My kitchen has felt a little like an episode of Chopped lately- I open up the pantry, dig inside the fridge, and peer into the freezer to choose from a random array of “mystery ingredients.” Sometimes, I’m left scratching my head- hmmm, what to do with smoked salmon, sweet potatoes, and rolled oats...? Recently, however, I discovered a package of smoked Italian chicken sausages and some jumbo bell peppers and knew I had to use these well-paired ingredients together in a recipe. I also had kale, Rao’s jarred marinara, and penne on hand- bingo! Sausage, pepper, and kale pasta with penne was born. “Sausage and peppers” is a classic, winning combo- I’ve tossed them in with pasta and greens to create a stand out one pan supper. If you aren’t a fan of kale, simply omit it or wilt some spinach in instead. You could certainly use regular Italian pork sausage, but I love the lightness the chicken lends to the hearty dish. I feel like this is “man food” with a lady’s touch- lightened, cleaned up, and beautified a smidge! It’s the perfect dish to prep during these quarantine days when we are all going to the grocery store less, but cooking more. The sealed sausages will keep for a while in the fridge (as long as they are the fully cooked type- raw sausage will have a much shorter fridge life), both kale and peppers seem to last at least a week in the crisper drawer, and almost everything else comes straight from the pantry or spice drawer (sub 1 tsp dried thyme for fresh if needed). I love using brown rice penne (more nutritious, nice texture, easier to digest), but feel free to use regular or even whole wheat. Fusilli or farfalle would also work well- I‘d suggest sticking to a short pasta shape though. This couldn’t be easier but the flavor is super complex and bold. Happy quarantine cooking- stay safe out there!
extra virgin olive oil 9 oz smoked sweet Italian chicken sausage (fully cooked links)
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 large yellow or orange pepper, cut into strips
1 tbsp minced garlic (2-4 cloves)
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped (about 4 cups)
1 cup jarred marinara sauce (recommended: Rao’s)
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
12 oz brown rice or regular penne pasta (or any short pasta of your choice)
Coat the bottom of a large, deep skillet with olive oil and heat over medium. Cut the sausages in half lengthwise, and then slice into 1/2” thick half moons. Add the sausage to the skillet to brown all over, 3-5 minutes. Transfer the browned sausage to a plate with a slotted spoon.
Add 1 more tbsp oil to the same skillet and then toss in the peppers, garlic, pepper flakes, and thyme. Cook, stirring frequently, until the peppers have softened and started to brown at the edges- 7 minutes or so. Add the marinara, chicken stock (you can substitute water) and scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pot. Stir the browned chicken sausage and kale into the sauce and bring to a simmer, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce on low until the kale has wilted and the flavors have melded, 7-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining the penne in a colander. Toss the cooked penne into the sauce (still set on simmer) with 1/2 cup of the reserved water and the parmesan cheese. Stir to coat, adding more pasta water if the mixture seems too thick. Remove the pot from the heat and serve the pasta hot with more Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.