Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
July 20, 2023

Share on Facebook  Share on X (Twitter)  Share on Pinterest  Share on LinkedIn  Share thru Email  

Pasta’s popularity with consumers and versatility for operators make it a menu mainstay year after year. Keeping options craveable and signature is key. Here, we outline three pasta categories, offering modern renditions within each one. All three are wrapped in the commonality of pasta’s comfort, versatility and enduring potential for signature flavor.



Italian- or Greek-style lasagna provides menu developers opportunity to innovate within each layer. Modern interpretations include flavored béchamel, burrata dollops, cheese creams, demi- glace infusions, enhanced pasta sheets, thinly stacked extra layers of pasta and/or vegetables. Raw, pickled, grilled, roasted or fried vegetable medleys add intrigue while heartier versions see layering of ingredients like Bolognese blends, roasted lamb leg slices or pulled chunks of Barolo-braised beef short rib for soul-soothing flavors. Contemporary approaches to plate presentations are converting classic pan-baked and square sliced layered pasta dishes, embracing eye-catching freestyle constructions, as well as individually portioned round-stacked or rolled involtini forms.


Freestyle “Lasagna:” Garlic mafaldine, mushroom Bolognese, whipped ricotta (during brunch, guests can add an egg)
Segnatore, Chicago

Anelletti: Baked ring pasta with ragú Bolognese, eggplant, mozzarella, peas, besciamella cream
Pane Pasta, New York

Baked Burrata Lasagna: Freshly made pasta, Bolognese, Asiago cream, fontina
Il Porcellino, Chicago

Lasagna Piemontese: Fresh pasta layered with wild mushrooms, beef brisket, Gruyère and mushroom glacé
House of Lasagna, New York

Pastichio: Layers of long macaroni with ground tenderloin, topped with béchamel cream sauce and baked
Spiro’s, St. Charles, Mo.



Brunch is an ideal occasion to infuse bold, bright playfulness into hot and cold pasta creations. Contemporary interpretations include global flavors, miniature pasta forms, spaghetti fritter appetizers, starch mash-ups, fruit or vegetable inclusions and crunchy toppers. Traditional or new takes on bacon-heavy pasta carbonara, and pasta with vodka sauce or pesto are natural brunch fits. Hummus pasta, a new TikTok sensation, showcased in a fresh primavera style, would be a welcome menu addition, tapping into craveable wellness with new sauce applications for plant-curious consumers.


Parm to Table Experience: Bucatini al pesto prepared tableside in a Parmesan wheel
Timpano, Tampa, Fla.

Beet & Duck Raviolini with daikon radish, huckleberry mostarda and sumac
Flour + Water, San Francisco

Koshari: Layered rice, lentil and pasta dish topped with fried onions and chickpeas, and served with a vinegar garlic sauce
Koshari Mama, Somerville, Mass.

Pad Thai Slaw: Kelp noodles, green papaya slaw, lemongrass, coconut, cilantro, peanut sauce
Planta, Washington, D.C.

Lobster Gnocchi: Miso butter, golden raisin hot sauce, sous vide egg
Bambola, Chicago

Spinach Pappardelle Carbonara with blackened shrimp and bacon
Neapoli, Red Bank, N.J.

Photo credit: Evviva Trattoria

Evviva Trattoria turns lasagna into a shareable appetizer with its popular Crispy Lasagna Fritters. Thick slices of lasagna are breaded and fried, then laid atop marinara sauce. Pesto ranch, arrabiatta aïoli, whipped ricotta and microgreens finish the dish.



This flavorful Italian “angry” tomato sauce speaks directly to today’s heat-loving consumers. Contemporary interpretations include expanding the reach of arrabbiata across the menu.


  • Add citrus, grated hard Italian cheese, briny olives or capers
  • Spoon over an omelette or shakshuka
  • Spread onto a fried chicken sandwich
  • Stir into aïoli
  • Swap out red pepper flakes with Calabrian chile


Breakfast Pizza with arrabbiata sauce, scrambled eggs, bacon and mozzarella cheese
Capo’s Italian Steakhouse & Speakeasy, Las Vegas

Crispy Lasagna Fritters: Lasagna wedges, Evviva marinara, pesto ranch, whipped ricotta, arrabbiata aîoli, microgreens
Evviva Trattoria, based in Westford, Mass.

Arrabbiata Braised Short Rib cooked in arrabbiata sauce and served with Parmesan polenta
The Mill Kitchen & Bar in Roswell, Ga.



About The Author

Rob Corliss

Rob Corliss is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 30 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and owning the culinary consultancy ATE (All Things Epicurean) since 2009. Based in Nixa, Mo., ATE has an energizing passion focused on flavor innovation and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness. Rob is also a regular contributor to Flavor & The Menu.