Creamy Shell Pasta with Sausage Recipe

The ultimate creamy pasta recipe. Simple cream-based pasta sauce prepared with ground sweet and spicy Italian sausage and shell pasta.

Creamy Shell Pasta with Sausage Recipe

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 creamier sausage-based spin on classic rigatoni bolognese recipe or jumbo stuffed shells. 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.

If you enjoyed this recipe, also try my easy baked ziti, skillet lasagna, and simple creamy gnocchi recipe!

Creamy Meat Sauce

The dish features pasta shells with a simple 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.

If you’re looking for a solid marinara, I really like Rao’s marinara sauce. Or use something similar without too many add on flavors like cheese, basil, or garlic. We’ll add those on our own!

I went with a combo of ground sweet and spicy Italian sausage to give the dish a touch of heat. You can use all sweet Italian sausage if you don’t want any spice. 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). I think it makes an otherwise simple dish a touch fancier.

Can I make This Dairy-Free?

This dish 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’ve got yourself a fancy date-night worthy pasta dish.

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Creamy Shell Pasta with Sausage Recipe
Creamy Shell Pasta with Sausage Recipe
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Creamy Shell Pasta with Sausage Recipe

  • Author: Shawn Williams
  • Prep Time: 15
  • Cook Time: 20
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Cuisine: Italian


The ultimate creamy pasta recipe. Simple cream-based pasta sauce prepared with ground sweet and spicy Italian sausage and shell pasta.


  • 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
  • 34 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil, plus extra for serving
  • 23 tablespoons olive oil
  • pinch, crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • shredded Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)


  1. 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. Discard excess fat.
  2. Add marinara, wine, and basil. Cover and let simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook shells al dente.
  4. 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.


  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 537
  • Sugar: 12.3g
  • Sodium: 665mg
  • Fat: 17.7g
  • Saturated Fat: 7g
  • Carbohydrates: 56.2g
  • Fiber: 5.1g
  • Protein: 18g
  • Cholesterol: 49mg

Keywords: shell pasta recipes, creamy pasta sauce, meat sauce