Recipe: Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage and Spinach

I have a handful of tried-and-true recipes, but love to make at least three new things a month to increase my cooking repertoire and add to my collection of well-loved recipes. Here is the newest added to that list.

This recipe is from the Williams Sonoma Entertaining Cookbook. I’ve had the book forever but never made anything because it was a little too… Williams Sonoma. Expensive ingredients. Recipes that take hours to make. Photos with models who wear cuffed sleeves to a brunch in the Hamptons. Not really my style.

But I noticed the recipe as I was browsing my cookbooks looking to use some of the wine I had on hand here. There are a lot of penne pasta recipes out there, and I’ve tried a lot of them. Most of the ones I’ve tried are fairly average. Tasty and a great weeknight meal, but nothing to write home about.

Well, write home about this recipe from Spice Kitchen.

It was really good. J even said it tasted like something he’d order in a restaurant. It’s easy enough to make after work, fancy enough to serve when company is over, and simple enough to find most of the ingredients in your pantry.

Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage and Spinach


  • Coarse salt, to taste
  • 1 lb. penne
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lb. sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed (Original called for pork sausage)
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 6 oz. baby spinach leaves
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes (Original called for 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped but I had diced tomatoes on hand)
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (I added a little bit more for extra kick)
  • 1/2 cup crushed seasoned croutons
  • 1/2 cup shaved pecorino romano cheese, plus more for serving (I used fresh parmesan instead)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir well and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes, or according to the package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Crumble the sausage into the pan and sauté until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a warmed large bowl.

Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes to release its flavor. Pour in the red wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Transfer the garlic and the pan juices to the bowl with the sausage. Add the spinach, tomatoes, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and croutons to the bowl and cover to keep warm.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Immediately transfer the pasta to the bowl with the other ingredients and toss, adding the 1/2 cup cheese, the cream and the reserved cooking water.

Season the pasta with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately, passing additional cheese at the table. Serves 6.

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