Prep. time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 8-10 oz. (a little over half a box) medium pasta shells
- 1 pkg. (about 5 links) hot Italian sausage, casings removed, meat pulled/crumbled into bite-sized pieces
- 1-2 tbsp. butter or margarine
- 2 tbsp. olive oil (or enough to evenly coat the bottom of a pan)
- 1 & 1/2, 28 oz. cans whole, peeled plum tomatoes, with their juice; coarsely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/4 cup dry red wine (I use cooking wine), or to taste
- Dried basil, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper, to taste
- Italian cheese, if desired
In a large pot, bring lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until done (about 11-13 minutes). Drain, return to the pot, and put the lid on to keep it warm. In the meantime, heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan (I used a deep pan, similar to a wok, but a large skillet/pan would work or even a large, low pot). Add the crumbled sausage pieces to the pan and cook until they are browned and cooked through. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and red wine, cooking until the mixture is heated through and a thin sauce forms. Add the half-and-half and stir to blend, then continue to cook. Add desired dried herbs and seasonings and cook until the mixture is fragrant and well-mixed (total cooking time is about 15-20 minutes). Toss the tomato and sausage mixture with the pasta and serve, topped with Italian cheese and herbs if desired. For those with mouths sensitive to heat, I recommend serving a few slices of good Italian bread on the side to help soak up that heat. We sliced up some fresh ciabatta bread and served it with an herb pesto spread.
This dish is incredibly quick and easy to pull together and it's so delicious! The spice from the sausage blends with the tomatoes and their juice to add a kick of heat to the whole mixture, but the half-and-half smooths out the heat and adds a delicate and very subtle creaminess to the sauce. A mixture of dried herbs and Italian cheese add a punch of flavor to the dish and the pasta shells are the perfect medium to hold it all together.