A Bit Of A Breakthrough

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the biggest fan of Italian food.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I love the pieces that form the Italian food puzzle. Bread? Yep. Tomatoes? Yep. Cheeses? They’re my love language.

But when you start combining the pieces of the puzzle, I’m not always carried away with the end result. I’m not crazy about spaghetti, lasagna, or even pizza. I like brown sauces more than red sauces. I think pasta is fine and good, but if I had to do without it for the rest of my life, I’d be okay with that. Just please don’t take away my bacon.

However, there are two fellas in this house who adore all forms of Italian food. I make spaghetti with meat sauce every couple of weeks just because it’s one of their favorites (that’s usually a night when I’ll eat leftovers or spoon a little bit of the meat sauce over a piece of toast or something like that). I like making lasagna because it lasts for several meals, but it’s never something that I crave. Chicken parmesan is popular with my people, too (this recipe is my go-to), but I usually only make it once every three or four months because of that tomato / noodle combo that I should probably like way more than I do.

So here’s my ongoing dilemma where Italian food is concerned: I absolutely love cooking meals that my family will enjoy (seriously. it’s one of the happiest parts of my day.), but if I’m going to spend a chunk of each afternoon in the kitchen, it’s kind of a nice bonus if I enjoy the meal, too. And I’m certainly not saying that it’s the height of earthly misery if I have to eat spaghetti – that’s not the case at all – but sometimes it’s just not as much fun to prepare a meal when you feel sort of meh about the outcome.

A couple of months ago I tried an Italian soup recipe because it struck me as something that my husband would really like, and much to my surprise, I liked it, too. The recipe called for sausage instead of ground beef, and I am here to tell you that I had no idea what a great combination sausage, tomatoes, and spinach would be (don’t judge me, people of Italian heritage – remember that I grew up in Mississippi, where we eat most of our sausage with biscuits and gravy). I never expected that the tortellini soup would teach me such a handy little lesson, but I’ve been on the look-out for Italian-ish recipes with sausage ever since.


Yesterday I made Shay‘s recipe for Sausage and Provolone Pasta, and y’all, it is absolutely delicious – one of the happiest mealtime surprises that I’ve had in awhile. In fact, Alex had taken all of two bites before he said, “Mama? I don’t know how you cooked these noodles, but they are delicious.” The recipe makes a ton, and with bread and salad, a family of four could get two meals out of it and still have leftovers. Easy and oh-so-tasty.

 photo pasta_zps82bbea03.jpg

(Clearly I am not a food photographer.)

(However, I try not to let that stop me from taking some shockingly sub-par photos.)

Anyway. I just wanted to pass along the recipe because when you find a good ‘un, it’s fun to share. I will definitely make this dish again – because I don’t know if you noticed, but it’s an Italian-ish combo, and I enjoyed it every bit as much as my fellas did. It’s our own little March Madness miracle.

Wonders never cease.

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  1. I’m not a fan of most tomato and pasta Italian dishes either- especially spaghetti. However, Chicken Parmesan can easily be cured for you. Cook up a side of Parmesan Couscous while everything else is cooking (the boxed one that you dump in the pot with water and cook for a few minutes then it’s ready) and eat your chicken with the couscous and leave the noodles and red sauce for the boys. Delish.

  2. I’ve got another keeper for you, and I think you’ll like it because it has your other love – CREAM CHEESE. Brown a pound of SAUSAGE (or beef). Drain. Meanwhile cook noodles (like penne or something) al dente. Combine meat and noodles in a large bowl with the following: 1jar of marinara sauce, 8 oz or so of cottage cheese, a brick of cream cheese, (mushrooms if you’re so inclined), and seasonings like garlic salt, pepper, italian seasoning, parsley, whathaveyou. Bake at 350 for half an hour or so. Yum. Easy. I’ve yet to serve it when I wasn’t asked for the recipe afterwards.

  3. Hey Sophie–Molly Ainsworth got me started making this a couple years ago. It’s in Tables of Content (Bham Jr. League’s latest cookbook). Sometimes I make it with diced ham too, which is really good. Matter of fact…my mama said she made it tonight to take to some friends with a new baby. It freezes well! Hope you had a fabulous spring break! Nine weeks to go, my friend! We must press on. –MEM

  4. My family thought I was trying to kill them with the sausage/spinach tortellini soup recipe. There was never so much wailing and gnashing of teeth at my dinner table. It did not go over well AT ALL with the hubby or any of the four offspring. *I* loved it!

    I’ll give the new recipe a try. It can’t be worse!

  5. Jeannie says:

    Is the sausage used ground Italian sausage or regular breakfast type sausage in the roll? I would think Italian, but wanted clarification before I try it out on my peeps…

  6. Melanie L says:

    About a year ago I started replacing ground beef with suasage in all of my red sauce recipes. Ground beef just seems so tasteless to me with a red sauce for some reason. The spice of the sausage seems to make all the difference in the world for me.

  7. Yay! I’m so glad you liked my recipe! Thank you so much for sharing! XOXO

  8. SO FUN to see Shay’s recipe over here. And it is a GREAT one. The kind of crispy and cheesy noodles on top are to die for! I LOVE baked pasta dishes.
    p.s. My hubby doesn’t eat noodles OR rice. I wish somebody would have addressed this with us during our engagement counseling.

  9. Angie W. says:

    I personally think sausage is the key to some great Italian dishes–my grandmother is Italian and her meatballs, her spaghetti sauce and my mom’s version of lasagna all use sausage mixed with the ground beef. All. The. Difference. You should try it. But I totally sympathize with your meh meal dilemma. I do not ever need to eat marinara with noodles again but my family loves it. I do not ever want teriyaki and rarely BBQ flavored things but they are my family’s faves– notice that teriyaki and BBQ all have some sweetness and I just prefer more mustardy or vinegary or Hispanic or Indian or ANYTHING else. Sigh. Making a dinner you don’t care for when cooking isn’t your dream chore either, well, I guess there’s love, right?

  10. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for sharing! My husband would love this, but the ladies of the house have some sausage issues. I find sausage to be bacon’s less attractive, more irritating cousin, and my 4-year-old girl labels all sausage “too spicy for me.” But, I’m thinking the version she makes with chicken and spinach would be a surefire winner across the board! Thanks for sharing her site!

  11. Brookles says:

    “Italian” doesn’t have to be a red sauce.
    Try spaghetti noodles, a little butter, fresh lemon juice, fresh pepper, italian seasoning (from the grinder), parmesan cheese, and a sprinkle of bread crumbs. UH-Mazing.


    Make a white saucce, add some garlic and parm. Toss in some noodles, bacon, and peas. Awesome. You can also top it with breadcrumbs mixed with parm and stick it under the broiler.

  12. Melissa says:

    I discovered the secret to delicious lasagna is whole-milk every kind of cheese and a 1/2 and 1/2 mix of ground beef and Italian sausage. We like the sweet Italian sausage at our house. Those two things make all the difference in the world.

    Love your blog and can’t wait to read your new book!

  13. Since you liked that dish, here’s another one that takes pasta bake to a different level and to so Italian which you are not a fan off.


    I did a different version of the recipe I linked above as I had different ingredients on hand but the results were the same: delicious. I really link Italian sausage and the addition of cream is what makes it’s so good. The cream makes it more of a rosa sauce and less tomatoey and acidic. LOVE the addition of cream to the overall dish.

  14. Of course I can’t think of any appropriate recipes, but I just had to thank you for posting your favorite asparagus recipe on Twitter – I saw it and tried it for our Easter dinner today and it was SO SO SO good!