This post has been sponsored by Del Monte®. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
This Easy Parmesan Pasta is a quick meal the whole family will enjoy.
I have joked several times in the last six months about my son’s picky eating. It seems to be an almost universal toddler (and mom) experience. One day, your sweet, adventurous eater is stuffing beets into his mouth, and the next day he acts like vegetables personally insulted him on Twitter.
It’s easy to make jokes about my son’s fickleness with food, but the truth is, it really bothers me. As a family who loves to eat and enjoys experimenting with all different kinds of foods, his lack of interest or (worse) outright rejection of what I make feels like a report card on both my parenting AND my cooking.
Still, we try not to change our eating habits to cater to his ever-narrowing list of acceptable foods. Instead, we cook the foods we enjoy, and encourage our son to try new things while also keeping a few of his comfort foods on the plate. It’s far from a perfect system. I still get frustrated and discouraged. I’m still tempted to threaten, coerce, or beg, but then I remind myself we’re playing the long game here. What’s most important to me isn’t what my son does (or doesn’t) eat, but creating a family table that’s safe, happy, and enjoyable for all of us.
So, I keep on cooking, and we keep on gathering. And occasionally, something clicks, and our little guy surprises us by eating forkful after forkful of pasta with Del Monte® green beans and corn.
This Chicken Sausage and Parmesan Pasta combines really simple ingredients to create a dish that’s quick, creamy, and comforting, but still packed with vegetables and protein.
The pasta gets much of its flavor from one simple technique: salted pasta water. I cannot emphasize this enough. Salting your pasta water is the best thing you can do to take your pasta from meh to YEH! I like to use Kosher salt which is a little more mellow than iodized salt. A heaping tablespoon for 4 quarts of water is about perfect.
In this case, the salted pasta water flavors both your pasta and your veggies. Adding canned veggies directly to the pot along with your pasta saves time and dishes, plus the pasta and veggies add starch to the water, which then acts as a great thickener for the sauce. Science is awesome, right?!
For this recipe, I use Del Monte® Fresh Cut Blue Lake Cut Green Beans and Fresh Cut Sweet Whole Kernel Corn. I appreciate Del Monte’s long history of farming, their practice of picking vegetables at the peak of freshness, and that their vegetables are canned in non-BPA intent cans within hours of picking. Their veggies are canned with just water and sea salt, so I keep Del Monte® canned vegetables in the pantry for a simple, flavorful veggie option year round.
While the veggies and pasta cook, I saute some chicken sausage on the side. Once the pasta and veggies are done, we strain the water, making sure to reserve at least a cup to use for the sauce.
Then comes the real magic. The pasta, veggies, chicken sausage, olive oil and Parmesan cheese all get tossed in a big bowl. As everything is stirred together, you add little pours of the reserved pasta water, which helps the cheese melt and also thickens the sauce. After that, all you need is a little seasoning. I like a lot of fresh cracked pepper and a sprinkle of basil, though you can make it without the basil when you really need a pantry staple meal.
What you’re left with is a simple, creamy, colorful pasta the whole family can enjoy. I’ve experimented a lot with this recipe, sometimes switching up the type of pasta or adding broccoli or using a flavored olive oil. It’s extremely adaptable, and each time I’ve made it, our feisty little guy has eaten it, veggies and all.
If you find yourself in a similarly frustrated state with you two year old tyrant, be encouraged. You’re not alone. Keep setting the table. Keep gathering. Keep making the food you love. And one day, maybe your little one will surprise you and love it too. Celebrate the successes, however small they may be, and when the going gets tough just remember, the less they eat, the more there is for us!
Easy Parmesan Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Green Beans
- 12 ounce package chicken sausage, sliced into coins (I prefer cheesy or garlicky versions)
- Kosher salt
- 1 lb. gemelli pasta
- 1 14.5 oz. can Del Monte® Fresh Cut Blue Lake Cut Green Beans
- 1 15.25 oz. can Del Monte® Fresh Cut Sweet Whole Kernel Corn
- 2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese
- 10 fresh basil leaves, sliced into strips
- 1 Tablespoon good quality olive oil *see note*
- Fresh cracked pepper
- 1 cup reserved pasta water
- Add 1 Tablespoon of Kosher salt to a large pot of water. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Uncover, add the pasta, and stir. Set the timer for 3 minutes less than what the package calls for to make "al dente" pasta. When the timer goes off, stir in the Del Monte® canned vegetables. Boil the remaining 3 minutes then drain the pasta and vegetables, making sure to reserve at least 1 cup of the water.
- Meanwhile, saute the chicken sausage over medium heat, flipping occasionally, until browned.
- In a large bowl, combine the pasta, vegetables, and chicken sausage. Toss with the olive oil, then stir in Parmesan cheese. Stir together, adding small pours of the hot pasta water as you go. (You likely will not need the entire cup). Continue to stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is coating the pasta, adding additional water if needed. Taste, then season as desired with additional salt and pepper. Top with fresh basil. Serve.
Since you'll be using the olive oil as a finisher for this dish, and it's not being cooked, I recommend using a high quality extra virgin olive oil. Flavored oils, like basil and garlic, can really shine here too.