While there’s nothing quite like a homemade roux for rich, deeply-flavored stews, or a béchamel for a plush and creamy pasta sauce, some nights, dinner needs to be all about speed.
Enter heavy cream, a kitchen workhorse blessed with superpowers that include a long shelf life—it seems to last forever in the fridge—and enough versatility to enrich a sauce, thicken a soup, and upgrade any dessert with a sweet drift of happiness.
But what makes heavy cream extra special (and gives it front-row status in my fridge) is its grace under pressure: Even when boiled, it holds onto its lush texture.
This simple pasta recipe takes advantage of that generous stability. Freshly-boiled pasta goes back into the pot with nothing more than cooked, crumbled sausage and heavy cream. After a few minutes on the heat, the cream thickens into a velvety sauce. The end result is a plate of dreamy pasta that’s slightly salty and deeply comforting. Even better, if you cooked your sausage earlier in the day (or pulled it out of the freezer), there’s just a single pot to wash.
Beyond requiring heavy cream—anything lower in fat will curdle as it cooks—this dish can be easily adapted to your taste. Leftover bacon, smoked turkey, or even shrimp can sub in for the sausage; just alter the cooking time.
If you like, add additional seasoning, such as crushed red pepper, herbs, garlic or, if you’re using shrimp, a teaspoon of freshly grated lemon zest. I’ve also thrown in a handful of greens, chopped tomato, and even peas. Although I tend to use ziti—I love the way the sauce gets inside—any pasta shape will work.
Here's how to make my family's favorite creamy sausage pasta:
Fill a large pot with generously salted water, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cook 1 pound Italian sausage (mild, hot, or a combination) in a frying pan, breaking it up with a wooden spoon as you go, until it's no longer pink. Drain grease.
Cook 12 ounces of pasta , any shape, according to the package directions. When it’s done, but before you drain it, carefully scoop out a cup or so of the pasta's cooking water, and set it aside.
Once the pasta has been drained, return it to the pot, and set it on medium-high heat. Immediately pour in 1 cup heavy or whipping cream , then add the cooked sausage. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture boils and the cream transforms into sauce, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in just enough of the pasta water to loosen it up. Serve hot, with grated Parmesan cheese (optional) .