It’s no secret that winter is my least favorite season, but I’ve learned to appreciate and almost enjoy it – largely due to food. Winter is the perfect excuse to be cozy, a little more lazy and a lot more indulgent. I look forward to snow days where we can all just slow down for a short while, gather in front of the fire, watch a movie or play a game, and eat delicious comfort food. I make these Shells with Creamy Blush Sauce at least once a winter. This is one of those dishes where after the first bite it’s not uncommon to make an audible “mmmm” sound. Your eyes may roll back in your head for a second, and that’s okay. It’s really that good. It’s velvety smooth and a bit smoky with just the right balance of tomato and cream.
This Creamy Blush Sauce is not a vodka sauce, although it has a similar color. This sauce is made with dry white wine instead that you’ll allow to reduce down a bit and then simmer along with the cream. I like to crush up whole fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle in order to release the full force of its flavor. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can pulse the seeds in a food processor until they are ground up.
These Shells with Creamy Blush Sauce also finish with a little bit of heat from crushed red pepper. You wouldn’t believe how much heat you get from just a quarter teaspoon of crushed red pepper. If you prefer less, use only 1/8 of a teaspoon, or you can leave it out completely. The sauce is flavorful enough without it.
It takes no time to whip up these Shells with Creamy Blush Sauce – one pot is all you need. Cook the pasta and drain, then make your sauce in the same pot before adding the pasta back in. Enjoy a glass of white wine out of the bottle you’re using for this recipe and before you know it you’ll be ready to eat. I hope you’ll try these Shells with Creamy Blush Sauce the next time you need a winter warm-up. Enjoy!
- 1 lb. shell pasta
- 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large or 2 small yellow onions, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp. whole fennel seeds, crushed or pulsed in a food processor
- 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2/3 cup half and half
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 6 strips cooked bacon, diced
Cook and drain the pasta. Return the pasta pot to the stove and add the olive oil, onions and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the fennel, salt, pepper and red pepper. Continue to cook until fragrant, about 3 more minutes.
Raise heat to high and add the white wine. Bring to a boil, then add the cream, half-and-half and tomato paste. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until thickened, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the pasta back into the pot and stir to coat with the sauce. Fold in the diced bacon. Garnish with fresh parsley.