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 let’s be honest, pasta’s true superpower is its ability to stand up to sub-zero temperatures and winter storms, look them in the eye, and be all casually, “Yeah? Is that all you got?” As if a Polar Vortex or bomb cyclone, or any other doomsday-sounding weather event (let alone a little old regular winter snowfall), could hope to compete with rich sauces, layers upon layers of cheese, and forkfuls of hearty peasant meats—the things that turn pasta into a luxuriant, sumptuous, flakes-be-damned feast.
It’s the season for breaking out the Crock-Pots and casseroles, and for lingering in the coziness of your kitchen, simmering and baking your way to strands of noodle drenched in ragout, 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 15 pasta dishes that come on strong and warm from the inside out.
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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, or whenever the temperature outside is savage enough to try to kill you. Get our Creamy Mushroom Pasta Bake recipe.
Related Reading: 15 Creamy Mushroom Recipes, No Can Opener Required
Brown butter and sage are a match made in pasta sauce heaven, especially when the conditions in the out-of-doors are anything but heavenly. You know what else is heavenly, though? Sausage. 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 up in no time. Get our Orecchiette with Sausage, Brown Butter, and Sage recipe.
Snow days, and otherwise bitterly cold days, are the perfect time for putting together a pot of something slow-cooking, rib-sticking, and hearty. Our spaghetti Bolognese has you covered even more so than your multiple pairs of sweatpants, with spices and a healthy dose of red wine to make your place smell like maybe you’d be happy not to have to leave the house until March. Get our Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese recipe.
Related Reading: 9 Easy Crock-Pot Pasta Sauces to Last You All Week Long
If you’ve binged too much Netflix and are in danger of going stir crazy, 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 stave off any post-vortex viruses. Get the Tortellini in Broth recipe. (But try our Tortellini Minestrone recipe for something heartier too.)
Related Reading: 15 Soup Recipes to Ward Off the Chill
What’s better than lasagna? Very little, in my opinion, unless you want to talk about adding a layer of potatoes and béchamel sauce. Oh, hello. Pastitsio is pretty much that, and therefore my new cold weather boyfriend. This recipe also features puréed butternut squash and is studded with feta crumbles and peas, taking the creamy factor, and our relationship, to new heights. Get the Pumpkin, Feta, and Pea “Pastitsio” recipe.
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, sturdy kale and delicately sweet currants round out the dish, resulting in a satisfying one-plate meal. You will barely be able to hear the howling wind over the “ooh-ing” and “aah-ing.” Get the Cavatelli with Pork Ragu recipe.
Related Reading: A Visual Guide to Pasta Shapes
If pastitsio is my cold weather boyfriend, then drunken pasta is definitely my BFF. 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. Get the Four-Cheese Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Drunken Pasta Bake recipe.
Creamy, buttery, cheesy, umami—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. Get our Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo Pasta Bake recipe.
Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that play well with whatever you pair them with, unlike myself during exceedingly cold weather. In this dish designed for a crowd, pasta, sausage, tomatoes, and breadcrumbs are no exception, making for a pan-full of happy bedfellows. Get the Pasta with Sausage, Cauliflower, & Breadcrumbs recipe.
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. And this cold is definitely causing me to hallucinate the seductive intentions of my dinner. Get the Pappardelle with Duck Ragout recipe.
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…but nothing. Second to pasta, the only other thing that could hope to heal you when the temperature begins with a minus more than pasta is soup. Plus, 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. Get the Pasta e Fagoli recipe.
Sorry, I just swooned a little bit. First of all, every one of those words in the title is one of my most favorite things. For another, do you see that yolk ooze? Eggs and bacon aren’t only for breakfast. Eggs and bacon are for always. 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. Get our Egg Yolk Ravioli with Bacon-Sage Sauce recipe.
Mac and cheese occupies a gooey, golden place in the top echelon of comfort foods, but make it even more soul-warming than usual with the addition of spicy Mexican chorizo and green chilies. Corn tortilla chips crumbled on top form a crunchy crust while sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack provide plenty of ooze underneath. Get our Tex Mex Mac and Cheese recipe.
Have 30 minutes and a decently stocked pantry? Have this easy spaghetti carbonara any time you want (which will be often). Get the Spaghetti Carbonara recipe.
Related Reading: The Top 100 Cookbooks, Kitchen Gadgets & Pantry Items on Chowhound
And now for something completely different: This vegetarian linguine from the “Lagom” cookbook is coated in a jewel-toned sauce of roasted beets and garlic, smoothed out with crème fraîche to keep it from being too sweet. The salty feta, toasty walnuts, and fresh dill topping it off help with that too. Get the Beet Linguine with Walnuts and Feta recipe.
Related Video: 5 Pasta Shapes You’ve Probably Never Seen Before
This post was originally published in January 26, 2015 and has been updated with new images, links, and text.
Header image courtesy by Chowhound.