Pasta

A Cheesy, Creamy Sausage Pasta for Cozy Fall Nights

Inspired by the Marcella Hazan recipe that once won me a cooking contest.

September 30, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

In 2016, I won a lasagne contest.

Sure, I was only competing against one other chef, and, okay, okay, both "judges" were my best friends, but it's still a crowning achievement in my dinner party career.

My opponent put forward a truly admirable specimen. He'd spent days perfecting his entry. There was a slow-braised short rib sauce, homemade ricotta, lasagne noodles purchased fresh from a specialty shop.

If only he'd known he couldn't have stood a chance—I had Marcella Hazan in my corner. In particular, her recipe for tegame di verza e maiale al forno, or baked layered savoy cabbage and pork. It's a dish my mom would make on special occasions (the ones that called for homemade béchamel) when I was growing up, and fighting with my sisters over the corner slices armed me with some of my most important life skills.

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“If we don't use the pasta shells, should we just use more cabbage? And thank you for this recipe!”
— Matedav
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"Think of this dish as a sort of lasagne," Hazan writes in the headnote. "Parboiled and flattened savoy cabbage leaves replace the pasta, and sautéed ground pork takes the place of the meat sauce."

The night of the face-off, my ambitious rival paused, mid–final Parmesan sprinkle, to poke at a cabbage leaf in my baking pan.

"Is that—is that even lasagne?" he said.

"Think of this dish as a sort of lasagne," I said, and placed it under the broiler to finish.

In the years that've passed since my victory, it's no surprise that I've combined pork, cabbage, and creamy sauces of varying types in more ways than one might think reasonably practicable.

That—plus a leftover half-head of green cabbage—is how I ended up with a skillet pasta that I can't stop making in the colder months.

It calls on sweet Italian sausages, uncased and deeply browned, and cabbage cooked allll the way down until tender and caramelized. Like the creamy sauce in Hazan's tegame al forno, this one has a pinch of nutmeg, but you should consider it more of a cheater's béchamel: There's no careful thickening, just starchy pasta water, heavy cream, and melted Parm. Al dente conchiglie (shells!) get tossed in, before the whole thing hits the broiler for browning on top. (After some earlier iterations of this dish, I learned that Hazan has another, similar savoy cabbage and pork sausage stovetop pasta recipe, in which she advocates for a noodle shape with ridges or crevices for the best possible sauce coating.)

The result is somewhere between the Hazan lasagne I'll never stop talking about, a stovetop mac and cheese, and baked pasta. Think of it as a sort of hybrid—and don't forget to serve it with extra Parm.


What cozy cold-weather dishes are you breaking out this month? Let us know in the comments!
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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.

7 Comments

Matedav October 1, 2019
This is a perfect recipe to tweak for the Keto diet. If we don't use the pasta shells, should we just use more cabbage? And thank you for this recipe!
 
Author Comment
Ella Q. October 16, 2019
Hi! That sounds delicious. I've never tried it, but curious to hear how it goes if you do!
 
Monica S. October 1, 2019
This was insanely delicious!
 
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Ella Q. October 16, 2019
So pleased to hear you enjoyed it, Monica!
 
Eric K. September 30, 2019
Quick question: Will this pasta work as a sleeping bag on campouts?
 
Rick F. September 30, 2019
LOL!
 
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Ella Q. October 16, 2019
Yes, and as a pillow.