Pasta! Pasta! Pasta!
Yes, I dearly love pasta in all it's funny little shapes and marvelous sauces. But I have a couple of favorites. I like bulky pastas like rigatoni and mostaccioli. I'm a huge fan of red sauces and mostly spicy ones with lots of garlic and red pepper. But, some dishes, like cacio e pepe or carbonara seem better with the stringy pastas like spaghetti or capellini. The Italians can be very specific about their pastas and which shapes should be used with which sauces, but me, not so much; just make it so good that I get a tear in my eye when I eat it. Having said that, here are a couple of my all-time favorites.
Pasta con Le Sarde: This dish is from Sicily; it's almost the signature dish of Sicily. You will find a variety of recipes, but from what I've learned, the real thing is not swimming in tomato sauce, it's a somewhat dry pasta with sardines, raisins, pine nuts, saffron, and breadcrumbs. If you can find fresh (or wild even better) fennel, it makes a difference. With the raisins, et al, it highlights the influence of the Moors in the Mediterranean. Here's a recipe if you want to give it a whirl.
Another favorite of mine is Pasta Arrabbiata! Arrabbiata translates into the "angry sauce". It is fantastic wildfire in your mouth! 🥵 One of the best I've ever had was in a narrow alley in Naples not far from the university. It was swimming in fresh San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and hot pepper. Here's a recipe that shows how simple food in Italy turns into a gourmet feast.
Those first two dishes show why Italy's food is a favorite the world over with its simplicity and unbelievable flavors. My wife, Gale, would have my butt for not mentioning her favorite pasta dish, Pasta Putanesca. This is another southern Italian dish, and if you think you recognize the root word in Putanesca, you would be right. Puta means the same thing in Italian as in other Latin languages. It is purported to have started with the "Ladies of the Evening" in Naples because it was quick and easy and everything could be made with canned goods. A quick plate of pasta and the ladies were back to work.
There is, as always, garlic, then anchovies, gaetta or kalamata olives, capers, and hot red pepper - those are the basics. This is typically served with a long pasta, like spaghetti, but for, eh! Any pasta works. It's spicy, salty, and piquant all at once. Do not! I repeat, do not use black California olives or I will haunt you in your dreams. Give this one a shot, and like Gale, I think it will become a favorite. Here's a typical recipe.