Creamy Spinach Sausage Pasta is a hearty, crave-worthy, simple pasta dish that pulls together in mere minutes. Add a salad, and you’ll have a memorable dinner on the table in about 30 minutes. It has fast become a go-to, cool-weather dish in our home, and I’m sure it will in yours, too!
One of my kids will eat any form of pasta or noodle cooked to any doneness. I, on the other hand, am a little picky when it comes to pasta. I’m not one of those folks who can eat it any old which way; I require a little more of the pasta than simply fitting into the category. I want my noodles al dente, I want the sauce to be coating everything, I want vegetables, meat, cheese, and a ton of flavour. Creamy Spinach Sausage Pasta hits all of the notes I love and crave while keeping it uncomplicated and easy even on the busiest of nights. In fact, I’m planning on trotting this one out the next time we have guests because it will be an impressive, hearty dish that will leave me plenty of time to visit with my friends.
Everyone needs fast and fabulous on the menu. Creamy Spinach Sausage Pasta is all that and a heaping helping of comfort.
- If you can find hot Italian sausage in bulk, that is handy, but it isn’t strictly necessary. My favourite sausage only comes in link form, so I purchase the correct amount and slice down the link. I remove the casings and -VOILÀ- I have bulk Italian sausage. Speaking of which, I strongly recommend using hot vs. mild in our Creamy Spinach Sausage Pasta. The little bit of heat really sings here. If you’re averse to any and all heat, of course you can sub in the mild. On the other hand, if all you can find is mild and you like spice, add 3/4 of a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes to the sausage when you’re browning it and breaking it up.
- I prefer Orecchiette pasta for Creamy Spinach Sausage Pasta. The little ‘ear’ shapes are unbeatable at holding onto sauce, morsels of sausage, and spinach. That being said, if you have trouble finding it (ahem, see Amazon), you can sub in another small pasta with holding power like small shells.
- Please do not sub in milk or half and half for the heavy cream. It just plain won’t have the same thickening power. Heavy cream is a magic sauce maker here. There really isn’t much cream, and the overall effect is lighter than you might imagine. The Creamy Spinach Sausage Pasta isn’t swimming in sauce, it’s just lightly coated.
- Regarding the cheese, I’ve given two options in the recipe; Parmesan and Grana Padano. My preference in this dish is for the Grana Padano because it is just a little more subtle and less salty than Parmesan. If you can’t find Grana Padano, Parmesan is a perfectly wonderful substitute. I recommend using freshly grated or shaved cheese vs. shaker cheese or powdered cheese, though, because the pre-grated ones generally have been tossed with an agent to keep them from clumping. That is fine and dandy when you’re garnishing, but the anti-clumping agent generally keeps it from melting quite as nicely. It won’t be the end of the world if you use the pre-grated stuff, it just won’t be quite as luscious.
- A word about the draining of the pasta. When I’m making a pasta dish where I’m going to toss the pasta into the pan where the sauce is being made, I generally use a pasta scoop to transfer the pasta directly from the water to the pan. This helps to insure that the pasta isn’t overdrained. Some of the pasta water is desirable because it helps extend the pan sauce to better coat the pasta. If you don’t have a scoop, you can get around this issue by reserving about a cup of the pasta water before draining through a colander. When you’re tossing together the pasta and the pan sauce, add a few splashes of the pasta water. Be sure your additions are small so that you don’t over-thin the sauce.
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Creamy Spinach Sausage Pasta
- 1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage or links with the casings removed
- 1 pound Orecchiette pasta or small shells pasta
- 2 cloves garlic thinly sliced or minced
- 4 cups packed baby spinach leaves or about ounces 6 to 8 ounces
- 1/2 cup homemade chicken stock or low-salt chicken stock
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese plus extra for serving
- 6 large basil leaves thinly sliced
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and begin cooking the Orecchiette or shell pasta according to package directions for al dente. If you drain the pasta in a colander instead of straight from the water into the skillet, you'll need to reserve about a cup of the pasta water.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, break up the Italian sausage and cook until browned and crumbly, about 7 to 9 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the browned sausage to a paper towel lined plate. Pour off as much of the grease as possible and return the pan to the heat. Add the garlic to the pan and stir until fragrant. Pour in the homemade chicken stock and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan to release all the lovely browned bits that were stuck. Add the heavy cream and return to a rapid boil until the cream is slightly thicker. Return the sausage to the pan, toss to coat, then add the spinach and grated cheese, then scoop the pasta from the water onto the top of the spinach. If you have already drained the pasta, add the reserved pasta water, too. Toss to evenly distribute, wilt the spinach, and melt the cheese. Toss in the thinly sliced basil and serve with extra grated cheese.