Pasta with Sausage and Ricotta 'Cream' Sauce


  • 8 ounces uncooked Italian sausage, sweet or hot according to your taste
  • 1 pound short, tubular dried pasta, such as penne, mostaccioli or cavatappi, or 11⁄4 pounds fresh fettuccine
  • 12 ounces low-fat or whole-milk ricotta, the best you can find
  • Kosher salt, if necessary
  • 1⁄3 cup grated Parmesan or aged Asiago
Time Estimates

Prep time: 5 min  

Cook time: 15 min  

Total time: 20 min  


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, slit open the sausage casings and crumble the sausage into a medium skillet.
  2. Cook until nicely browned; drain on absorbent paper and keep warm.
  3. Warm a large mixing bowl (preferably one that can go straight to the table) with hot tap water, add the ricotta to the empty bowl, and place the bowl near the pasta pot.
  4. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add the pasta, stirring as it returns to the boil.
  5. Cook according to the package directions, timing from the time the water returns to the boil and checking a minute or two ahead of the scheduled time.
  6. Halfway through cooking, ladle about a cup of water from the top of the pot into the bowl with the ricotta and beat it like crazy with a wire whisk. The texture should be like lightly whipped cream; if it’s too thick, whisk in a little more pasta water.
  7. Taste for salt and correct if necessary, allowing for the salt in the sausage and cheese.
  8. Drain the cooked pasta, add it to the bowl along with the sausage, and combine.
  9. Top with a little of the grated cheese and pass the rest of the cheese at the table.


In place of the sausage, try one of the following:

  • Dried tomato: Reconstitute 6 sun-dried tomato halves in hot water, drain, and cut into julienne. Toss with the pasta and sauce.
  • Pesto: Use only 8 ounces of ricotta and stir in 1⁄3 to 1⁄2 cup pesto (recipe follows) just before adding the pasta.
  • Ham and peas: Sauté 3 or 4 sliced green onions and 11⁄2 cups petite peas (blanched fresh or thawed frozen) in a little butter until heated through, then add to the bowl with 5 ounces finely diced Black Forest or similar ham.

(Makes about 1 cup)

This Genovese basil sauce no longer needs an introduction, though today you are as likely to see it on pizza as on pasta. Store any extra tightly sealed in the refrigerator, and use within a week.

  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • Heaping cup basil leaves
  • 1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, or half Parmesan and half Pecorino Romano
  • About 1⁄2 cup olive oil
To prepare the pesto in a food processor, combine everything but the oil and process to a rough paste, then add the oil with the motor running and process until smooth. Correct the seasoning. To make the pesto by hand: Pound the garlic in a mortar with a gen- erous pinch of salt. As the garlic breaks down, gradually add the pine nuts, then the basil, torn into small pieces. Continue pounding until everything is reduced to a paste, then stir in the cheese and oil to taste. Correct the seasoning.


Serves 6 as a first course, 3 to 4 as an entrée

Which beer should I drink with this?

Märzen or amber ale

Go back to The Microbrew Lover's Cookbook index page.

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From The Microbrew Lover’s Cookbook, Copyright © 2002 by Jay Harlow. Used by arrangement with Jay Harlow.

Photo: A30_Tsitika/Flickr

Pasta with Sausage and Ricotta 'Cream' Sauce
Here’s a basic version adapted from a recipe in Carlo Middione’s book, "The Food of Southern Italy", followed by one of my improvisations.