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!
Servings 6 -8 servings
- 16 oz. spaghetti or pasta of choice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 12 oz. pkg. FULLY COOKED Italian spiced chicken sausage sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
- 1 large shallot, chopped
- 4-6 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried parsley
- 1/2 tsp EACH dried thyme, salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 12 oz. baby spinach
- 2 ears grilled fresh sweet corn kernels cut off the cob (see notes)
- 1/4 cup basil chopped
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.
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 additional 2-3 minutes, just until the shallots are softened. 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.
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 pasta and toss until well coated in sauce, adding a little reserved pasta water if needed to reach desired consistency. 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 and Tricks
This spinach pasta recipe is pretty straightforward, but here are a few tips and tricks for fool proof pasta every time:
- Spinach: look for leaves that are perky medium to dark green in color and thin stems which indicates the spinach was picked at peak freshness so it will have the best flavor and texture. Large stems indicate overgrown spinach that will be tough and/or bitter.
- 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.
- Swap protein. You can use ground Italian sausage but you'll want to give it a head-start cooking before adding the tomatoes. You can also used chopped chicken, rotisserie chicken, roasted shrimp or butter garlic shrimp.
- Shallot: one shallot will do the trick. One shallot is considered the entire bulb, regardless of how many cloves the bulb contains
- 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.
- Make it gluten-free: use your favorite gluten-free pasta and gluten free flour in the sauce.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Storage: Spinach pasta should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When properly stored, it is good for up to five days.
- Freezer: I do not recommend freezing 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.v
- 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.
HOW TO prep AHEAD
- Pasta: cook the pasta al dente (don't overcook!), 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.