No matter the time of year or what type of weather is brewing outside, sometimes nothing sounds better than sitting down with a warm and filling meal. Yes, we're talking about good old-fashioned comfort food and pasta tends to check all the boxes. Whether it’s decadent mac and cheese or classic lasagna, these soothing meals are always popular thanks to the warmth and comfort they provide. Chief among these cozy creations is baked pasta. From lasagna and stuffed pasta to baked rigatoni and spaghetti, when you need to warm your soul, turn to any of these Italian-inspired culinary feats.
Butternut Squash and Sun-Dried Tomato White Lasagna
The Recipe: For an elevated twist on traditional lasagna, try this butternut squash and sun-dried tomato white lasagna. Instead of marinara sauce and sausage, this vegetarian dish is made of butternut squash, ricotta cheese, and a homemade white sauce prepared with garlic, sage, basil, milk, and cheese.
The Pro Tip: “What’s great about this recipe is that it’s a dish that can be assembled completely in advance and then baked just before serving. I love making this the day before, keeping it in the fridge, and then just throwing it in the oven before dinner,” says Tieghan Gerard of Half Baked Harvest.
Stuffed Giant Pasta Shells
The Recipe: These cheesy stuffed giant pasta shells are perfect for a cozy night in. The shells are called conchiglie and are perfect for holding the cheesy mixture of ricotta, parmesan, and egg that this recipe calls for. Serve with a green bitter salad to complete the meal.
The Pro Tip: “Cheesy goodness squashed into pasta shells and baked in a tomato passata—not much more to say really, other than it is really bloody good,” says Sarah Tuck of Stuck in the Kitchen. According to her, this vegetarian dish is a winner even among ardent meat lovers.
Baked Turkey Sausage and Mascarpone Stuffed Shells
The Recipe: Warm up with a bowl of this baked turkey sausage and mascarpone stuffed shell pasta. Instead of a traditional ricotta cheese filling, the large shell pasta is stuffed with mascarpone (a kind of Italian cream cheese). Marinara sauce, basil, oregano, and parmesan cheese bring traditional Italian flavors together in this hearty and satisfying dish.
The Pro Tip: “Not only is this a great meal for a crowd, but it also freezes really well, which makes this dish a great one to gift to friends and family, or just to have in your own freezer to pull out at a future date or for a lazy night in,” says Jenny Park of Spoon Fork Bacon.
Baked Spinach and Artichoke Mac and Cheese
The Recipe: This collection of baked pasta recipes wouldn’t be complete without a decadent baked mac and cheese. A twist on a classic, this dish calls for spinach and artichoke to mix into the cheesy layers of pasta. It’s basically spinach and artichoke dip meets mac and cheese.
The Pro Tip: “Mac and cheese is a cold-weather staple, and this is such a yummy version of the classic. You could also try our popular pumpkin mac and cheese too,” says Teri Lyn Fisher of Spoon Fork Bacon.
Vegetarian Chickpea Lasagna Bolognese
The Recipe: You’d never know just by looking at the finished product, but this lasagna bolognese is completely vegetarian. Instead of a traditional bolognese, this recipe features a chickpea tomato sauce that looks and tastes similar to the classic dish.
The Pro Tip: “I really prefer the smaller size served in stoneware pans. I feel they make the lasagna look even more comforting and each portion easy to reheat,” shares Alice of Sugar Salted.
The Recipe: It might sound strange, but this baked spaghetti recipe is worth trying. A play on both lasagna and spaghetti bolognese, this cheesy baked pasta creation lets you enjoy all of your favorite Italian flavors.
Be sure to cook the pasta a little less than usual, as the noodles will continue cooking in the oven.
The Pro Tip: “If you have leftover bolognese or meat sauce on hand, try this. You really can’t go wrong with cheese, noodles, and sauce baked to perfection,” says Stephanie Le of I Am a Food Blog.
Baked Sausage and Cheese Rigatoni
The Recipe: This baked sausage and cheese rigatoni dish will become a weeknight staple in your house. Think sweet Italian sausage, roasted bell peppers, and so much cheese. After baking, you’ll be left with a crusty outer layer to hold together a perfectly melted center.
The Pro Tip: As it turns out, the shape of this kind of pasta plays an important role in the dish, so you won’t want to substitute with just any pasta you have in your pantry. “Rigatoni is perfect for a chunky sausage sauce like this because the sausage sticks in all the nooks and crannies of the pasta,” explains Heidi Larsen of Foodie Crush.