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A creamy pot of Marsala cream sauce pasta is the perfect dinner for any weeknight. Caramelized mushrooms and onions simmer in rich Marsala wine and is finished with cream and spinach for a satisfying but quick dinner.
Have you ever tried something and wondered what the heck took you so long? That’s Marsala wine for me. Ever since I tried making chicken Marsala I’ve been obsessed. Obsessed enough to develop a delicious one-pot chicken Marsala recipe, and obsessed enough to keep it going with this incredibly delicious Marsala cream pasta.
This is perfect for a vegetarian night, pasta and cream, studded with mushrooms and spinach make for a satisfying dinner, especially when served up with some homemade bread!
Marsala and Other Ingredients
One of the best things I find over and over again about from scratch food is the versatility of ingredients. Most of the things in this recipe are the same I use for numerous others, with the small exception of the Marsala wine.
- Pasta – I’m using Fusilli con Buco pasta here, which is a fun, thick long noodle. I recommend using a thick, sturdy noodle like this or Bucatini. Fettuccine was too delicate to support the sauce for leftovers.
- Mushrooms – This is a standard for the chicken dish for a reason, mushrooms love Marsala! I used a brown baby bella, but any flavorful mushrooms you like will work.
- Onion – I’m finding yellow is my preference in most cases nowadays, but shallot was equally lovely when I tested that!
- Garlic – A few fresh cloves make all the difference.
- Heavy Cream – When I know I won’t be using a roux to thicken, heavy cream is my go-to. It’s hard to scald, and rarely breaks when applied to heat.
- Spinach – This addition was purely my desire to add more veggies! I like how it wilts down into the sauce. Feel free to use any green of choice. Remember peppery greens will affect flavor and hardier ones like kale will likely need to be sauteed with the onions and mushrooms first.
Marsala Wine – for my chicken marsala I was able to find a small, inexpensive bottle of marsala wine in the vinegar section by the sherry cooking wine. When I went to develop this one, I was out of luck!
Instead, after grocery store number 3 it finally occurred to me to look in the wine section (duh), and low and behold, a glorious bottle of Marsala wine. It was a little pricier, but nothing extreme and it has BIG flavor. I’ve made it with both types, and so long as you’re not buying a sweet Marsala wine, you’re good to go with whatever you prefer.
Making Marsala Cream Sauce
This creamy pasta sauce uses heavy cream for it’s lusciousness, no roux, no cheese. These types of cream sauces are simple to make, and nearly fool proof as long as you don’t walk away from the stove. I have a few key tips to make sure your pasta is the best it could possibly be.
Salt the water – Always, always, always salt your pasta water liberally. No joke I had a full palmful to my water, more if needed. Go ahead and taste it. If it tastes like the ocean, you’re good to go.
Remove the pasta from the water while al dente – Most packages nowadays tell you exactly how many minutes to cook for al dente. Heed those instructions. You’ll be transferring to the pasta sauce and cooking another minute there. Overcooking in the water will lead to mushy noodles.
Don’t overcrowd your pan – It’s tempting to just toss in your onions, garlic, and mushrooms in all at once. This will save time but sacrifice flavor. Let the onions soften, they’ll shrink up as they do, which allows enough space in the pan for the mushrooms to brown properly. It’s essential for flavor.
Let the Marsala reduce – If you’re impatient, or forget, adding the cream before the Marsala reduces completely will lead to watery sauce, and less concentrated flavor.
Don’t forget the pasta water – Add just two tablespoons of pasta water to the Marsala cream sauce just before you add the pasta. This not only seasons the sauce, but provides starch that helps the sauce cling to the noodle.
And of course as always, taste as you go!
STORAGE, REHEATING, & alternate Uses
I’ve always found that cream based sauces don’t particularly freeze well. This is one of those cases, it just loses the texture and mouthfeel that you want when you eat a cream pasta.
That being said, it does hold up fairly well in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. If you’re planning on making this ahead and reheating, or reheating leftovers, it’s important to choose a sturdy noodle. The thin delicate noodles just clumped into unpleasant bricks after hanging out in the fridge with this sauce. Or, store them separately and combine when ready to eat.
While I served this with pasta, the Marsala cream sauce itself could be used for lots of different recipes. I’m eager to try it drizzled over steak or a roasted pork loin, and it’s certainly perfect with bread like Asiago bread or Garlic rolls.
Enjoy this…and other recipes!
We gobbled this up, 2 year old included, and I think you will too. I can’t wait to find out what other ways I can use Marsala wine to create delicious recipes. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy this spin on a classic flavor profile.
Don’t forget to check out these other pasta and pasta sauce recipes!
- Asiago Cream Sauce
- Creamy Lemon Broccoli Pasta
- Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Creamy Pesto and Goat Cheese Pasta
- Homemade Gnocchi with Fennel Caper Cream Sauce
- 1/2 cup onion, diced
- 2 1/2 cups mushrooms, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups spinach, chopped
- 8 ounces Marsala wine 1 cup
- 10 ounces heavy cream 1 1/4 cups
- 1 lb dry pasta
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil over high heat for your pasta.
- Heat a large saute pan or dutch oven over medium heat. When hot add the oil and the onions with a pinch of salt. Saute until softened.
- Add in the mushroom*, saute, stirring only occasionally until golden brown. Then add your garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Drop your pasta in the boiling water if you haven't already. Cook until al dente, based upon the instructions for the particular pasta you're using.
- Deglaze the pan with the Marsala wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any brown bits into the sauce. Allow to simmer rapidly until reduced by half.
- While whisking, slowly add in the heavy cream until fully incorporated. Allow to come to a simmer and thicken, taste and add another pinch of salt until seasoned to your preference.
- Add the spinach to the pot and stir, letting it wilt into the sauce.
- Add two tablespoons of pasta water into the sauce followed by the cooked pasta and bring it all back to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until sauce has thickened and clings to the pasta.
I’d love to hear what you think, feel free to tag me on Instagram @theflourhandprint so I can see how it went! Until next time, Happy Eating!
Nutrition information and cooking times are provided as a best estimate. Values may vary based upon ingredients and equipment.