Food

Most Popular Italian Dishes According to Millennials: Ranked

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Millennials have plenty of reasons to love Italian food. It’s easy to cook, ingredients are incredibly inexpensive, and it’s also “Instagrammable.” At least, that is what one in ten young adults concluded in a survey conducted by Italian food company, Napolina. And why not? Italian dishes are anything but fussy. If you can boil water, you can prepare noodles, make a simple sauce using everyday ingredients from your pantry, and have a delectable, luxurious, and camera-ready meal in a matter of minutes. When it comes to the most “Instagrammable” Italian dishes, Millennials preferred pizza as their favorite to post on social media, followed by bruschetta, lasagna, and spaghetti bolognese.

Feeding a crowd? Italian dishes will not break the bank. These dishes are both comforting and satisfying. For Millennials, Italian dishes seem to tick all the boxes,  attributing to their growing interest in this popular Mediterranean cuisine. To learn more about which Italian dishes are popular among Millennials, we consulted with the YouGov.com website. Here we are featuring 14 of the most popular Italian dishes according to Millennials, with number one being the most popular.

14. Pizza Margherita

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Pizza Margherita is a Neapolitan pizza that is garnished with mozzarella, peeled tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, and extra virgin olive oil.

Why It’s Popular:

  • It’s pizza!
  • Simple ingredients
  • Healthier version of pizza

Pizza Margherita can trace its origins back to 1889, when both King Umberto I of Italy and his wife Queen Margherita visited Naples. Growing increasingly bored of popular French cuisine enjoyed by most royalty in Europe, Queen Margherita commissioned  the most sought-after pizza maker in Naples, Raffaele Esposito, to create three different types of pizza. Out of the three pizzas commissioned, Queen Margherita was most drawn to the one featuring the colors of the Italian flag. Esposito immediately named this pizza after the queen.

13. Pasta with Pesto Sauce

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Italian style pesto features a bright and herby green sauce made from basil, parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.

Why It’s Popular:

  • Easy for busy millennials to make. Jarred pesto, anyone?
  • Made with fresh ingredients: basil, garlic, and pine nuts.
  • Can be made vegan.

Pesto is a sauce that hails from Genoa, in the northern region of Italy. Dating back to the 16th century, pesto sauce is made of basil, pine nuts, crushed garlic, and blended with parmesan cheese, as well as olive oil. The word pesto is a Genovese word that means to pound or to crush. Authentic Italian pesto sauce is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle.

12.Baked Ziti

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Baked ziti is a classic Italian-American comfort dish.

Why It’s Popular:

  • It’s Italian comfort food!
  • It’s affordable.
  • Can feed a crowd.

Baked ziti is another Italian-American favorite that comes from the Old Country of Italy, specifically from Naples and Campania. Also known as zitoni al forno, baked ziti is a popular crowd-pleaser and a favorite choice when you’re in the mood for the ultimate in comfort food. Considered a more “simplified” version of lasagna, it has all the right ingredients such as pasta, tomato sauce, several types of cheeses, and meat, without the heavy labor.

11.Tortelloni

tortelloni with bolognese sauce. classic Italian pasta with spinach and ricotta in tomato-meat sauce. dish of mediterranean cuisine on a green background. food on the table on a sunny day.
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Tortelloni is a keyhole-shaped pasta formed out of one round piece of dough and folded over a filling.

Why It’s Popular:

  • Looks appealingly more gourmet.
  • It’s affordable.
  • Quick and easy to make.

Not to be confused with its cousin, tortellini pasta, tortelloni is a much larger, almost doubled the size variety of stuffed pasta. Popular in the Lombardy and Emilia Romagna of northern Italy, tortelloni pasta is traditionally eaten a day before Christmas as it is stuffed with ricotta cheese, spinach, or parsley, which fulfills the requirement for Catholics to not eat meat until Christmas. It is typically served with sage-infused butter.

10. Fettuccine Alfredo

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Fettuccine Alfredo is a popular Italian-American dish made from fettuccine noodles tossed with butter and parmesan cheese.

Why It’s  Popular:

  • Creamy and Cheesy
  • Can be tailored to dietary needs
  • Well-suited to share on social media

Fettuccine Alfredo is another popular Italian dish that just evokes feelings of comfort and satisfaction. Although home cooks can easily make this quick pasta sauce at home, the truth is that, like pesto, jarred Alfredo sauce can be found in just about any grocery store isle featuring pastas and pasta sauces.

9. Pasta with Tomato Sauce

italian pasta with tomato sauce
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Pasta with tomato sauce is a simple and quick Italian dish with accessible ingredients.

Why It’s Popular:

  • It’s simple.
  • It’s affordable.
  • Ingredients easy to find.

When it comes to getting a quick meal on the table after a long day at the office, there is not a more quick, tasty, and satisfying dish than pasta with tomato sauce. Again, if you can boil water and plop a box of pasta noodles into a pot, you are almost done with your meal preparation. Simply pop open a jar of your favorite marinara sauce to pour over your drained noodles, sprinkle parmesan cheese, and dinner is served.

8. Caesar Salad

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Served as an appetizer or main dish, a Caesar’s salad includes romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing.

Why It’s Popular:

  • Light and healthy
  • Pairs well with pasta as a side dish
  • Can be eaten as an entree.

Although this is a “non-pasta” dish, a Caesar’s salad has certainly made its way onto our American dinner table whenever an Italian feast is about to commence. There is no doubt that it continues to be a very popular dish and for good reason. Millennials are increasingly becoming a health-conscious generation, looking for more lighter yet satisfying versions of their favorite salads. Caesar salads are incredibly versatile as they could be eaten as a side dish or an entree if they add their favorite protein, such as grilled chicken or even shrimp.

7. Stuffed Manicotti

Homemade Stuffed Ricotta and Spinach Manicotti with Basil
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Another Italian-American favorite, stuffed manicotti are large pasta tubes filled with ricotta cheese, topped with mozzarella cheese, and baked in a delicious tomato sauce.

Why It’s Popular:

  • Who doesn’t like stuffed pasta?
  • Can be made vegan and non-vegan.
  • Impressive at the dinner table.

Stuffed manicotti consists of large, tube-shaped pasta, that can be filled with a spinach and ricotta cheese mixture. It is then topped with a tomato sauce, freshly grated cheese, and then baked in the oven until bubbly. Manicotti in Italian means “little sleeves” as it resembles the shape of a shirt’s sleeve. As another versatile dish, stuffed manicotti could be served as an appetizer, a main dish, or a side dish.

6. Pasta with Chicken and Garlic Sauce

Sliced fried chicken fillet with garlic and rosemary in a creamy sauce. with fusilli pasta
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Pasta with chicken and garlic sauce is another quick and affordable Italian-American recipe made with simple ingredients.

Why It’s Popular:

  • It’s simple.
  • It’s customizable.
  • It’s budget-friendly.

Millennials are certainly more open when it comes to experimenting with different types of food and are also open to cooking new dishes. What makes this particular dish popular is its simplicity to throw together with not much effort. This is also another dish that can appeal to both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. This meal can include either tofu or chicken as its main protein. If Millennials are looking for a healthier version of this dish, they can incorporate whole wheat pasta and a cheese that is lower in fat. Overall, Millennials enjoy this dish because this is another dish they can put together in a matter of minutes. No specialized tools or techniques are required.

5. Spaghetti with Meatballs

plate of pasta with meatballs on a wooden table
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A classic Italian-American dish, spaghetti and meatballs is a comforting and hearty meal that has been enjoyed by people of all ages.

Why It’s Popular:

  • Childhood favorite
  • Quick to make
  • Affordable

Let’s face it. Spaghetti and meatballs will forever bring us back to that nostalgic time in our childhood when our mothers first prepared this iconic Italian dish. And what is not to like? It’s the epitome of a childhood comfort dish that continues to satisfy, even on to adulthood. Millennials are drawn to this Italian favorite because it is so easy to prepare and it may have been a favorite staple dish during their dorm room days in college. This is also another versatile dish that won’t break the bank, especially when feeding a crowd. To make it vegetarian or simply cut costs even further, tempeh can be used to make the meatballs. No matter how Millennials choose to make their spaghetti and meatballs, it is guaranteed to be a hit.

4. Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and cheese, american style macaroni pasta in cheesy sauce
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Although this Italian-American dish has always been a kid-favorite, people of all ages enjoy this popular comfort food by combining two delicious ingredients: pasta and cheese.

Why It’s  Popular:

  • Another blast from our childhood past.
  • Creamy and cheesy dish.
  • A staple throughout college.

Here is another childhood classic that never loses its appeal, even after you have graduated from college. Macaroni and cheese first became a staple in American pantries in 1937, during the Great Depression. This boxed version was an affordable and convenient way to get macaroni and cheese on the table, fast. Fast forward to today, Kraft’s boxed macaroni and cheese continues to grace the shelves in groceries throughout the U.S. Not too fond of this highly-processed version of mac and cheese? No worries. Millennials can still make this childhood comfort food from scratch, using real, wholesome ingredients from the plethora of food blogs and YouTube videos to make a more delicious macaroni and cheese meal in just minutes.

3. Garlic Bread

Plate with delicious homemade garlic bread on table
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Although not an Italian dish, garlic bread can play a central role in a meal.

Why It’s Popular:

  • Who doesn’t like bread?
  • A fine accompaniment to any Italian meal.
  • Simple to make.

Garlic bread may not be an Italian dish, per se, but it is still a vital component to any Italian dish. Millennials have the option of picking up a freshly baked garlic bread from their local grocery store in the deli or bakery section. Or, if they would like to customize their garlic bread with fresh herbs, they can always pick up a plain baguette or other type of loaf and bake it at home. Either way, it will only be minutes to the most delicious, aromatic compliment to any Italian dish imaginable, such as pastas or even to build their own bruschetta. The possibilities are truly endless.

2. Lasagna

Portion of succulent ground beef lasagne topped with melted cheese and garnished with fresh parsley served on a plate in a close up view for a menu
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Besides pasta, lasagna is a close-second when it comes to a favorite Italian dish.

Why It’s Popular:

  • Rich and satisfying
  • Comfort dish
  • Evokes memories of family gatherings.

Lasagna continues to be a popular dish in Italian restaurants around the world and even in many family dinner tables. But did you know that this dish is not actually Italian? Its origins can be traced back to Ancient Greece and it was originally called laganon. It was the first type of pasta made out of sheets of dough that were cut into thin strips. The Ancient Romans conquered the Ancient Greeks in 146 B.C. and were subsequently introduced to laganon and liked it. They brought the recipe back to Rome, modifying it to include fish and sow’s belly. Not exactly appetizing for today’s modern tastes, but that’s how it made it’s way to Italy’s dining tables. Millennials continue to love the layers of meaty, cheesy goodness that lasagna has to offer.  Another versatile dish, they can also explore different combinations of proteins, cheeses, and sauces to create their own versions of lasagna.

1. Ravioli

Italian ravioli with spinach and cheese close-up on a brown plate. horizontal, rustic style
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Millennials simply can’t get enough of ravioli!

Why It’s Popular:

  • Stuffed pasta is satisfying
  • Convenient to make
  • Accessible

Topping off the list of 14 of the most popular Italian dishes among Millennials, is another stuffed pasta favorite made widely popular by Chef Boyardee…Ravioli. Stuffed pasta seems to just take pasta into a whole, new level. And for Millennials who love to experiment with different foods, ravioli offers a wide variety of stuffings to choose from. From butternut squash to lobster, ravioli has something for anyone’s tastes and dietary needs. This is another Italian dish that does not break the bank. Although this is another popular Italian staple featured in just about any Italian restaurant, Millennials also have the option of buying ravioli frozen, with any choice of stuffing, with only minutes required for preparation. They could also experiment with any Italian pasta sauce that they prefer, making this dish highly accessible and easy to make.

Just because Millennials like quick and easy Italian dishes, it doesn’t mean that they want to skimp on quality. In fact, if you are looking for good Italian food, like your mom used to make, you may want to steer clear of these Italian restaurants listed here. 

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