Spinach Pasta recipe is a bright fresh and creamy on your table in 30 minutes!
This Spinach Pasta recipe is vibrant yet creamy and comforting layered with your favorite summer veggies! It’s loaded with healthy Italian chicken sausage, charred sweet corn, bursting cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach enveloped in an aromatic creamy sauce spiked with garlic, basil and Parmesan. This spinach pasta is hypnotic as written but is also extremely flexible – use your favorite protein veggies, etc. This spinach pasta recipe also reheats beautifully for meal prep or lunches throughout the week. Serve the spinach pasta with homemade butter breadsticks and fruit salad for the perfect weeknight dinner everyone will rave about!
SPINACH PASTA RECIPE
If you love quick and easy pasta recipes, you’ll love this spinach pasta recipe! It fits right in with my Creamy Mushroom Pasta, Rigatoni in Tomato Cream Sauce, Linguine in Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce, Chicken Spaghetti, Tortellini Toscana, Buffalo Mac and Cheese, Lemon Garlic Shrimp Fettuccine, Weeknight Spaghetti Bolognese, Taco Spaghetti for dinners that are low on effort and huge on flavor.
This spinach pasta recipe is everything I love about summer – with the caramelized sweet corn, juicy tomatoes and herbs, and everything I love about comfort food with the carbs and cream sauce. It’s not overly decadent but just creamy enough to feel like a comforting hug – that you never want to let go of. And let me just say the sweet, bursting tomatoes MAKE the sauce – you’ll look for their sweet pops of juiciness in every bite.
This spinach pasta is made with easy-to-find ingredients, you probably have most everything stocked right now! I actually came up with this recipe because I wanted to use up some odds and ends in my fridge – and the results were exponentially more delicious than the sum of its parts.
So, just pick up some fresh tomatoes, corn and spinach and dinner is served OR as delicious as this spinach pasta recipe is, it’s also extremely versatile. You can use your favorite protein and clean-out-the fridge veggies such as peas, asparagus, zucchini, artichokes, bell peppers etc. – whatever suits your pantry, fridge or mood but please don’t skip the tomatoes – SO good!
To make the creamy spinach pasta, you’ll start by cooking the chicken sausage and tomatoes for a few minutes, then add the shallots and garlic followed by the flour to thicken the sauce, chicken broth, heavy cream and kisses of oregano, parsley and thyme. Simmer for a few minutes then stir in Parmesan, spinach, corn and basil followed by spaghetti. Now all that’s left to do is slurp, smile, repeat.
spinach pasta RECIPE INGREDIENTS
This spinach pasta recipe looks like there are a lot of ingredients going on but you are just dumping them into the sauce so the recipe actually comes together very quickly. Here’s what you’ll need:
Spaghetti: ideal for creamy sauces and easy to find and keep stocked.
- Pasta shapes: you may substitute the spaghetti with your favorite pasta of choice but I prefer long pasta for its ideal slurp-worthy texture. Short pastas such as cavatappi and rigatoni would also work.
- Pasta types: you can use your favorite whole wheat pasta, lentil pasta, brown rice pasta, gluten free pasta, etc.
- Low carb: go low carb with spiralized zucchini or spaghetti squash.
You can use any type of precooked sausage in this spinach pasta recipe other than breakfast sausage. Look for “fully cooked,” “cooked,” or “smoked” on the label. This is different than our favorite links of ground Italian sausage traditionally used in lasagna, Bolognese, manicotti, linguine, etc. Of course, you can use ground Italian sausage instead, you will just want to give it a head start cooking before adding the tomatoes.
As far as what type of cooked sausage, you can use anything from pork, to chicken to turkey as long as it is fully cooked. Go sweet Italian, go mild Italian, go hot Italian, go andouille, go spinach, go apple – totally your call – or make it different every time! I’m partial, however, to Italian flavored chicken sausage because it blends with the flavors of the spinach pasta recipe.
Now, just stock up on some packages of sausage and stash them in the freezer so you’ll be ready to make this spinach pasta recipe and rescue dinner any night of the week!
- Spinach: you can use baby spinach or mature spinach but you’ll have to tear the mature spinach into smaller pieces. Tips on how to select spinach to follow.
- Tomatoes: please use ripe cherry tomatoes because they are inherently sweeter than grape tomatoes. If you can’t find cherry, you may use grape.
- Corn: there is nothing quite like fresh summer sweet corn! You can char the corn on the grill or in your skillet (instructions included) for a tantalizing sweet and smokey addition or if you’re short on time, you can slice the corn straight off the cob into the spinach pasta. My second choice would be frozen sweet corn.
- Basil: fresh is SO good, but you may use dried in a pinch. Use about 1-2 teaspoons, more or less to taste.
CAN I USE FROZEN SPINACH?
I don’t recommend frozen spinach as it comes already super wilted without the same fresh factor, but it’s up to you. If you decide to use frozen spinach, thaw the spinach first and squeeze out excess moisture.
How to purchase Fresh Spinach:
- Color: look for leaves that are perky medium to dark green in color without any yellowing, wilting or evidence of decay.
- Stems: look for thin stems which indicates the spinach was picked at peak freshness which means it will have the best flavor and texture. Large stems indicate overgrown spinach that will be tough and/or bitter.
- Feel: give the bag of spinach a gentle squeeze; if the spinach springs back easily, it’s likely fresh.
- What to avoid: spinach leaves that are slimy, yellow or have a sour, musty odor.
- Olive oil: use extra virgin olive oil for superior flavor. A mixture of butter and olive oil when cooking adds extra flavor and the olive oil prevents the butter from burning.
- Butter: use unsalted butter so we can control the salt; you may also substitute with olive oil.
- Shallot: one shallot will do the trick. One shallot is considered the entire bulb, regardless of how many cloves the bulb contains.
- Garlic: I use 4-6 cloves garlic and it is divine but feel free to use less if you prefer. You may also use 1 teaspoon garlic powder – but the real stuff is so much better!
- Flour: helps thicken the sauce. You may substitute with gluten free all-purpose flour.
- Chicken broth: is more flavorful than just milk or cream. Make sure you use low sodium broth so we can control the salt.
- Heavy cream: is called “heavy whipping cream” at your grocery store.
- Red chili pepper flakes: enliven the spinach pasta with a little kick. You can also add red pepper to individual servings.
- Seasonings: this spinach pasta is seasoned to perfection with parsley, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Use more or less to taste.
- Parmesan cheese: infuses the sauce with its fantastic salty, nuttiness. For best results, use ONLY freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It is much more flavorful and melts into silky oblivion unlike powdered or pre-shredded cheese.
CAN I SUBSTITUTE THE HEAVY CREAM?
Combining a roux plus a touch of heavy cream makes this spinach pasta restaurant delicious without the calories of using all heavy cream. If you’re trying to save more calories, you can substitute the heavy cream with 1 cup milk whisked with 2 teaspoons cornstarch. You may also use evaporated milk in place of heavy cream. If you still want extra decadence, stir in some warmed, almost melted cream cheese.
Spinach Pasta Recipe Variations
- Ground Italian sausage: you can swap the sliced chicken sausage for ground Italian Sausage.
- Chicken: swap the sausage for chopped chicken or rotisserie chicken.
- Shrimp. roasted shrimp or butter garlic shrimp would be fabulous.
- Go vegetarian: omit the meat altogether and add tofu, chickpeas or white beans in its place.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: add sun-dried tomatoes in addition to the cherry tomatoes. Purchase the sun-dried tomatoes in a jar packed in oil, not water. They are usually located near the olives or pickles at your grocery store. Don’t be tempted to buy the dry shriveled ones that come in a package. Use the oil in the jar instead of the butter and olive oil in the sauce. Rinse the tomatoes, pat dry, chop and sauté with the shallots.
- Veggies: I LOVE the combination of corn and tomatoes together, just like in my Tuscan chicken recipe, but you may swap the vegetables for peas, asparagus, zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower etc.
- Artichokes: are tender, slightly sweet and nutty and divine paired with tomatoes. Purchase artichoke hearts in water NOT marinated. The marinated ones often have an acrid taste. Chop and sauté with the shallots.
- Make it cheesy: add some mozzarella cheese for extra creamy decadence.
- Spice it up: amp up the heat with additional red pepper flakes. Their heat plays nicely with the sweetness of the corn and tomatoes and accentuates all of the flavors of the spinach pasta. I always add at least 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes but if you want to really taste the kick, add 1/2 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon. You can also add additional red pepper flakes to individual servings to keep the spinach pasta family friendly.
- Make it gluten-free: use your favorite gluten-free pasta and gluten free flour in the sauce.
How to Make spinach pasta
- Cook pasta. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water before draining pasta. Toss drained pasta with a drizzle of olive oil to keep it from sticking. Set aside.
- Cook chicken sausage. Melt butter in olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet/saucepan. Add chicken sausage and tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and cook an addition 2-3 minutes.
- Make sauce. Turn heat to low and sprinkle in flour and cook until raw flour smell is gone, 1-2 minutes (it will be thick). Stir in chicken broth and heavy cream followed by all seasonings. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Simmer until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes.
- Add cheese and veggies. Reduce heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted. Stir in spinach, corn and basil and cook 1-2 minutes, just until spinach is wilted.
- Add spaghetti. Add pasta and toss until well coated in sauce, adding a little reserved pasta water if needed to reach desired consistency.
- Season to taste. Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese and fresh basil if desired.
Tips for preparing spinach
- Storage: refrigerate fresh bunches of spinach unwashed in a plastic bag for 3 to 4 days. Don’t wash until you’re ready to use as the moisture will cause it to spoil.
- Store in original packing: many of the bags/plastic containers the spinach is sold in are designed to keep the spinach fresh.
- Wash spinach before using: spinach can be very sandy and should be washed before using. To wash, don’t just rinse, but separate the leaves and submerge in a large bowl of water and gently swish. Next, thoroughly rinse.
- Rinse bagged spinach: even though bagged spinach usually comes pre-washed, it’s a good idea to give the spinach a thorough rinse, although you don’t have to completely submerge the spinach, a good old rinse and spin in a salad spinner will do the trick.
- Dry spinach: the most effective way to dry spinach is in a salad spinner although you can also pat dry with paper towels.
- Trim spinach: you can eat the stems of the spinach, but any tough stems should be removed prior to cooking or eating.
- To tear or not to tear: if you purchase baby spinach, you will likely not have to tear the spinach into smaller pieces, especially if cooking because the spinach shrinks considerably. If you purchase mature spinach, you will likely need to tear large leaves into smaller pieces.
TIPS FOR MAKING SPINACH PASTA RECIPE
This spinach pasta recipe is pretty straightforward, but here are a few tips and tricks for fool proof pasta every time:
- Chicken sausage. This spinach pasta calls for one 11-12-oz. package of sausage which is the standard size sold at most stores. If you find a package with more or less – just use more or less- this recipe is very forgiving. Look for the cooked sausage in the refrigerated section next to the ground Italian sausage links or breakfast sausage.
- Bursting tomatoes. You can cook the tomatoes more or less depending on how “burst” you want them. As written, the tomatoes will be bursting to create a sauce. The timing can also vary depending on the size of your tomatoes.
- Grill corn. Grease and heat grill to high heat. Lightly brush the corn all over with olive oil. Grill corn over direct heat for 10-12 minutes, turning until lightly charred on all sides, closing the lid in between rotations.
- Char corn in skillet. If you don’t want to grill the corn, you can cut the kernels straight off the cob and char in the skillet. To char, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in the skillet over high heat. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally for two minutes then reduce heat to medium-high and add the sausage and tomatoes and proceed with the recipe.
- Fresh Parmesan. Use ONLY freshly grated Parmesan cheese. It is much more flavorful and melts into silky oblivion unlike powdered or pre-shredded cheese.
- Don’t cook spinach in aluminum or cast-iron pans. These metals can chemically react with the spinach and produce undesirable flavor and color changes. Stainless steel is ideal (much stronger metal than aluminum), as it never reacts with food. I love this stainless-steel pan.
- Don’t overcook spinach: spinach cooks extremely quickly and should not be overcooked to maintain its flavor. For best results, cook spinach on low just until it starts to wilt then remove from heat; it will continue to wilt from residual heat.
- Use enough water. Fill a large pot with a very generous amount of water, typically 6 quarts of water for 1 pound of pasta; this is typically three-quarters full. Pasta needs enough water to cook evenly and to move around so it doesn’t clump.
- Salt pasta water. You should always salt your pasta water – it is the one chance you have for the flavor to penetrate the pasta and enhance the flavor – you can taste the difference. Use 1 tablespoon salt for 6 quarts of water.
- Stir pasta. Give the spaghetti a good stir after the water begins to help submerge the noodles completely and to prevent them from sticking together.
- Start cooking time once boiling. Start your cooking timer from the time the water starts to boil after adding the spaghetti.
- Reserve water. Even when a recipe doesn’t specify, it is always a good idea to reserve some of the pasta water before draining the pasta. The starchy, flavorful water can be stirred into the sauce to help reach desired consistency.
- Don’t overcook pasta! Nothing ruins pasta faster than mushy pasta! I recommend testing your pasta about 2 or 3 minutes before the box recommends – pasta should be al dente– meaning it should still be a little firm in the center/ have a “bite” to it.
- Thin sauce if needed. If the sauce becomes too thick, simply stir in a little reserved pasta water until it reaches desired consistency.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT spinach pasta
This spinach pasta recipe reheats well so you can enjoy leftovers for days! Just be aware you always want to make sure your pasta is cooked al dente, especially if you are going to be reheating.
- Storage: Spinach pasta should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When properly stored, it is good for up to five days.
- Microwave: Microwave for one minute, stir, then continue to heat at 30 second intervals until warmed through. You may need to add a splash of milk to add some creaminess back.
- Stove: For larger portions, reheat pasta on the stove. You may need to add a splash of milk to thin the sauce as it will have thickened in the refrigerator.
CAN I FREEZE SPINACH PASTA recipe?
I do not recommend freezing this spinach pasta recipe because the creamy sauce can break and become a funny texture. If you want to try freezing, use evaporated milk instead of heavy cream and omit the Parmesan.
HOW TO MAKE SPINACH PASTA recipe AHEAD
You can make the spinach pasta 100% ahead of time and gently warm (see instructions) or prepare elements in advance so it can come together super quickly at dinner time. That being said, it already is a super quick meal! If you know you are reheating, take extra care that your spaghetti is al dente – testing them a couple minutes before the package directions specify.
To prep ahead:
- Pasta: cook the pasta al dente, drain with cool water and toss with a drizzle of oil to prevent it from sticking together. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Vegetables: grill the corn and cut off the cob.
- Aromatics: mince the garlic, chop the shallots, chop the basil.
- Cheese: grate the Parmesan.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH spinach PASTA
We love this spinach pasta recipe with a big salad, crusty bread and/or any of the following:
- Bread: Garlic Bread, Dinner Rolls, Garlic Parmesan Butter Breadsticks or Pesto Pull Apart Bread.
- Salad: This spinach pasta pairs beautifully with a fresh, crunchy salad. Some of our favorites include Wedge Salad, Apple Salad, Pear Salad, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, Green Bean Salad. Strawberry Salad, and Beet Salad.
- Vegetables: You can skip the salad, and instead opt for cooked veggies such as Roasted Parmesan Broccoli, Roasted Parmesan Asparagus, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Butternut Squash, Glazed Carrots or Roasted Carrots, and Sautéed Brussels Sprouts or Roasted Brussels Sprouts.
- Fruit: Bright, fresh fruit is a must either in the form of fresh grapes, melon, etc. or in fruit salad form. We love Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette, Winter Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Poppy Seed Vinaigrette and Berry Salad in Honey Mascarpone.
Is spinach pasta healthy?
There is a reason spinach is the source of Popeye’s strength – spinach is a nutritional powerhouse that’s high in iron, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate and a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2. This spinach pasta also boasts nutritious tomatoes and corn.
Some of the health benefits of spinach include:
- Vitamin K: is important for maintaining bone health and wound healing. It helps produce four of the 13 proteins needed for blood clotting.
- Vitamin A: helps support eye health, cell division, immune system, and reproduction. Vitamin A also helps the heart, lungs, kidneys, and other organs function properly. Vitamin A also has antioxidant properties which might protect your cells against the effects of free radicals, reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer and other diseases.
- Vitamin C: is a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from damaging free radicals and necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues. It builds collagen, which forms body tissue and bone, and helps cuts and wounds heal.
- Vitamin B-2: helps support cellular functions that give you energy by break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats to produce energy. It also helps your body build red blood cells which allows oxygen to be used by the body.
- Iron: is needed to carry oxygen to from the lungs to all parts of the body. Your body also needs iron to make some hormones and keep your hair, skin and nails healthy. If you do not have enough iron, you will become groggy and weak.
- Manganese: is considered an essential nutrient required for aiding in metabolism, bone formation, regulating blood sugar, decreasing inflammation and immune response.
HELPFUL TOOLS TO MAKE THIS spinach PASTA recipe
- Large Saucepan: a large stainless-steel saucepan is perfect for pastas, stir fries, curries and pan seared chicken. They are virtually indestructible, distribute heat evenly, don’t react with acidic ingredients (like the tomatoes in this spinach pasta) and won’t leech into the food. I love both my 10 and 12-inch Le Creuset Stainless Steel Pans but this more economical pan also has excellent reviews.
- Pasta Pot and Strainer: I LOVE this pasta pot with a removable strainer and use it every time I make pasta! The set allows you to simply lift out the strainer when the pasta is done cooking. The stainless steel also does not discolor, react with food or alter flavors.
- Garlic press: I use this every single day! It is the ultimate garlic press- it is easy-to-use, easy-to-clean and minces garlic with one squeeze.
- Quality Knives: a chef’s knife will be your most used kitchen tool by far! Quality knives make prep time much quicker and are important for safety as well. If you’re concerned about moola, please remember that your best chef knives, depending on how hard you use them and how well you take care of them, can easily last 25 years or more. I love my Wusthof but there are hundreds of less expensive knives with great reviews such as this one.
- Cutting Board: I use my big solid cutting board daily so it’s worth the investment. This extra-large cutting board allows you to prep all your veggies on one surface and the bamboo is easier on knives than plastic.
- Cheese grater: I use this kitchen tool constantly because FRESHLY grated cheese is always the way to go especially in this spinach pasta! Using freshly grated cheese also saves money, tastes better, and MELTS better.
LOOKING FOR MORE PASTA RECIPES?
- Fettuccine Alfredo
- Cheesy Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta
- Sun Dried Tomato Pasta
- Skillet Cheesy Meaty Penne
- Skinny Fettuccine Alfredo
- Italian Spaghetti and Meatballs
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