In honor of this great staple of the winter kitchen, a favorite of professional chefs and culinary novices alike, we present 20 of our favorite hearty winter pasta dishes to warm you right up. From the verdant vegetarian to the completely carnivorous, from the cheese fiend to the cured pork aficionado and everywhere in between, there’s sure to be a comforting, satisfying recipe in here for everyone at the table.
A creamy butternut squash, brown butter, and sage sauce livens up frozen cheese-filled ravioli. A quick visit under the broiler just before serving, and the end result is crispy perfection.
One of the world’s ultimate comfort foods, mac ’n cheese is gooey, rich, and fulfilling. Here I’ve used an Italianate pairing: the fennel-flecked salsiccia sausages, which are so bold in flavor, and the creamy, yet tangy Taleggio cheese. The real trickery in this dish, though, is that the traditional béchamel sauce is substituted with evaporated milk, making cozy indulgence an even quicker feat.
I know the idea of homemade gnocchi feels intimidating, but it’s simpler than you think. Since I love fall and all things cozy, I’m all about a savory pumpkin dish even though gnocci is traditionally made with potato. Nothing pairs better with pumpkin than a little Manchego cheese and browned butter. The gnocchi can be kept in the fridge for up to one day and then boiled as described here.
In Naples, spaghetti and beaten eggs are mixed with broccoli rabe and smoked mozzarella, poured into a pan, and baked into a golden pasta frittata. Served hot or at room temperature, this is a great dish for a party or picnic. Smoked scamorza, a cow’s-milk cheese, is similar to mozzarella but firmer and drier.
Recipe: Rigatoni With Merguez
Here it is — my favorite pasta dish. Ever. I learned to make it with torchio, an unusual funnel-shaped Venetian pasta, but any tube-shaped kind will do. The dish isn’t saucy, so you can really taste the individual flavors, and the merguez, with its spicy harissa flavor, has an unexpected kick. Both parsley and mint provide fresh accents.
Recipe: Caramelized Onion Fettuccine
Get ready for your kitchen to smell heavenly! The secret to this pasta is cooking the onions until they’re a deep golden brown, intense with flavor to balance the minimal ingredients. They should be mostly broken down, almost melting into the hot pasta to create a simple sauce. To prevent them from becoming mushy, stir only occasionally.
Most commonly, an ancient type of wheat called spelt is called farro in Italy. In fact, a closely related rare wheat, in English “emmer,” is correctly the botanical equivalent of farro. (Like the history of pasta, the untangling of grain types is a minefield.) Spelt was used long before our modern-day wheat because it was easy to grow in almost every region of Italy. But it is in Tuscany and Umbria that it is still used today, in modest quantities, in the making of both bread and pasta (and risotto-type dishes). The flavor of both pasta and bread is different, with a wholemeal characteristic that makes it less delicate and nuttier than ordinary wheat pasta. Combining spelt pasta with luganega, a tasty sausage originating from Greece, seems to be ideal.
Recipe: Chicken Alfredo Tortellini
Chicken Alfredo tortellini is rather decadent as an everyday dinner, but for special occasions, it’s an indulgent and easy-to-make treat. This recipe combines chunks of juicy chicken and tender cheese tortellini in a creamy, Parmesan-loaded, parsley-flecked Alfredo sauce. But the best part is that it pretty much makes itself! I always keep frozen tortellini on hand for convenience, but refrigerated tortellini will work just as well in this recipe if that’s what you have available.
Recipe: Red Beet Gnocchi
Like many of her six-year-old girlfriends, Lulu loves the color pink. And since she adores gnocchi, I created this recipe for her. The bright fuchsia dumplings against the delicate white in the sauce are simply stunning and oh so appetizing!
This quick spaghetti dish reminds me of spaghetti carbonara — noodles coated in a creamy sauce studded with salty pancetta pieces. But carbonara isn’t exactly a healthy dish — and the challenge with all pasta dishes is keeping them light and the portion sizes reasonable. So for this recipe, I cut down the amount of pasta and bulked up the dish with roasted Brussels sprouts. The simple pancetta cream sauce is made with full-fat, full-flavor ingredients, so I kept the amount low — just enough for a really delicious meal.
Want to know the secret to creamy pasta dishes? Reserve some of the pasta water before you drain the pasta. When blended into the cheese and the other recipe ingredients, the starchy water helps create a smooth and creamy sauce.
Recipe: Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff
The very definition of comfort food, this mushroom stroganoff is ideal for chilly winter nights when all you want is a big bowl of carbs to warm the cockles of your heart. Traditionally a Russian meal with beef in the starring role, we updated this nineteenth-century classic and gave it a plant-based twist. With tender, sautéed portobello mushrooms and a dairy-free cream sauce, our version packs all the delicious flavor of the original dish without the sky-high calorie count.
Recipe: Gnudi Marinara
Gnudi are essentially stuffed pasta without the pasta — delicate little cheese dumplings bound lightly with flour. The name comes from nudo, the Italian word for naked. I strongly caution against substituting all-purpose flour for the finely ground 00 flour specified. I have tried using all-purpose flour and ended up with heavy dumplings. Gnudi should be light and pillowy morsels that dance on your tongue, not lumps that sit in your stomach. They may be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer.
Comparing fresh pasta with dried pasta is like comparing a song on a record with a live performance. Both have the potential to be transformative and memorable, and both have distinctive benefits. Buying dried pasta is quick and easy. That said, making fresh pasta is deceptively simple and wildly rewarding. This recipe is one example of a lively and enticing dish created with a few basic ingredients and household staples.
Like the little ridges in penne rigate that are designed to soak up sauce, the crinkly leaves of savoy cabbage catch every creamy, earthy drop as well. Cabbage, often regarded as poor people’s food, feels luxurious in this mushroom-laden entrée. Here I like to use a combination of shiitake, oyster and cremini mushrooms, but almost any fresh mushroom will work fine.
If you’ve had a rough week, something a little decadent for dinner can be a mood-changer. But while this dish is unquestionably luxurious, it is actually one of the simplest pasta preparations we know. If you’re not a blue cheese person, rest assured the flavor of the gorgonzola mellows once it’s combined with the cream. And if you’re serving vegetarians, you can offer the ham on the side for anyone who wants it.
Recipe: Mac And Cheese And Greens
Mats Carestam is my oldest friend, and his mother was especially modern — she made American dishes that few Swedish mothers did. I lived for the days when I was invited to dinner at Mats’s house and his mother would plop a giant plate of creamy mac and cheese in front of me. I still love pasta covered with cheese. In this version, I’ve added collard greens — that soul-food influence again — but I cook the greens in coconut milk and flavor them with soy and mustard to add more layers of flavor to what’s become a familiar casserole. No matter how many times my friends have had this, they smile like kids when I serve it.
Food writer and cookbook author Belinda Harley is an authority when it comes to the food of the Ionian Islands off Greece’s eastern coast. Her new book, Roast Lamb In The Olive Groves, is a contender for our favorite cookbook of the year with stunning photography of fresh Greek dishes we’ll definitely be adding to our repertoire. You’ll never look at a can of jumbo lump crabmeat again. According to Harley: “The chef Miltos Armenis introduced me to this combination in Paxos; his genuis for cooking fish has been an inspiration.”