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Chicken and Sausage Pasta
Easiest Chicken and Sausage Pasta with spinach in a light cream sauce. This 30 minute meal is the perfect family-friendly meal with flavors to please even the picky eaters!
Serve this up with my favorite simple tossed green salad or Italian side salad. And when you’re done, be sure to try more of my easy skillet meals like this one pan shrimp and asparagus!
Ohhhhh you guys. This is a serious contender for one of my top five favorite 30 minute meals. Which, let’s be real, is a big deal considering 30 minute meals are kind of my specialty. So when I tell you that when I made this dish, knowing full well it had all the makings of a great, even an awesome dish…it still exceeded my expectations when I took that first bite.
Annnnd the second. And the third and the 18th and by the end of the meal I was wishing I had a second stomach to go for round two and three. Maybe just a midnight snack? Or breakfast? Yes, breakfast then. It’s completely acceptable to serve up chicken and sausage pasta leftovers at 8am right…?
Of course it is. You do you honey.
- 3 heads garlic
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
- 4 links spicy Italian chicken sausage, diced into small cubes
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 (14.5 ounce) cans organic, diced tomatoes (with juices)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 8 ounces (half a package) uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped, divided use
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 3 tablespoons chopped, fresh basil leaves
- Begin by gathering and prepping all of the ingredients according to the ingredients list above to have them organized and ready for use.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and prepare 3 small squares of foil for garlic heads.
- Cut the tops off of the 3 heads of garlic, drizzle each with about 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and sprinkle on a pinch of salt. Wrap each garlic head tightly in a small piece of foil, and roast in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, unwrap the heads and allow to cool, then squeeze the cloves from the papers and smash lightly with a fork to form a paste; set aside to use in sauce.
- In a large, heavy-bottom pan or pot, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; once hot, add the diced chicken sausage and cook until golden-brown; then, add the diced onion and sauté for about 2 minutes. Now, add the garlic, the Italian seasoning, the oregano and the pinch of red pepper flakes, and give a stir, allowing to become aromatic.
- Once aromatic, add the red wine and deglaze the pan, gently scraping all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan; then, stir in the tomato paste and allow it to cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute to cook out the raw flavor.
- Add in the diced tomatoes with juices, the reserved roasted garlic paste, a couple of good pinches of salt and the black pepper, and allow the sauce to simmer, slightly covered, for about 20 minutes.
- Prepare the penne pasta according to package instructions; then, drain and keep warm.
- While penne cooks and sauce simmers, combine the panko breadcrumbs with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a small bowl, and use your fingers or a fork to incorporate together. In a small pan set over medium-low heat, add the breadcrumbs and toast, continually stirring, for about 1-2 minutes being careful not to burn the breadcrumbs.
- Once the breadcrumbs are golden brown, remove from the pan and add back into the small dish; add the lemon zest, 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley and the grated parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs, combine well with your fingers of a fork, then set aside to use as a garnish/topping for pasta.
- To finish the sauce, turn heat off and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley and 1 tablespoon of the chopped basil; next, add the warm, cooked penne directly into the sauce, and toss to coat. (Alternately, you can spoon the sauce over top of the penne.)
- To serve, spoon the chicken sausage pasta into a bowl, and garnish with about 2-3 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs, and a sprinkling of the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped basil.
Tips & Tidbits for my Chicken Sausage Pasta
- Spicy or sweet chicken sausage: I love a nice, spicy Italian-style chicken sausage, but a sweet variety would work perfectly as well. You can even use a vegetarian sausage, or substitute pork, or smoked beef sausage, if you’d like.
- Your favorite type of pasta: Whole wheat penne has a bit of a “bite” to it which is a nice option for this recipe, but feel free to use traditional pasta in your preferred shape. You can even use brown rice pasta, quinoa pasta or any other gluten-free pasta as well.
- Fresh herbs for flavor: A bit of fresh, chopped parsley and basil are added into the sauce at the end of the simmering process, and they offer a nice freshness. You can use all basil or all parsley, if you prefer, or even add a teeny sprinkle of thyme or rosemary.
- Make the breadcrumbs optional: While I love a little crisp-crunch from the flavorful, toasted breadcrumbs, you can totally skip this step and leave them off, if you prefer. Just garnish with some grated parmesan cheese for an easy topping!
How Do I Cook Sausage?
Sausage is so versatile! You can cook it in a pan on the stove, bake it on a sheet pan or in a casserole dish, grill it, or even put it in a foil packet. In my opinion, the best way to cook sausage is sliced, in a cast iron skillet. So much flavor comes from browning the sausage in a cast iron skillet and it’s so quick!
Can I Reheat Chicken and Sausage Pasta?
Absolutely! You can microwave it of course, but to maintain flavor and moisture, I love to throw it back in a skillet on the stove with a tablespoon of butter and a splash of chicken stock, whole milk, or half and half to make it nice and creamy again. Revives the flavors in a just a few minutes stirred over medium-high heat.
Pasta Skillet With Chicken Sausage, Cheese & Spinach
Try this one-skillet pasta dinner with chicken sausage, cheese, and spinach! Takes only 30 minutes to make.
For the marinara sauce (or substitute 2 1/2 to 3 cups store-bought sauce):
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups (180g) diced red onions
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (28-ounce) can (795g) crushed tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon honey or sugar
- 1/4 cup (5g) chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup (5g) chopped fresh basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
For the pasta:
- 8 ounces (225g) penne pasta
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound (450g) chicken sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 4 to 6 cups (100 to 150g) baby spinach
- 1 1/2 cups (140g) shredded mozzarella cheese
- Chopped parsley, to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350F
Make the marinara sauce (or substitute store-bought sauce):
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large oven-safe sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and translucent. Add the minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes and cook until the sauce starts bubbling at a rapid simmer, 1 to 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and let the sauce continue slowly simmering for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix in honey, parsley, basil and oregano and cook for another minute. Season sauce with salt to your taste. Turn off heat. (Makes 2 1/2 to 3 cups; keeps 4 to 5 days refrigerated or 3 months frozen.)
Cook the pasta:
Bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a pot. Season with a generous pinch of salt. Once the water boils, add pasta and cook for 7 to 9 minutes, depending on how you like your pasta. Drain and run pasta under cold water. Set aside.
Make the sausage and spinach sauce:
Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chopped sausage and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the meat is cooked through. Add pasta sauce and heat for a minute. Add spinach and fold it into the sauce. The spinach should start wilting in 30 seconds.
Bake the pasta:
Add pasta to the pan and stir until combined. Top with mozzarella cheese. Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned at the edges. For a quicker alternative, skip the oven and just stir the cheese into the pasta until the cheese is melted.
Top the pasta with chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste: