Curtis Stone’s Comfort Zone: Perfect Winter Pasta Dishes

There is something about pasta that is naturally satisfying, enriching, and comforting, and depending on the ingredients you’re using, a great pasta dish can be a meal in a bowl. You can add whatever you fancy — seasonal produce from the farmers market, a handful of capers from the pantry, or a quick grating of Parmesan. It’s up to you.

A hearty one-pot meal, Winter Vegetable and Italian Sausage Soup features two of my favorite root vegetables — parsnips and carrots. Personally, I like a surprise on the plate, which is why Spaghetti with Tuna and Spinach works well — an unlikely pairing that’s healthy, delicious, and simple to prepare.

When it comes to cooking pasta, here are the most common mistakes and how to avoid them.

Use a big pot filled with plenty of cold water and salt; too small a pot causes noodles to stick together and cook unevenly. Don’t add oil to the pot, which can prevent sauce from sticking to the pasta. Bring water to a roiling boil, then add pasta and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, at a fast boil. Taste for doneness often until pasta is firm but tender — al dente. Few things are worse than an overcooked pasta. When pasta is ready, turn off heat and save some of the cooking water for later use in adjusting the consistency of the sauce. Drain immediately but do not rinse; it washes away starch that helps bind sauce to pasta — and some of the wonderful flavor. By following a few simple rules, you’ll make perfect pasta every time.

Boul of soup on a table with bread on a cutting block.
Winter Vegetable and Italian Sausage Soup (Photo by Quentin Bacon)

Winter Vegetable and Italian Sausage Soup

(Makes 8 servings)

Heat large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring and breaking up sausage into bite-size pieces with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes, or until browned. Using slotted spoon, transfer sausage to bowl. Pour off fat from pot.

Add oil to pot and then add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until softened slightly. Stir in garlic, fennel seeds, and rosemary and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Reduce heat to medium, add carrots and parsnips, and cook for 5 minutes, or until almost tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Return sausage to pot. Stir in broth and 2 cups water, raise heat to high, cover, and bring to a boil. Skim any fat or foam that rises to top of soup.

Add pasta to boiling soup and cook, stirring often, for 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to bite. Remove and discard rosemary stems.

Gently stir in beans and simmer for 2 minutes, or until heated through. Remove from heat and fold in spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls, top with Parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve.

Per serving

Bowls of pasta on a wooden table
Spaghetti with Tuna and Spinach (Photo by Bec Hudson)

Spaghetti with Tuna and Spinach

(Makes 4 servings)

Bring large pot of salted water to boil over high heat. Add spaghetti and cook, stirring often to keep strands separated, for 12 minutes or until tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta, reserving ½ cup pasta water.

Meanwhile, heat large heavy frying pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil, then add shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, then add wine and cook for 4 minutes, or until reduced by three-fourths. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and add tuna, stirring lightly to break up tuna.

Add spaghetti to pan and toss to coat with liquid. Add spinach and lemon zest and toss, adding enough reserved pasta water to make light sauce. Season pasta to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using tongs, divide pasta among 4 bowls. Drizzle oil over each serving and serve immediately.

Per serving


This article is featured in the January/February 2018 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Recipes courtesy of Curtis Stone. Look for Curtis as head judge of Top Chef Junior on Universal Kids. The chef shares two more pasta recipes —Turkey and Mushroom Bolognese and Farfalle with Chickpeas, Baby Kale, and Dates — at