Welcome to Pasta Week at The Kitchn! In my household, pasta has a special significance. It isn't just a quick and easy option for a weeknight meal. It isn't just a hot, comforting bowl of noodles on a cold fall night, or a supportive base for a scoop of of chunky ragú. At my table, pasta is an overt gesture of love.
It would be false to say that pasta is the only gesture of love my husband recognizes. But I do think it is the most visceral. Pasta is the food that my Italian-bred husband was raised on. He ate it after every single middle school and high school soccer practice. His mother's pasta al forno — all seven pounds of it — came bubbling out of the oven, overflowing with cheese. When he was sick, pasta was the only thing he craved, and it was always his first meal after being released from a chicken soup diet. That butternut squash pasta pictured up there? It was the centerpiece of our wedding meal.
When asked why he loves pasta so much, he gestures helplessly. "It's just... thick, and satisfying, and... it's pasta!" he splutters.
I don't crave pasta the way he does, although I do love it. My cupboard is always stuffed with pasta: Tiny orzo, thick spaghetti, wide lasagna noodles. I pull out fusilli and rotini to sop up thick meat sauces, and I bake farfalle into casseroles. I look for tubular pastas that have light ridges to catch and hold the sauce. I think of cooking a good meat sauce like a meditation, slowly browning the meat, stewing the tomatoes, cooking it down into something worth its weight in gold.
And when I do pull that pot of pasta off the stove, smothered in good sauce and flurries of cheese, the reward is significant. We all know that food and love are closely entwined, and the act of feeding someone else is one of the richest commonplace activities we can engage in. So I'm not saying anything new here (see: Sara Kate's beautiful birthday cake from last week). But that's what pasta means to me: the warmth of knowing that I could not have put anything more delicious, more satisfying on the table for him. And that warmth just lights up the kitchen, does it not?
So, without further ado — a few pasta recipes that have lit up our kitchens at one time or another. Butternut squash, old-fashioned mac and cheese, broccoli pesto sauce, pumpkin pasta casserole — 15 of our most popular pasta recipes.
15 of Our Most Popular Pasta Recipes
• 1 Pasta with Butternut Squash, Sage, and Pine Nuts - A perfect pasta for fall. (I served this at my wedding!)
• 2 Fusilli al Telefono - Pasta, tomatoes, a whole pound of mozzarella.
• 3 Rich No-Cream Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce - Rich, chunky mushroom sauce, but no cream.
• 4 One-Bowl Microwave Macaroni and Cheese - A simple recipe for comforting mac and cheese.
• 5 Velvety Broccoli and Feta Pasta - Broccoli, lemon, herbs — pesto-style.
• 6 Easy Homemade Macaroni and Cheese - A homestyle mac and cheese.
• 7 Big-Hearted Macaroni and Cheese with Artichokes - A lighter mac and cheese with tofu.
• 8 Brie-Style Mac and Cheese with Mushrooms - One more mac and cheese — a seriously indulgent one!
• 9 Lighter Stuffed Pasta Shells - Shells stuffed with vegetables and cheese.
• 10 Southwest Skillet Ragu - A quick and hearty meal.
• 11 Spaghetti with Mascarpone, Meyer Lemon, Spinach, and Hazelnuts - Creamy, nutty, and sophisticated.
• 12 Vegetable Lasagna with Butternut Béchamel - Another wonderful way to enjoy pasta with butternut squash.
• 13 How To Make Lasagna - One way of making lasagna (of course we know there are zillions out there!), shown in step-by-step photos.
• 14 Tomato, Broccoli and Mozzarella Pasta Casserole - An easy pasta casserole for the late summer and early fall.
• 15 Pumpkin and Ricotta Pasta Casserole - This one comes together so fast: you just need canned pumpkin and a few other ingredients.
Your turn. What pasta recipes light up your kitchen? What's your favorite pasta recipe of all time?
(Images: See linked recipes for full image credits.)