"It makes the whole house smell good," says Giada De Laurentiis of the appeal of baked pasta. The TV host and keen cook is right - and that's just one of many reasons to love a pasta bake. It's a good way to feed a crowd (or not - but rather, have lovely leftovers!); it can be a good way to use up what you've got in the fridge and pantry; it's an easy way to get ahead - a lot of pasta bakes can be assembled in advance; and many versions are so easy to make, too.
Here are some of our favourite ways to turn pasta into a dish of simple comfort food.
Possibly Australia's most-loved pasta bake, mac and cheese comes in many guides (how about a Mac 'n' cheese Mexicano from Pati Jinich or Donna Hay's cauliflower mac and cheese?). This version, from Matthew Evans, is simple but very good. This is a relatively light version that doesn't need a white sauce, but does taste heavenly thanks to the addition of sour cream and good-quality cheddar, he says. Speck is German-style smoked bacon, but you could also make this with chopped streaky bacon rashers.
Nutritional yeast, mustard, herbs and spices and dairy-free cheese make sure this vegan version has the full savoury-cheesy appeal. Baked and roughly mashed pumpkin is stirred through with the pasta.
"My baked sausage rigatoni is ...decadent, cheesy and fills the house with mouth-watering aromas," says Giada De Laurentiis when she cooks this easy sausage and pasta bake in season 4 of Giada Entertains. Browned sausage meat is tumbled with pasta, broccolo, a jar of marinara sauce, then mixed with ricotta and basil and topped with more cheese before baking.
Got a little more time? In this pasta pie, macaroni or penne is cooked and added to a rich Bolognese-style sauce, often enhanced by chicken livers. With the addition of cheese and eggs, the pasta and sauce are spooned into a pastry case and cooked until golden.
Orzo (aka risoni) is a quick-cooking pasta that is great for absorbing flavours, so it's perfect in this healthy chicken dinner from Joe Wicks.
This is Guy Grossi's mother's recipe for classic Italian lasagne, shared with us in the very early days of Food Safari and one of SBS Food's most enduringly popular recipes ever since.
"‘Breakfast’, ‘lunch’, ‘dinner’ – why do we have to have so many labels for things? This lasagne laughs in the face of outmoded ideas of categorisation and is equally awesome eaten at any time of day or night," says Jack Campbell of this brilliant twist on the classic. Bacon lovers, this is for you.
In Sorrento, gnocchi is boiled and then baked with a rich sugo (sauce), shredded buffalo mozzarella and torn basil. Try it in this recipe from Silvia Colloca.
Another recipe from Silvia Colloca, this baked rigatoni is the perfect fill-in for when you can't decide between a bowl of pasta or lasagne. It meets in the middle with rigatoni tubes wrapped in a rich tomato sauce and a cheesy baked top.
A recipe that straddles the line between a casserole and what we'd normally think of as pasta bake - but great no matter where it sits! As Joanna Chery explains in her recipe for this easy meal, orzo, although grain-like in appearance, is actually pasta and it's brilliant at soaking up all the succulent flavours of the broth in dishes like this.
Variations of this layered dish - meat, pasta and bechamel topping - are made throughout the Mediterranean. Try the Greek version pictured below, made with beef mince in the sauce, or this gluten-free lamb pastitsio from Loving Gluten Free host Helen Tzouganatos.
While the mind might turn to heasty, cheesy creations when thinking of pasta bakes, there are wonderful sweet versions too. Here, beten egg whites are folded into a creamy sweet sauce and spaghetti mixture. Cinnamon sugar and a little butter go on top before it's all baked until golden brown.
Catch up on the Pasta party episode at SBS On Demand:
Layers of roasted vegetables, mushroom ragu and pumpkin béchamel sauce make this lasagne seriously special. All the layers do involve a bit of work, so I usually prepare a huge quantity to feed a crowd.
Hungarians have a particular fondness for poppy seeds, often pairing them with pastries and noodle dishes. Here, the dusky seeds add nutty flavor to a baked lokshen (noodle) kugel.
Pasta bakes are the ultimate in comfort dinners. The gluten-free beauty brings pumpkin, crème fraiche and goat's cheese to the mix, dishing up one creamy bake.
As any Italian nonna will attest, cooking an authentic lasagne isn't easy, but it's well worth the effort! This version features a rich ragù of beef mince, chicken livers and sausage meat, along with homemade pasta sheets, béchamel sauce and two types of cheese.
This is a hearty rustic Italian dish perfect for large family gatherings. The recipe takes about 7 hours to prepare, but if you get organised and prepare all the elements ahead it's a great way to cater for large numbers. You could cook the ragu the day before and the flavour will be even better.