With the perfect balance of spicy-subtly sweet-savory flavor, this Creamy Marsala Pasta is an all-time favorite! Spicy Italian sausage & deeply caramelized mushrooms tossed into your pasta of choice with the best creamy marsala sauce. The secret ingredient? – a handful of toasted walnuts, which add surprising, satisfying meaty texture.
- 8 ounces rigatoni or short pasta of choice
- heaping ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1–2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 pound bulk spicy Italian sausage (or mild, as desired)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 16 ounces cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
- optional: up to 1 teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
- 1 cup dry marsala wine (see Recipe Notes)
- ½ cup chicken stock or broth
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- heaping ⅓ cup grated parmesan
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- for serving, as desired: grated parmesan or pecorino romano, finely chopped basil or parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, etc.
Prep note: Once you begin cooking, this marsala pasta comes together very quickly! I suggest you start by getting all of the chopping, measuring & other prep odds & ends out of the way so cooking is a smooth process: dice the onion, slice the mushrooms, chop the garlic, measure your liquid ingredients, etc. Place everything within an arm’s reach from the stovetop.
- Boil the pasta: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water. Add the pasta and cook to al dente according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the starchy pasta water. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- Toast the walnuts: Meanwhile, as the pasta boils, toast the walnuts. Add the walnuts to a medium skillet over medium heat. Toast, monitoring closely & shaking occasionally to prevent burning, for 3-4 minutes, just until toasty & fragrant. Transfer toasted walnuts to a plate & set aside. Carefully wipe out the skillet & return to medium heat.
- Brown the Italian sausage: Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the same skillet used to toast the walnuts in Step 2, increasing the heat to medium-high . Once hot & shimmering, add in the Italian sausage. Cook 5-6 minutes, until browned & rendered, using a wooden spoon to break the sausage into fine bite-sized crumbles as it cooks. If the sausage starts to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low. Once browned, transfer the sausage to a plate & set aside.
- Cook the aromatics: If needed, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the skillet. Once hot & shimmering, add in the yellow onion & cremini mushrooms. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper, as desired. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions & mushrooms soften & begin to caramelize – this will take 8-10 minutes as we’re after nice, browned color. Stir in the garlic & crushed red chili flakes (if using) & cook for an additional minute or so, until fragrant.
- Build the creamy marsala sauce: Deglaze the pan by slowly pouring in the marsala wine & chicken stock. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pan. Add in the browned sausage & toasted walnuts, stirring to combine. Bring everything to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium or medium-low to maintain a gentle simmer. Stir in the heavy cream & grated parmesan. Cook 3-4 minutes more, stirring occasionally, to allow everything to meld together. At this point, the pasta should be ready to drain.
- Finish the pasta marsala: Add the pasta to the skillet. Toss to coat with the creamy marsala sauce. Adjust as needed so the marsala sauce evenly coats the pasta – if the mixture is too thick, toss in a little reserved pasta water; if the mixture is too loose, toss in an extra handful of parmesan cheese, etc. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, allowing the pasta to meld with & absorb some of the sauce. Remove from the heat.
- Serve immediately, topped with additional grated parmesan, chopped basil or parsley, &/or a sprinkling of crushed red pepper, as desired. Enjoy!
- Marsala is a fortified wine, meaning it is a wine that is “fortified” with a distilled spirit, most often fortified with brandy. It has amazing rich caramelly & vanilla notes & is wonderful to cook with. You should be able to find marsala in the fortified wine section at your favorite wine or liquor shop. Marsala labeled “Fine” (fino) or “Superior” is great for cooking. If you cannot find marsala, the closest substitute for this recipe is Madiera, a Portuguese fortified wine with similar flavor profiles to marsala.
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover creamy marsala pasta will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
- 10-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this creamy marsala pasta comes from prepping the veggies. Take care of this in advance & store in individual airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It takes 10 minutes, tops, & with the prep work done, you can jump straight into cooking at dinnertime.
- Dice 1 medium yellow onion (<5 minutes active)
- Slice 16 ounces cremini (baby bella) mushrooms (~5 minutes active)
- Note: This recipe has been updated since its original publish in February 2017. If you are looking for the original recipe, which included roasted sausage, click here to download a printable version!
Keywords: pasta marsala, pasta recipes, Italian recipes, comfort food recipes