The weather here in the DC metro area has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride this month: we’ve had 60-70 degree days, and 30-40 degree days, all in the same week! As of today it’s officially spring but it still doesn’t quite feel like it on the outside so I’m going to convince myself otherwise by eating like it is. No more chilis, pot pies, soups, heavy hearty warm meals (God bless the crockpot!) and the like for the family. I’m thinking lighter and simple, yet still filling. Maybe this pasta dish for instance? I know, I know. I adore pasta. Pasta isn’t really light, but what makes this dish lighter is that there’s no cream - the chicken stock, the cheese, and the butternut squash meld together to create a creamy creamless sauce. It’s healthier! Also, with the squash and spinach as the vegetables you really can’t go wrong. Feel free to add/modify the vegetables in this as you see fit, and/or even swap out the regular pasta for gluten-free if necessary.
Penne with Italian Sausage, Butternut Squash, & Baby Spinach
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound of Italian sausage ( If links, remove the casing. I prefer to use turkey instead of pork, but whatever floats your boat.)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
5 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
12 ounces penne pasta
3 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced
3 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
2 large sage leaves, chopped (or 1/4 teaspoon dried sage)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Freshly grated Parmesan for serving, if desired
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat with 1 tbsp of olive oil & saute the shallot, garlic, sausage, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium heat, breaking up the meat into small pieces, and cooking until the sausage is cooked through, 5-7 minutes. Remove mixture from the pan onto a plate and return skillet back to the heat.
Add the chicken broth and pasta, bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the squash and simmer for 5-7 more minutes. As the squash breaks down, it will help add the creaminess to the sauce and the pasta. Feel free to add more liquid if the mixture seems dry (1/4 cup at a time).
Stir in the spinach and sage and cook for 1-2 minutes until the spinach is wilted. Add the sausage/shallot mixture back to the skillet and stir in the cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the skillet from the heat, cover with a lid, and let the pasta sit for 5-10 minutes. Give it a good stir and serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.