We are currently going through a mini ‘cold front’ here in New England. A few days of bone-chilling single digit weather. I guess that’s the price I’m more than willing to pay for heading to the Super Bowl 3 straight years in a row. On cold winter nights like this, what’s better than a creamy pasta sauce that will stick to your ribs and warm you right up?
Creamy shell pasta with ground sausage is like a hearty Italian sausage-based spin on bolognese. It’s super rich, filling, and screams comfort food. The ingredients alone are simple, and it’s even easier to bring together in about 30 minutes. Shells with a makeshift “homemade” marinara-based cream sauce, doctored up with fresh basil, garlic, onion, white wine (if you have it on hand) and cream. Yes, it’s all about that creamy pasta sauce.
I went with a combo of ground sweet and spicy Italian sausage to give the dish a touch of heat. It’s warming without being overbearing. Unlike your typical beef sauce, the Italian sausage brings so much more flavor to the table (no pun intended). Maybe it’s the spices, but I think it makes an otherwise simple dish a touch more fancy. And if you know me, I’m all about fancy without the fancy effort.
One final note, you may notice this recipe is otherwise dairy-free if you don’t use cream or serve with Parmesan cheese. I’ve substituted a simple homemade cashew cream in its place and you CANNOT taste the difference. Pair with a solid red wine (or maybe the white you just opened), and you’re ready to forget it’s winter.Print
- 1 lb large shells (not jumbo)
- 1 lb ground sweet Italian sausage
- 1/2 lb ground spicy Italian sausage (optional)
- 16 ounces marinara sauce
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3–4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, plus extra for serving
- 2–3 tablespoons olive oil
- pinch, crushed red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper, to taste
- shredded Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large lidded saucepan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and let simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add sausage to the skillet. Use the end of a spatula to break the sausage into small chunks, cooking until browned and fully cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
- Add marinara, wine, and basil. Cover and let simmer for 5-7 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook shells al dente.
- Strain shells and add to the sauce along with the cream. Let simmer for an additional 5 minutes and serve with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
This can be made dairy free by using homemade cashew cream in place of cream. It’s just as creamy and delicious.