Penne Pesto with Sausage

I’m constantly creating new pasta dishes that cram vegetables into tasty comfort food.  This recent creation was really satisfying and pretty healthy too!  Makes about 6-8 dinner portions.

1 lb Whole Wheat Penne (I used Whole Foods 365 brand)

1 lb pkg Spinach Feta Chicken Sausage (I used Applegate Farms organic) – diced or sliced

½ bag or 1 box (about 6 oz) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained (fresh would also be fine)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 shallot, minced

2 zucchini – diced

¼ cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, diced

½ cup pasta water, reserved


Pesto Sauce:

4 oz. fresh basil (two big handfuls, or one large store clamshell) I was lucky to have fresh basil in my backyard, and this is of course, ideal

Juice of ½ lemon

2 cloves garlic (if you have a chance to roast these before adding, even better)

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

½ cup pine nuts (or walnuts if you prefer), lightly toasted in a non-stick fry pan

½ cup olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste


Parmesan for sprinkling on top

Basil chiffonade for garnish

Make Pesto sauce first:  Put basil, lemon juice, garlic, parmesan, nuts into blender.  Start streaming olive oil and start blender at same time.  When you have added about ½ cup of oil, scrape down and see if it is the consistency you want.  If you want to add more oil, it’s OK.  Salt & pepper to taste.

Take 4-5 large basil leaves, roll together in a cylinder, and slice – this is your chiffonade for garnishing the finished dish.

Heat a large pot of salted water for the pasta.  If you are using 10-minute cook time pasta, start the pasta and the rest of the dish at about the same time. Lightly brown the sausage, zucchini and shallot in 1 tbsp olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes, and the defrosted, drained, chopped spinach and toss just to warm (if using fresh spinach – one more minute to wilt it completely).  Take this pan off the heat.

Drain the pasta, but reserve about ½ cup of cooking water.  Add pesto sauce and sausage veggie mix to pasta pot and toss with penne.  Add some or all of the pasta water to thin to the desired consistency (I used a full ½ cup).  Plate and add parmesan and basil to garnish. 

Buon appetito!



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