Author Notes: A creamy, veggie packed pasta that feels at once decadent and wholesome.
I usually make this with chicken Italian sausage and red lentil penne to meet my dietary preferences.
*It works just as well with any tube shaped pasta you like (gluten free, whole wheat, etc) just make sure to cook to al dente.
*Feel free to use whatever Italian sausage you like, omit the sausage completely, or substitute with bacon, pancetta, or other porky delights.
*The toasted walnuts are so divine here with the spinach and Pecorino so I would recommend not substituting if possible! Also, I really like walnuts and that additional crunch and add up to a 1/4 cup more over the top if I'm feeling sassy.
*Pecorino is the tangier, saltier, and more robust cousin to parmesan. And it's made with sheep milk so is great for people (like me) with cow dairy sensitivity. I LOVE it in this but feel free to sub with a good parmesan if you have to.
*This easily doubles or triples and is a huge crowdpleaser.
*As written, this is so nice with a dry, crisp citrusy white wine or rosè! —Britania
Prep time: 15 min
Cook time: 15 min
1.5 cups/5 oz/142 grams
.5 cup/.45 oz/13 grams
2 small or 1 large
.5 cup/1.75 oz/50 grams
Pecorino Romano, shredded
.25 cup/2 fl oz/59 ml
.5 cups/2.2 oz/63 grams
Hollow pasta such as penne, rigatoni, or macaroni
Broccoli, chopped into small, bite size pieces
Sweet Italian sausages, sliced (optional)
Olive oil, for sautéing
- In a large pan over medium high heat, sauté broccoli with a small glug of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste until tender and lightly browned, about 7-10 minutes. "Brown food tastes good!" Set aside into large bowl you'll be serving pasta out of. Cover bowl with large plate or foil to keep hot.
- While your broccoli is sautéing, heat oven to 350 F. Place walnuts on cookie sheet and place in oven while it heats. Toast until fragrant and lightly browned, or about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool. In my oven, the nuts are perfect by the time the oven is heated to 350. Check frequently so as not to burn the walnuts.
- In pan used for broccoli over medium high heat, sauté the sausage slices (if using) until browned, about 7-10 minutes. Set aside in covered serving bowl with broccoli.
- While sausage is sautéing, place in food processor the first nine ingredients along with half of the cooled, toasted walnuts. Pulse until smooth and if you don't mind a finger dip of raw egg, add more salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Also while sausage is sautéing, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add salt (enough that it tastes like ocean water) and pasta.
- Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving half a cup of cooking liquid. Remove cover from serving bowl and immediately add the steaming hot pasta and spinach mixture to broccoli and sausage (if using) and stir vigorously until cheese is melted and sauce is creamy. Add pasta water one tablespoon at a time if additional moisture is needed. I found I only needed one tablespoon.
- Roughly crush remaining walnuts by hand, sprinkling over pasta.