Hearty Pasta Dishes Bring Warmth to the Winter Table

The ultimate go-to meal, pasta dishes are delicious at any time of the year, but they’re especially comforting now in the colder weather.  Many of the recipes that have developed over the years were staple foods of Italian working-class people.  Incredibly versatile, pasta lends itself to a variety of cream, cheese and tomato-based sauces. Another plus: pasta is very affordable, perfect for large families or feeding a crowd. Fill your house with the aroma of these easy, rich pasta dishes and watch your family’s smiles grow.

Italian Baked Ziti – from my cookbook, “From My Family Recipe Box”
1 pound box ziti pasta, cooked al dente, drained well
1 pound ground beef
8 ounces sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
1 small onion, peeled, diced fine
4 cloves garlic, peeled, and diced fine
16 ounces tomato sauce
16 ounce container ricotta cheese
16 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil to sauté meats, onion and garlic

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat a heavy skillet, crumble sausage into skillet and brown, then add ground beef and brown.  Remove meats and add onion and garlic to skillet. Cook until onions are clear. mix meat back into skillet and set aside.

Reserve 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. In a large bowl, combine cooked ziti, tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, egg, sugar, Italian seasoning and cooked meat mixture.

Pour into a lasagna pan or 9×13 baking dish and sprinkle the top with reserved mozzarella cheese.

Cover well with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes and remove foil. Bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.


Slow-Cooker Spicy Chicken – adapted from Better Homes and Gardens recipe
2 1/ 2 to 3 pounds chicken pieces, skinned
1 cup sweet pepper, seeded and chopped
½ cup ripe olives, pitted and chopped (optional)
1 26-ounce jar of pasta sauce
¼ to ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 pound mushroom caps, cleaned, quartered
1 pound hot cooked pasta (your choice)

Place chicken in a 3-1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker. Sprinkle lightly with salt and black pepper. Add sweet pepper, mushrooms and olives to cooker. Pour sauce over mixture in cooker. Cook on low setting for 6 to 7 hours or on high setting for 3 to 3-1/2 hours. Serve chicken and sauce over hot cooked pasta.

Bacon Mac and Cheese
1 pound baby shells (or elbow macaroni)
4 – 6 slices of bacon, diced
3 Tablespoon butter
3 Tablespoon flour
4 cups milk
2 -3 sprigs fresh thyme (tie bundle together with string to make removal easier)
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 teaspoon hot sauce
5 1/2 cups shredded cheese*
1 large onion, peeled, diced
Pinch of nutmeg
Green onion for garnish

Preheat oven 400°. Put pasta on to cook according to directions and cook until al dente.

While pasta is cooking: In a saucepan, heat milk and thyme until steaming and set aside.  In a cast iron skillet, melt butter and once melted, whisk in flour. Continue stirring and cook on low for about one minute to cook flour. Remove thyme from milk. Whisk milk mixture into butter mixture and continue stirring. Cook until smooth. (Mixture can be strained to remove any lumps.)

Stir in 4 cups of the shredded cheese. Remove from heat and stir until mixture is well incorporated.

In skillet, sauté bacon, onion, and garlic and set aside to cool. When bacon/onion mixture is cooled, blend it into the milk/flour mixture.

In a large bowl, fold macaroni into cheese mixture and coat well. Pour into 9×13 baking dish and top with remaining cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

*May use sharp cheddar or blend of your choice.  I use a blend of cheddar, mozzarella and Alpine Swiss.



About Dori Fritzinger

I live and work with my multi-generational family in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. We have a farm of cows and calves, wool sheep, dairy goats, rabbits, ducks, geese, chickens, honey bees, a horse and a donkey. We have a goat's milk soap and bath products line available on our farm web site. I enjoy reading, quilting and doing embroidery.