There are few foods that can adapt and change with the seasons quite like pasta. It opens its embrace to vegetables like asparagus and artichoke in the spring, gets along famously with fresh tomatoes and basil in the summer, and plays host to mushrooms and squashes in the fall. But I find myself eating the most pasta during the chilly depths of winter (especially during winter storms), and not just because I’m trying to store energy by carb-loading before facing the freezing temperatures and imminent snow frenzy. This is the time for reveling in rich sauces, layers upon layers of cheese, and filling bits of meat—the things that turn pasta into a luxuriant, sumptuous feast. It’s the season for breaking out the crock pots and casseroles, and for simmering and baking your way to strands of noodle drenched in ragu, or rigatoni crowned with a crispy, singed top. In case you needed any convincing that winter is the best pasta season of them all, here are 11 pasta dishes that come on strong and warm from the inside out.
Header recipe and photo of Swiss Chard Stuffed Shells from Chowhound
It doesn't get more comforting than rich, creamy penne pasta paired with earthy mushrooms and thyme. This easy pasta bake is the ultimate dish to hunker down with during an epic snow storm.
Brown butter and sage are a match made in pasta sauce heaven, but when you throw sausage into the mix, it's pretty near impossible to resist this orecchiette dish. When winter is getting you down, take advantage of the cold and cook up a batch of this addictive pasta, and you'll be warmed you up in no time.
Snow days are the perfect time for putting together a pot of something slow-cooking, rib-sticking, and hearty. Our spaghetti Bolognese fits the bill perfectly, with spices and a healthy dose of red wine to make your place smell of something wonderful as you pass the hours watching Netflix or curled up with a book.
Photo and recipe from Chowhound
4. Tortellini in Broth
Speaking of things to do on those days when you’re stuck at home, why not put a bit of elbow grease into making some fresh pasta? Rolling and folding little tortellini like the ones in this recipe will have you embracing your crafty side, while the soothing broth is sure to cure any wintertime blues.
Photo and recipe from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook
5. Pumpkin, Feta, and Pea "Pastitsio"
You could describe pastitsio as Greek lasagna, but that doesn’t quite convey the fact that it’s based around layers of tubular noodles just waiting to catch all the rich béchamel that’s spread on top. This recipe also features puréed butternut squash and is studded with feta crumbles and peas, taking the creamy factor to new heights.
Photo and recipe from Souvlaki for the Soul
6. Cavatelli with Pork Ragu
Real-deal ragu demands the right shape of pasta to soak up the thick and meaty sauce. Cavatelli couldn’t be better suited for the job, with its little grooves and pockets that hold every bit of flavor. In this particular recipe, kale and currants round out the dish, resulting in a satisfying one-plate meal.
Photo and recipe from Bon Appétit
7. Four-Cheese Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Drunken Pasta Bake
Some people may spend the beginning of the year picking at salads or gulping juices, but in my opinion, it’s just the season for feasting on indulgent hibernation fare. Four cheeses and a layer of rigatoni doused in a wine-infused sauce? Bring it on. I’ll be sipping from the rest of the Cabernet bottle while it bakes.
Photo and recipe from Half Baked Harvest
8. Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake
Creamy, buttery, cheesy—alfredo sauce has all the elements that dairy lovers’ dreams are made of. And when you put it into a pasta bake, you get an added bonus: a layer of crispy stuff on top, for some crunch along with all that oozy, gooey goodness.
Photo and recipe from The Wicked Noodle
9. Pasta with Cauliflower, Sausage, & Breadcrumbs
Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that play well with whatever you pair them with. In this dish designed for a crowd, pasta, sausage, tomatoes, and breadcrumbs are no exception, making for a pan-full of happy bedfellows.
Photo and recipe from The Kitchn
10. Pappardelle with a Duck Ragout
Wide and long pappardelle noodles team up with tender, braised duck for a combination that slithers and twirls around your fork in a way that could only be described as sultry.
Photo and recipe from Urban Cookery
11. Pasta e Fagioli
Pasta e fagioli may be more of a soup with pasta than a proper pasta dish in its own right, but I’m letting it sneak onto this list because it has something special: You can cook the tubes of ditalini right in the broth. That’s one less pot to deal with, plus the pasta soaks up all that flavor while releasing starch to help thicken things up.
Photo and recipe from Martha Stewart
Eggs and bacon aren’t only for breakfast. In this dinner-party-worthy stunner, the yolks are tucked into ravioli sheets and cooked for a brief moment, releasing a stream of runny, golden goodness waiting to be sopped right up when served.
Photo and recipe from CHOW
13. Baked Lamb & Orzo Noodles
Eva of the blog Adventures in Cooking calls this dish “a warm and comforting hug,” and I’d say she’s right. Lamb and tomato are folded into orzo and left to bake in this take on Greek yiouvetsi, infusing each grain of pasta with a gamy and tangy-sweet cloak of flavor.
Photo and recipe from Adventures in Cooking
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.