Insider asked chefs about the best and worst pasta dishes to get at restaurants.
Gnocchi and fresh ravioli can be tricky to make, chefs said, so ordering them from a restaurant is a good idea.
One chef told Insider that diners may want to skip restaurant lasagna, which is often frozen and reheated.
Sometimes restaurants use stuffed shells to get rid of leftovers, according to another chef.
There are few things more satisfying than a plate piled high with pasta — but some carb-heavy dishes are better than others.
Read on for the best and worst pasta dishes to order at a restaurant, according to professional chefs.
Fresh ravioli are an unmissable pasta treat.
"Getting the ravioli is always a must," said Dall'Erta. "Always look for seasonal fillings such as pumpkin, butternut squash, fresh spinach, or ricotta. Short-rib ravioli is one of my favorites."
Bucatini amatriciana is an authentic sweet and savory dish.
Bucatini amatriciana is a traditional Italian dish made with cured pork cheeks or pancetta, pecorino cheese, tomato sauce, and onions.
"In my opinion, bucatini amatriciana is the perfect pasta," said Dall'Erta. "The pancetta gives a little hint of smokiness, the sautéed onion gives a touch of sweetness, and the tomato sauce brings everything together."
Dall'Erta also noted that the tube-like shape of bucatini allows sauce to cling to each noodle, especially when the pasta is cooked al dente.
Pasta with clams is a classic, seafood-heavy pasta entrée.
If you're in the mood for something from the sea, spaghetti or linguine with clams is a fresh and simple way to enjoy pasta.
"I love how simple this dish is. All you need is lots of garlic, a good olive oil, Calabrian chili, and fresh parsley," said Dall'Erta. "And make sure the restaurant is using littleneck clams."
Dall'Erta said he advises not adding parmesan to this dish since it's traditionally enjoyed without cheese.
Pasta primavera is a great way to get a serving of vegetables.
Pasta primavera is a simple dish made with a light garlic or cheese sauce and fresh, seasonal produce, which often include peppers, asparagus tips, tomatoes, and broccoli.
Gnocchi can be the star of a heartier pasta dish.
Gnocchi are soft dumplings that are usually made with potato, flour, egg, and breadcrumbs. They can be finicky to prepare yourself, so ordering them in a restaurant is an easier way to enjoy this Italian classic.
"When cooked correctly, gnocchi should melt in your mouth and allow the flavors of the dish to stick to your palette," said Hardy. "The secret to good gnocchi is not using too much flour."
He also said that black truffle sauce is his favorite way to top a plate of fresh gnocchi.
On the other hand, at some restaurants, the lasagna is premade and frozen.
Lasagna can take a long time to make yourself, so it's tempting to order a slab when dining out.
However, Hardy explained, many restaurants usually assemble and freeze their lasagna far in advance of each order.
"Lasagna is often made ahead of time and reheated for each person," said Hardy. "You should check with the restaurant to see if it is made fresh every day."
Pasta with Alfredo sauce isn't a good value.
Often served over fettuccine, Alfredo sauce is typically made by blending parmesan cheese with plenty of heavy cream and butter.
This dish is cheap and easy to make, so you may want to order something more exciting at a restaurant.
"Pasta alfredo is a very lazy pasta dish. Anyone can make this meal at home and it will probably taste better than what you'd get in a restaurant," said Dall'Erta.
Spaghetti and meatballs isn't always made with fresh ingredients.
Though spaghetti and meatballs is one of the most iconic pasta dishes, many restaurants don't put much effort into it.
"The meatballs are usually made ahead of time and sometimes [are] not very fresh," said Hardy. "The sauce also sits in buckets that are warmed throughout the day, where the oil rises to the top and is added to your meal."
Dall'Erta, who was born and raised in Italy, told Insider that spaghetti and meatballs is not actually an authentic Italian dish.
"I never once in my life saw spaghetti with meatballs served in Italy," he said. "It's completely overrated, in my opinion."
Angel hair pasta is prone to being mushy.
Angel hair pasta, also called capellini, is an extremely thin type of pasta that measures less than a millimeter in diameter.
Unfortunately, Dall'Erta explained, angel hair's delicate shape means this pasta is often poorly prepared.
"Angel hair pasta is almost always over-cooked due to its thin consistency. I think it should disappear from menus forever," said Dall'Erta.
To reduce your chances of being served a plate of mush, you can try asking the kitchen to swap the angel hair pasta in a dish with a thicker variety of pasta, such as linguine or thin spaghetti.
Stuffed pasta shells are sometimes made with leftover ingredients.
Stuffed pasta shells can be hearty and tasty if prepared well, but some restaurants may use this dish to dispose of unused ingredients.
"Stuffed shells are sometimes a 'special' on the menu because restaurants will use leftover ingredients to fill the shells," said Dall'Erta. "They may also use pre-filled shells, which can be less flavorful as well."
To avoid dining on leftovers, ask your server if the stuffed shells are prepared fresh each day.
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