pesto, is a vibrant addition to any table. It’s fresh, it’s flavorful, and it can steal the show as both a side dish or a light main. Whether you’re hosting a picnic or just looking for a delightful lunch option, this salad has got you covered.
Get the Recipe: Pesto Orzo Salad

Salmon Pasta Salad

Salmon pasta salad in a black bowl with forks nearby.
Salmon Pasta Salad. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Dive into a refreshing pasta salad that features flakes of tender salmon, offering a perfect balance of lightness and satisfaction. It’s a great dish for warmer days or when you’re after something that feels gourmet without the fuss. Plus, it’s a lovely way to get those omega-3s in!
Get the Recipe: Salmon Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Rice

Mediterranean Rice in a black bowl on concrete.
Mediterranean Rice. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Embark on a culinary journey with this Mediterranean rice, a dish that’s as colorful as it is flavorful. It’s packed with ingredients like tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives, making every bite a vibrant experience. It’s a fantastic way to bring a touch of the Mediterranean to your table, offering a fresh and healthy side or main dish.
Get the Recipe: Mediterranean Rice

Skillet Gnocchi with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe

A bowl of skillet gnocchi with sausage and broccoli rabe.
Skillet Gnocchi with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

This skillet meal combines pillowy gnocchi with the bold flavors of sausage and broccoli rabe, creating a one-pan wonder that’s both comforting and convenient. The gnocchi gets wonderfully crispy on the outside while remaining soft and chewy inside, perfectly complementing the spicy sausage and slightly bitter greens. It’s a dish that offers a symphony of textures and tastes, making it a must-try for those seeking an easy yet satisfying meal.
Get the Recipe: Skillet Gnocchi with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe


A plate of Authentic German Spaetzle garnished with parsley.
Spaetzle. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Dive into the comforting world of spaetzle, a dish that’s as fun to eat as it is to say. These little dumplings are a joy, especially when pan-fried to golden perfection. It’s a great way to introduce something new to the dinner rotation, offering a delightful texture and flavor.
Get the Recipe: Spaetzle

Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pasta

Broccoli Rabe and Sausage in a serving bowl with tomatoes in the background.
Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pasta. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Here’s a pasta that packs a punch. The spicy sausage and bitter broccoli rabe are a match made in heaven, offering a mouthful of flavors with every bite. It’s a fantastic option for those who love a bit of heat and a lot of greens in their meal. And it’s sure to turn your ordinary pasta night into something extraordinary.
Get the Recipe: Sausage & Broccoli Rabe Pasta

Ham Fried Rice

Ham fried rice on a white plate.
Ham Fried Rice. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Transform simple ingredients into something special with this ham fried rice. It’s a savory, comforting dish that’s ideal for busy nights. Each bite is filled with the smoky flavor of ham, making it a hearty meal that’s sure to please. It’s the perfect blend of simplicity and taste.
Get the Recipe: Ham Fried Rice

Pasta with Ricotta & Tomatoes

Ricotta and Tomato Pasta in a white bowl.
Pasta with Ricotta & Tomatoes. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Imagine a dish that’s both light and comforting. This pasta brings together creamy ricotta and juicy tomatoes for a simple yet profoundly flavorful meal. It’s perfect for those evenings when you want something satisfying without the heaviness. Plus, it’s a great way to use those ripe tomatoes sitting on your counter.
Get the Recipe: Pasta with Ricotta & Tomatoes

Arroz Verde

Arroz Verde rice in a black pan with tomatoes and herbs.
Arroz Verde. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Brighten up your meal with this green rice, vibrant both in color and taste. It’s a side that brings a fresh twist to any meal, pairing beautifully with everything from grilled meats to vegetables. Not only is it visually striking, but its flavor is just as impressive.
Get the Recipe: Arroz Verde

Greek Spaghetti

A bowl of pasta with tomatoes, feta and kalamata olives.
Greek Spaghetti. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Take a trip to the Mediterranean with this Greek-inspired spaghetti. Olives, feta, and a hint of lemon come together to create a dish that’s bursting with flavor. It’s a wonderful alternative to the usual pasta fare, perfect for when you’re in the mood for something different yet utterly satisfying.
Get the Recipe: Greek Spaghetti

Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells

Giant Cheese Stuffed Pasta Shells in two black serving dishes.
Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Go big with these giant shells stuffed to the brim with creamy cheese. It’s a dish that’s sure to impress, offering the ultimate cheesy goodness in every bite. Serve this when you really want to spoil your cheese-loving friends or family. It’s comfort food at its best.
Get the Recipe: Giant Cheese Stuffed Shells

Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto

Turkey and Pesto Stuffed Pasta Shells in a black cast iron dish.
Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto. Photo credit: Cook What You Love.

Switch things up with these turkey stuffed shells, a lighter take on a classic. The pesto adds a fresh, herby brightness that really makes this dish pop. It’s an excellent choice for a comforting meal that doesn’t feel too heavy, ideal for those looking for a protein-packed dinner option.
Get the Recipe: Turkey Stuffed Shells with Pesto

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.