Sometimes, it can get so hot in East Coast summers that any solid food seems thoroughly unappealing. For those moments, I present a summer pasta that is light enough for a hot day but hearty enough to leave you satisfied – cavatappi with shrimp and sausage.

I love combining different proteins in one dish – in this case shrimp and sausage – for a delectable flavor bomb. The cooked lemon slices offer a nice balance, rounded out by peppery arugula and topped off with shaved parmesan cheese. Cavatappi with shrimp and sausage is surf and turf in pasta form.

serves 4-6


  • 1 pound loose spicy sausage (if you can only find sausage in casing, remove it from the casing before cooking)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 16 ounces dried cavatappi
  • 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lemon, sliced with seeds removed
  • 2 cups arugula
  • Parmesan cheese, shaved


Bring a large pot of about 4 quarts of salted water to a boil. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, pinch 1 tablespoon-sized nuggets of sausage off and into the pan. Cook until browned, about 4 minutes on each side. Remove the sausage nuggets from the pan and drain off all but 1 teaspoon of sausage fat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil, onion, 1 teaspoon of the salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Cook until translucent then add the garlic. Cook until blonded, then reserve the onions and garlic with the cooked sausage.

Add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter to the same pan and heat over medium. When the butter begins to bubble, add the lemon slices, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper and cook until lightly browned on each side. Meanwhile, add the pasta to the salted water and cook for 5 minutes. 

While the pasta cooks, stack the lemon slices to one side of the pan and add the last tablespoon of butter. Place the shrimp in an even layer on the pan and cook for 90 seconds on each side. Then remove the shrimp and lemon slices from the pan.

Strain the pasta, reserving ¼ cup of salty pasta water. Add the pasta and pasta water to the pan with the lemons. Cook until the water has evaporated, then return the reserved onions, garlic, and sausage to the pan. Lower the heat, add in the arugula, and stir. Turn off the heat and serve hot, topped with shaved parmesan.

Stuffed shells are a favorite in my family. Growing up in New Jersey, not too far from the city, there was never a shortage of pasta. There was pasta in all varieties, fresh, dried, rolled, dressed with the most delicious sauces, and best of all, stuffed. 

Tortellini has always been my sister’s favorite food, but my mom would regularly make stuffed shells for us to enjoy as a family. They are chewy, saucy, and cheesy, all qualities I believe good pasta dishes have. Omit the meat, and stuffed shells are vegetarian, or dress them up with with browned sausage or pancetta filling. There is really so much flexibility here. 

Note: make a big batch of the base filling then divide it into four, keep two (half) as they are, add sausage and fried sage to another quarter, and add spinach to the other. You will then have 3 different varieties of stuffed shells! If you’re feeling feisty, go ahead and combine the spinach with the sausage to make a single, multi-dimensional, delicious filling. 


  • 1 12-ounce box of jumbo shells (about 40 shells)

for the base filling (divide in 4 to make other filling)

  • 16 ounces of whole milk ricotta
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup basil, chopped
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

for the sausage filling (add to ¼ of the base filling from above)

  • 2 sausage links, removed from the casing and crumbled
  • ½ cup sage leaves

for the spinach filling (add to ¼ of the base filling from above)

  • 1 10-ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

for assembly

  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • ½ cup grated low-moisture, whole milk mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese or grana padano cheese

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, eggs, and parmesan until combined. Add in the basil, parsley, oregano, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients.

Squeeze and press any excess water out of the spinach. Add the salt and crushed red pepper and mix thoroughly.

Place the sausage and sage leaves into a large skillet and cook on low heat until lightly browned, around 10 minutes. The sausage will continue cooking in the shells so no need to overcook it here.

At this point, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the shells to the water and cook for about 5-6 minutes. Strain and drizzle a thin layer of olive oil to prevent them from sticking together. Let them cool until they are cool enough to comfortably handle.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the filling into four parts, keep ½ of it as it is, add ¼ to the spinach, and add the remaining ¼ to the sausage and sage.

Coat the bottom of a large, deep, oven-safe pan with a layer of marinara sauce, about 1 cup. Fill each shell with about 2 tablespoons of filling and place directly on top of the layer of tomato sauce. (You can also freeze the shells at this point, without placing them in the pan). Once all of the shells have been filled, cover them with the remaining 2 cups of marinara sauce, grated mozzarella, and grated parmesan. Cover and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for another 10 minutes until the sauce begins to bubble and the cheese is thoroughly melted.

Serve with a salad for a crisp and light side!

On cold winter days such as today, I find myself seeking comfort wherever I can, be it in a warm bath, relaxing, cozy clothing, hot tea, an early glass of wine, or satisfying food. And what food is more comforting than pasta? Introducing: rigatoni with escarole and sausage.

Rigatoni with escarole and sausage includes a full serving of greens nestled alongside nuggets of sausage and chewy rigatoni. Escarole is technically a chicory which can be eaten either raw or cooked. My parents always made it when I was younger braised in simple stock or bouillon. Throwing it into a hearty dish of pasta with sausage creates a delectable meal.

For me, rigatoni with escarole and sausage evokes cozy comfort, perfect for a chilly winter night. Escarole and sausage sort of reminds me of the timeless duo of broccoli rabe and sausage. The bitter escarole balances the rich sausage in this harmonious pasta dish.


  • 1 pound of loose sweet or spicy sausage, or sausage removed from the casing and broken into ¾-inch balls
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 head of escarole
  • 8 ounces rigatoni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • Grated parmesan


In a large skillet, brown the sausage until nearly cooked. Add the crushed red pepper, salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes. Make room in the center of the skillet and at the garlic. Cook until it browns.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al-dente, 6-7 minutes.

Tear apart the escarole leaves and add to the skillet. Cook until the leaves are tender, about 10 minutes.

Drain the pasta and mix in the olive oil then add to the skillet. Mix to combine and top with chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese.