a comforting marsala pasta, with rigatoni noodles tossed into a creamy marsala pan sauce with spicy italian sausage & mushrooms. marsala pasta is cozy enough for a date night with bae on the sofa (& totally guy-approved!), but also easy & elegant enough to throw together for a spontaneous weeknight dinner with friends. paired with a big, hearty red wine, this marsala pasta will have you ditching the reservations & enjoying a pasta feast from home!
happy valentine’s day!! do you have super special valentine’s plans tonight?
chris & i aren’t doing anything crazy today because we celebrated over the weekend with an ultimate saturday dinner date at home. nights like valentine’s are always fun to use as an excuse to get fancied up & go out on a date, but honestly, celebrating special occasions at a restaurant or out on the town usually ends up being overpriced, over-crowded, & rushed.
& i love dating my hubby from home. we usually make a ourselves a couple of cocktails to enjoy while we cook dinner & eat together while snuggled up on the sofa watching a movie on netflix (that probably took us 2 hours to agree on #marriage). it’s relaxing, cozy, & (i think!) romantic.
plus…our sofa is pretty damn comfy. so there’s that…
this year for valentine’s, i made chris a pasta dinner that reminds me of him through & through: spicy italian sausage & mushrooms with a rich marsala cream sauce.
this is a recipe i’ve had in my back pocket for awhile. it is inspired by one of the most popular dishes that came out of the kitchen of the italian restaurant where i worked for a few years after college.
perfect for a cozy sofa date night. & better yet, since it requires only simple ingredients & 30-minutes tops to pull together from start to finish, marsala pasta is also easy & elegant enough to serve for friends for an impromptu weeknight dinner party.
like most things in italian cooking, marsala pasta only calls for very simple ingredients, but using slightly higher quality options will make all the difference in the world when it comes to the flavor of your finished dish.
i opted for spicy sausage from whole foods, organic baby bella mushrooms, &, for perfect texture, a nice & thick rigatoni from delallo.
a common misconception about pasta is that its shape doesn’t matter since they all taste pretty similar, especially once dried. & for the record, that is SO false. the rigatoni’s tubular shape & small ridges make it PERFECT to catch all of the delicious marsala cream sauce. it’s an important detail that definitely makes a huge difference.
the real beauty of pasta marsala is that it comes together pretty quickly. the sausage bakes off in the oven while the pasta boils to the perfect al dente texture, & in the meantime, the onions, garlic, & chili flakes that make up the aromatic base of the marsala sauce are sautéed together.
once the aromatics are softened, the sausage & mushrooms are added & seared until deeply brown & flavorful. the marsala sauce comes together quickly as a pan sauce: the sausage & mushrooms are deglazed with sweet & earthy marsala wine, which is balanced with a hearty splash of heavy cream.
marsala pasta is simply finished with a quick toss of the pasta & a generous sprinkle of parmesan, & you’ll have yourself (seriously) one of the best pasta dinners you’ve ever made at home.
despite having only come together in less than 30 minutes, the marsala pan sauce is intensely flavored. the caramelly-sweet notes of the wine are offset by the creamy richness of the heavy cream & the bold spices in the italian sausage. earthy mushrooms & perfectly al dente pasta add the perfect chew that makes this dish hearty & satisfying despite its simplicity.
the only thing missing is some wine!
as far as wine pairings go, i talked about the wine we paired on my instagram stories over the weekend (be sure to follow along with @playswellwithbutter on ig!), but in case you missed it, you’ll want a bold, hearty red to pair with the rich & earthy flavors of this marsala pasta. a big, dry red will have the tannins that cut through the rich creaminess of the marsala sauce.
i opted for a montelpuciano d’abruzzo, an italian red produced in central italy that delivers on the boldness & the dryness that pairs best with marsala, but it also tends to be a little earthier – perfect for complementing those mushrooms. montelpuciano d’abruzzos are great for any cabernet lover looking to expand their tastes in italian wines (but a cab would make a fantastic pairing with this pasta, too!).
pasta (check). wine (check). hubby (check). major valentine’s day win!
- 1-lb spicy italian sausage (links)
- 8-oz dried pasta (a dried short noodle with ridges, such as rigatoni, is best)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp crushed red chili flakes (though we use closer to 1 tbsp - we like it spicy!)
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
- 10-oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1/2 cup dry marsala
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- parmesan cheese, for sprinkling
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Place the sausage links on a parchment- or foil-lined baking sheet and bake off the sausages for 10 minutes.
- After having allowed sausages time to rest, thinly slice on a bias & set aside.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil & cook pasta according to package directions, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Strain & set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.
- Saute diced onion with salt & chili flake until soft & translucent, about 3 minutes.
- Add garlic & cook for about 30 seconds, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
- Add sausage into the pan, arranging the slices in such a way that they cover the bottom of the pan, ensuring they brown. Leave the sausage be for about 2 minutes before flipping to brown the opposite side.
- Add mushrooms on top of sausages & cook for another 2 minutes, until both sides of the sausage are well browned & mushrooms have softened.
- Reduce the heat to low & deglaze the pan with the marsala. Cook wine over medium heat until simmering & slightly reduced, & add in heavy cream. Allow sauce to come back up to simmer & slightly reduce.
- Toss strained pasta & a generous sprinkle of parmesan into sausage & mushrooms with pan sauce until combined.
- Serve in bowls with extra parmesan to garnish.
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