Cozy Baked Pastas for Cold Weather
The best way to beat the winter chill is with comforting pasta dishes straight from the oven.
Nothing transports me back to my parents' kitchen like the smell of garlic sauteing in good olive oil. I can close my eyes and envision the stainless steel pots on the gas stovetop, water bubbling and ready for pasta, the pitch-black darkness outside their kitchen windows in the evening — nothing but mountains surrounding their old farmhouse.
That's the definition of pure comfort in my book. You need little more during these cold winter nights than a warm and comforting meal to share, and the most family-friendly meals in our house always include pasta.
The marinara sauce for this 5-Star Manicotti (pictured above) comes together easily and requires ingredients you most likely have on hand: olive oil, onion, garlic, tomatoes and herbs. Make the irresistible filling with a trio of cheeses and spinach, then top with more cheese and bake for a quick half-hour.
Giada De Laurentiis' Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina is a simple and kid-friendly dish that's easily customizable, so use whatever small pasta your little one prefers (or whatever you have in your pantry!). It's also a perfect dish to make ahead and reheat when everyone's ready.
Another time-tested classic is Baked Ziti. Ree Drummond's meaty and cheesy recipe feeds a dozen, so make it when you're headed to a potluck — or when you simply want to cook once and eat twice. No one will be disappointed if there are leftovers to enjoy another night, we promise.
Your comforting pasta night needn't always depend on meat and red sauce, though. Ina Garten's 5-star Portobello Mushroom Lasagna starts with a thick and buttery white sauce, and it's layered with hearty mushrooms, lasagna noodles and fresh Parmesan. You'll never miss the meat!
There's one simple reason mac and cheese has an open invitation to every potluck, cookout, tailgate and holiday dinner you can think of: It's the ultimate comfort food. Tyler Florence's crowd-pleasing dish calls for all the pasta and Cheddar you love, as well as bacon. (And isn't everything better with bacon?) Bake the cheesy, coated macaroni until hot and bubbly, then top with crispy sauteed bacon for extra flavor in every spoonful.