Jun 8, 2013

Pasta Shells with Ricotta, Sausage and Peas



I usually start my weekends with an early morning run but today’s was particularly exciting: it was the Team in Training (TNT) kick off for the Fall Season! My first event with them was this past spring where Jor and I raised over $2,400 and completed a half marathon in honor of my amazing grandpa who we lost to Lymphoma last October. With his name being Albert, we thought it was only appropriate to call ourselves Al’s Pals!



I have nothing but positive things to say about the TNT experience and their mission of finding a cure for blood cancers, and so much so that I was immediately searching for when and what my next TNT event would be. Needless to say, I was more than thrilled to find out a few months ago that I was going to be a mentor this season and while training for another half marathon and fundraising, I will have the opportunity to help others have as an amazing experience as I have!

With the start to the new training season, it also means that before I know it, the mileage will be increasing and I will be back on my Friday night pasta dinners. No complaints here! Jor could eat pasta every night if it were an option and I’m not too far from that myself. So I started looking back through some of my recipes and realized that I still had quite a few Friday night pasta dishes from last spring that I had yet to share. They will be repeated for sure! This particular dish checks all the boxes: carbs, lean protein and vegetables. But, you could easily modify it to be completely vegetarian and leave out the sausage and add in some extra veggies if you desired.

Here’s what you need:


(Adapted from Giada De Laurentils. Makes two dinner servings with a leftover lunch.)

  • 1/2 pound uncooked whole wheat pasta shells
  • 1/2 pound mild Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 pound frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup part skim milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. While it comes to a boil, remove the casings from you turkey sausage. If you want a short cut, I’ve also made this with just ground white turkey meat and it works just as good. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add in your sausage. You can add olive oil if you want but I find that just a quick spray of cooking oil works fine, especially if you are using a non-stick pan like I did here. The natural oils from the sausage keep things from sticking.



As the sausage cooks, use a wooden spoon (or fork) to break it into bite size pieces. Let it cook for about five to eight minutes until it has browned and then push it to one side of your pan. If your pan is not big enough, just remove the sausage and let it sit to the side for a few minutes. Add in the peas. If fresh peas are in season and available to you, I would definitely suggest using those. But, the frozen peas work and taste perfect too!



With the back of a fork, mash the peas. You don’t have to make sure you get every one but about 3/4 of them will be good.



Turn the heat off and add in the ricotta cheese. The ricotta will be a little stiff at first but just keep stirring and working it in until you have everything completely mixed.



At this point your pasta should be done or about done (al dente). Drain the pasta and add it directly to the pan with your peas, sausage and ricotta cheese. Add in the basil and salt and pepper to taste.



Sprinkle with the Pecorino Romano cheese and you are now ready to eat! I love making this meal for lots of reasons and one of those being how easy and fast it is to put together. My least favorite part is removing the sausage casings but if you’re not a fan yourself or you don’t have time the regular ground turkey can really do the trick. You can also add additional vegetables like zucchini to this and if whole wheat pasta is just not your thing, regular white pasta will work. It took us awhile to join the whole wheat pasta band wagon but now we find that it adds a level of heartiness (or oomph, as I like to say) to our pasta dish that we just couldn’t get with white pasta noodles. Feel free to switch up the shape of the pasta as well but try to make sure you have ridges in the pasta so it can hold the ricotta cheese. This meal will certainly be making an appearance in the coming weeks for a Friday night dinner! But whether you’re training for a race and a need to carb-up, you simply love a good pasta dish, and/or you are looking for a quick dinner, keep this on your short list! For now, that’s pasta shells with Ricotta, Sausage and Peas in the shell of a nut!

Leave a comment