Pasta with Sausage and Cream

Pasta with Sausage and Cream

Earlier this year, we had dinner with a friend, Ann.  She was going to make a recipe that her daughter had found in “some cookbook”.  It was pasta with sausage and cream and the cookbook was Marcella Hazan’s  “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”.  That was hardly “some cookbook” – her daughter had extracted a gem from the bible of Italian cuisine.  We’ve talked about Marcella’s book a number of times in the past (The Three Best Cookbooks) and this short, simple recipe is an example of some of the great dishes you will find there.  Most of you have already bought the book, I hope.

I like to use a little more sausage than she does, but otherwise it’s her recipe.  Actually, it is a very traditional Italian recipe so it is really not Marcella’s invention.

This recipe is so simple and quick that it is almost scary.  It is even easier than Spaghetti alla Carbonara, and I didn’t think that was possible. The resulting dish is so unique and different that everyone will be glancing over at you wondering, “Who IS this guy?”  It is an amazingly versatile dish – it works for two in love, a small dinner party or a large gala.

Italian sausage is usually pork-based although beef is sometimes mixed with the pork.  Fennel seed is the key spice and crushed red pepper flakes are added for the hot version.  Every recipe has its own bundle of additional spices.   Federal regulations require Italian sausage to have at least 50% meat and no more than 35% fat.  (

Since it includes sausage, cream, pasta and cheese on top, it’s difficult to find any nutritionally redeeming value in the recipe – but after you have tasted it, you won’t care.  I am not proposing this as standard fare, but once you try it the first time, you will definitely get the urge again.

Marcella suggests a bowtie, rotini or other smaller, formed pasta that will catch the bits of sausage.  I find that spaghetti works just fine and is my preference.  She also likes sweet sausage, but the hot is also good if you palette can take it.

Level of Difficulty:  2.0 of 10

Time: 30 minutes including prep time

Serves: 6


  • 1 lb. of pasta – you can choose the type as you please
  • 1 lb. of ground uncooked Italian sausage, sweet or hot. (If you can’t find ground sausage, you can buy links, cut off the casing and separate the sausage into small bits.)
  • 1 cup of cream
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbsp. of butter
  • 2 tbsp. of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated Parmesano Reggiano cheese


  1. Add one tbsp. of olive oil and one tsp. of salt to a pot of water and turn heat to high.
  2. Add one tbsp. of olive oil and the butter to a 10” skillet and cook the onion over medium heat until soft – about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sausage and cook for about 7-8 minutes, breaking the pieces apart as much as possible with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the cream and scrape the bottom of the pan to deglaze.  Bring to a simmer until cream begins to thicken – about 3-4 minutes.   Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

    Preparing the Sauce

  5. The water should now be boiling.  Cook the pasta until “al dente”.  Drain but don’t rinse (actually, you should never rinse pasta) and put into a serving bowl.
  6. Pour the sausage and cream sauce over the hot pasta, toss and serve with grated Parmesano Reggiano.

The Final Product

You can serve this dish with a lemon broccoli.  The lightness of the veggie offsets the slight heaviness of the pasta.  Add some garlic bread if you wish.

Categories: Classic Italian Dishes, Classic Pasta Dishes, Classic Recipes by Type

5 replies

  1. Love the “print & pdf” button! What a great addition to your site. I can’t wait to try the recipe, although I’ll have to eat vegetarian for a week to offset all that sausage and cream.

  2. Bill,

    We liked the recipe so much, we’re having it for dinner tonight!

  3. Just made this for Sunday supper. Easy and delicious! The only problem is that there are no leftovers since we ate it all.

  4. I use Italian turkey sausage and thus feel less guilty about the calories and fat. Of course, it’s the fat that makes it so good.

  5. This is delicious!!!!!!

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