22 Kid-Friendly Pasta Recipes to Tempt Even the Pickiest Eaters

mint pasta zucchini pecorino
Bryan Gardner

If you have little kids, getting them to expand their horizons at dinnertime can be a challenge. It may seem like they won't ever want to eat anything that isn't macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets, but give these kid-friendly pasta recipes a try and they're sure to be asking for more. From hearty meat sauces to plenty of colorful, seasonal vegetables served with pasta and a cheesy, creamy sauce, these recipes are sure to please.

Start with Pasta with Zucchini, Mint, and Pecorino, pictured here. It's a delicious dish for summer and a great way to encourage eating zucchini. One of our favorite ways to convince kids to try new vegetables is by serving them with something familiar that they know and love. Take our recipe for Cheesy Asparagus Pasta, for example. The base of the dish resembles a perfect bowl of macaroni and cheese. Short pasta such as penne is tossed in a rich sauce made from whole milk, cream cheese, sharp cheddar, and grated Gruyere. But we managed to sneak in an entire bunch of asparagus, making this the perfect kid-friendly vegetable-heavy pasta dish.

Another healthy green sneaks its way into our rich Prosciutto Carbonara—spinach! Five ounces of baby spinach is mixed with warm, cooked pasta and a silky sauce until it wilts slightly. Plenty of grated Pecorino Romano cheese and salty strips of prosciutto will surely give kids good reason to dig in.

Of course, we're also serving up classics that everyone loves like Lasagna with Meat Sauce and our Test Kitchen's Favorite Spaghetti and Meatballs. Next time you're wondering what to make for dinner, consider one of these kid-friendly pasta recipes.

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Prosciutto Carbonara with Spinach

Prosciutto Carbonara with Spinach
Kate Sears

Enjoy this easy, cream-free version of pasta carbonara—your little ones will love it, too. Instead of spaghetti, we're using hearty rigatoni pasta, which is the perfect vessel for holding the creamy sauce made from Pecorino Romano, eggs, and pasta water.

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Baked Rigatoni with Mini Meatballs

Yunhee Kim

Here's a genius take on pasta with meatballs that's sure to entice your kids. Turn the meat of spicy Italian sausage into mini meatballs. Toss them with cooked rigatoni and cubed mozzarella, then bake until bubbling and golden brown.

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Pea-Pesto Handkerchiefs

pea pesto handkerchiefs pasta in bowl with spoon
Chris Simpson

There's a secret use of vegetables in this kid-friendly vegetarian pasta recipe. Homemade pesto is made with the staple ingredients—toasted pine nuts, garlic, and Parmigiano-Reggiano—plus thawed, frozen peas.

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Grandma's Bolognese

hand-cranked pasta served on a gray plate
The Ingalls

Just like Grandma used to make! Kids will love eating this bowl of pasta made with this flavorful Bolognese sauce. A combination of ground beef, ground pork, and dried porcini mushrooms add heft to this classic.

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Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce

Spaghetti and Fresh Marinara with Basil
Marcus Nilsson

Simple and guaranteed to please, you can't go wrong serving this kid-friendly pasta recipe. Make your own quick pasta sauce using olive oil and garlic, basil, and lots of grated beefsteak, heirloom, and Campari tomatoes.

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Test Kitchen's Favorite Spaghetti and Meatballs

meatball makeover spaghetti
Alpha Smoot

Impress your family with this classic red sauce recipe. The rich and hearty meatballs include chopped cremini mushrooms, breadcrumbs, plenty of grated Pecorino Romano, and ground beef.

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Bacon Pasta with Cheese Sauce and Thyme

bacon pasta cheese sauce thyme
Linda Pugliese

The kids will twirl up this twist on spaghetti carbonara. The sauce starts with flour and butter, milk, pasta water, and grated melting cheeses such as Gruyere and fontina are slowly whisked in. Toss it with spaghetti, bacon, and chopped thyme and serve to great acclaim.

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No-Bake Lasagna with Ricotta and Tomatoes

no bake lasagna

Instead of making everyone's favorite multi-layered lasagna, try this summery and kid-friendly option—it's a deconstructed pasta dish. The sauce is made with extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, cherry tomatoes, and chicken stock and poured over broken lasagna noodles, ricotta cheese, basil leaves, and Pecorino Romano cheese.

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Bucatini with Roasted and Fresh Tomatoes

bucatini with roasted and fresh tomatoes
Christopher Testani

A duo of fresh and roasted tomatoes are used in this produce-focused pasta dish that kids will love. Fresh mint and fresh basil bring brightness and a pop of green to this extra-special version of spaghetti with red sauce.

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Chicken Bolognese with Tagliatelle

Sharon Radisch

Make a lighter version of Bolognese sauce using ground chicken instead of the traditional trio of ground beef, veal, and pork. We also swapped in dry white wine in place of robust red sauce, which pairs better with the poultry (the alcohol burns off while cooking so it's totally kid-friendly).

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One-Pot Penne with Zucchini and Parmesan

Aaron Dyer

When zucchini is at its peak in the summer, it shines in this pasta recipe. It gets a punch of flavor from Parmesan cheese, garlic, and red-pepper flakes.

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Lasagna with Meat Sauce

ultimate lasagna slice on plate with fork
Justin Walker

Lasagna is the ultimate family-friendly dinner. The meat sauce is made with lean ground beef and sweet Italian sausage, plus a rich combination of whole-milk ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and shredded mozzarella cheese.

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Shrimp Alfredo

Shrimp Alfredo
Mike Krautter

Upgrade fettuccine alfredo with sautéed shrimp, which are cooked in butter with garlic and lemon zest.

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Orecchiette with Butternut Squash and Sage


When the weather cools off, make this fall-inspired, kid-friendly pasta dish. Orecchiette (which means "little ears" in Italian) is served with roasted butternut squash, crisp sage leaves, and a generous dollop of ricotta cheese.

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Cacio e Pepe with Lemon


Translating to cheese and pepper, consider this pasta recipe a grown-up, Italian version of macaroni and cheese that is totally kid-friendly. A rich, buttery sauce is made with starchy pasta water, Grana Padano and Pecorino Romano cheeses, freshly cracked pepper, and the juice of a Meyer lemon.

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Tuxedo Bow-Tie Pasta with Shrimp

tuxedo bow tie shrimp
Paola + Murray

This shrimp pasta dish has serious wow factor, and your kids will be intrigued by the duel-colored, handmade bow-ties (consider serving it to them on Halloween!).

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Succotash Pasta

succotash pasta
Dana Gallagher

Looking for a way to get your little ones to eat more vegetables? Try this kid-friendly pasta dish—it's loaded with sliced onions, zucchini, fresh corn kernels, and cherry tomatoes. Chopped bacon adds a touch of salty, fatty flavor, which contrasts the fresh, crisp vegetables.

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Cheesy Asparagus Pasta

cheesy asparagus pasta in red pot
Chris Simpson

Are your kids demanding macaroni and cheese for dinner but you're trying to get them to eat their vegetables? This pasta recipe is the ultimate compromise. Sliced asparagus is mixed into creamy, rich pasta made with a trio of cheeses—sharp cheddar, Gruyere, and cream cheese.

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One-Pot Pasta with Broccoli and Lemon

one pan pasta pot spoon
Bryan Gardner

In less than 30 minutes, you can serve this easy, kid-friendly, vegetarian pasta recipe packed with healthy broccoli, bright lemon, sharp Parmesan cheese, and just a hint of garlic.

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One-Pan Pasta

one-pan pasta
Maxwell Cozzi

Our all-star pasta recipe shines with the colors of the Italian flag—red pepper flakes and cherry tomatoes, green basil leaves, and lots of sliced onions, garlic, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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Pappardelle with Creamy Chicken Sauce


Kids will love just how thick these pappardelle noodles are, especially when they're coated in a garlicky heavy cream sauce and boneless, skinless chicken thighs.

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