Italian Sausage Pasta with Kale is a creamy, comforting dinner you can make in less than 30 minutes.
Quick and Easy Italian Sausage Pasta
I truly enjoy the process of cooking. On a lazy Sunday, there’s nothing better than dedicating a few hours to a decadent Cottage Cheese Lasagna or Oven Braised Beef Short Ribs.
But the truth is, 90% of the time I need quick recipes that get dinner on the table without a lot of fuss or dishes, and this Sausage and Kale Pasta fits the bill.
It will take you about 20 minutes to make this Italian Sausage Pasta, and about 2 seconds to realize it’s going to become a regular on your dinner rotation for the winter.
This is the type of meal you want to curl up with after a long day. It’s rich, satisfying, and has enough greens to make our pasta-loving hearts feel virtuous.
Ingredients in Italian Sausage Pasta
Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe. There’s a good chance you already have what you need in the pantry and fridge!
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- ½ lb. ground mild Italian sausage (not links)
- Small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 ½ cups chopped kale (from about 6 kale stalks)
- Juice of ½ a lemon
- Dash red pepper flakes
- ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces pasta
- Reserved pasta water
- Black pepper, to taste
How to Make Pasta with Sausage and Kale
This recipe comes together quickly, so I highly recommend having all of your ingredients prepped before you start. The sausage and creamy Parmesan sauce will cook while the pasta boils, so everything is hot and ready around the same time!
- Start by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Italian sausage and onion and saute until sausage is no longer pink and onion is softened. Drain any excess fat from the pan.
- Add the half and half to the skillet, using a spatula to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and cook until the half and half is reduced by about half and thickened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Stir in the kale and allow it to wilt. Stir in the lemon juice and red pepper flakes, followed by the Parmesan cheese. Stir until melted.
- Add the cooked pasta to the pot with the sausage mixture and toss to coat. Stir in splashes of pasta water as needed to thin the sauce and get it to thoroughly coat all of the pasta. Sprinkle with cracked black pepper to taste, and serve hot with additional Parmesan cheese if desired!
Substitutions and Tips
This recipe is incredibly versatile! Feel free to swap ingredients based on what you have on hand.
- Choose any type of Italian sausage you like-sweet, mild, and hot all work well here.
- You can also use many different kinds of pasta for this. I’ve used penne, bowties, and rotini with great success. I think fettuccine could also work.
- You can substitute heavy cream for the half and half, but I don’t recommend using milk.
- Substitute spinach for the kale if you prefer.
- Time saving tip: buy pre-chopped kale at the grocery store. It usually comes in a large package, so I use whatever I need for a recipe, then store the rest in the freezer. It can go straight from the freezer into smoothies or other recipes, like this Creamy Sausage Kale Sweet Potato Soup.
- Add more heat to the dish by adding more red pepper flakes, or omit them completely for a very mild dish.
- Did your pasta finish cooking a little before the sauce? No worries! Toss it with a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick together. If your sauce is done first, turn heat to low while you wait for the pasta to finish.
More Italian Sausage recipes to check out!
We love Italian sausage around these parts! It adds so much flavor to soups and pastas, and is also wonderful on its own. Here are a few more of our favorites:
- Italian Sausage Stew with White Beans
- Baked Italian Sausage and Potatoes with Green Beans
- Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup
- Easy Cheesy Pizza Casserole
- One Pot Orecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli
- Cheesy One Pot Tortellini and Sausage with Garden Veggies
Creamy Italian Sausage Pasta
This Creamy Italian Sausage Pasta with Kale is a 30 minute meal that's perfect comfort food for busy weeknights.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 cup half and half
- About 6 large kale leaves, torn from the rib and roughly chopped (About 1 1/2 cups)
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Dash red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 8 oz. penne or bowtie pasta
- Reserved pasta water
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Start a pot of water to a boil, adding about 1 Tablespoon of Kosher salt to the pot. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. If your sauce isn't completed by the time the pasta is done, toss it with a drizzle of oil to prevent it from sticking.
- Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and onion and cook until sausage is browned and onion is softened, about 7 minutes. Drain any excess fat from the pan.
- Add half and half to the skillet, scraping up any browned bits at the bottom. Bring to a simmer and let cook down until reduced by about half, or approximately 3-4 minutes.
- Add kale to the sausage mixture and let wilt. Add lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and cheese, stirring until the cheese is melted.
- Add the cooked pasta to the skillet, stirring to combine. If sauce is too thick, add splashes of pasta water to get it to thin and thoroughly coat the pasta. Serve warm with good crusty bread and a side salad!
Feel free to increase the heat in the recipe by adding more red pepper flakes or using hot Italian sausage.
See the post above for more tips and substitutions.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 531Total Fat: 21gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 55mgSodium: 623mgCarbohydrates: 61gFiber: 7gSugar: 14gProtein: 27g
Please note nutritional information for my recipes is calculated by a third party service and provided as a courtesy to my readers. For the most accurate calculation, I always recommend running the numbers yourself with the specific products you use.
I have made this over and over again! It is a family favorite that is so easy on a weeknight. It’s also a great meal to take to a friend — everyone always asks for the recipe. Just wanted to share how much I love this recipe! Thank you!
This dish was amazing and easy to make…so so delicious! The fact that it’s on the healthier side is a terrific bonus 😊
Serious comfort food, and so fast and easy. Well done! Will be on our dinner table later this week, for sure.
We’re going to link to this on our social media so everyone can see how you made it .
–Your friendly Southern Calif. farmers at Cut ‘N Clean Greens
Thanks so much! It definitely is serious comfort food. It’s a go to for us on busy nights.
I am making this right now, and it smells so yummy.
This looks so perfect Courtney! Seriously…I want some right now. And the photos are gorgeous, as usual. Did you make the weathered board in the background? You would. It’s awesome!
Thanks so much Karen. And, uhhh…funny story about this board. I bought all this cheapo plywood to make my own photo backgrounds and took it out to my parent’s farmhouse to assemble. We get halfway through the project, where I’m trying to make this new wood look old and vintage, and my mom goes, “Hey, I think we might have some old wood boards out in the barn.” Sure enough, we go out back, and there was this beauty just as scruffy and scratched up and blue and PERFECT as ever. So long story short, no, I didn’t make it. 🙂
No way! That is too good to be true! Making some boards that look like this has been on my to-do list for like…a year and a half. You’ve inspired me! I’m going to do it! Or at least I’m going to make friends with people who have an old barn. Can I have your parent’s number? lol
Haha! Go the old barn route! It’s the fastest for sure. But if that doesn’t work, I used this tutorial from Confections of a Foodie Bride to make a few other backgrounds (that still aren’t finished…because I have to stretch every project over MONTHS, clearly). http://www.jasonandshawnda.com/foodiebride/archives/7848/
I love penne pasta! This dish sounds fabulous!
Really, really love this, Courtney! So comforting!
Thanks Cassie. It’s totally the sausage. 🙂
I just made a spinach artichoke dip with kale tonight. I agree, kale makes everything better 🙂
Now that’s a great idea!
This looks so good! I think kale might be one of my favorite ingredients.
Sausage makes everything better <—laughing out loud because I can cook literally ANYTHING throw sausage on it, and the hubs will eat it. I bet it's bonkers good in this creamy dish!
I know…I always feel like I’m cheating when I use it, because it just adds so much flavor you don’t really need anything else. 🙂
This looks DELICIOUS. I love fennel sausage, and with that cheese and some pasta, that’s perfection.
Thanks Sarah. I’m glad you stopped by!
Ahhhh, quick ‘n easy, two of my favourite English words! This looks delicious, Courtney. I could eat pasta every day if my waistline would cooperate with me.
This is definitely my kind of pasta dish! Total comfort food. Kale and cream sauces were meant for each other!
Totally…I’m going to start putting kale on ALL THE THINGS. Until I get sick of it…then it’s on to chard! 🙂
There are few things more comforting on a chilly evening that a bowl of creamy pasta! Love this!
Agreed! I make this all winter long!
This is the perfect winter meal and I love one pot dishes that incorporate a green. Means no need to worry about fixing up some sort of veg.
Oh, kale. I don’t know how I would get through the winter without it! This pasta looks like the best quick & easy dinner idea ever (I mean, sausage, hello).
PS- I voted! Good luck, girl!
Thanks so much Ruthy! Also, I think I may just have to do a tribute to sausage on the blog one day. It’s got so much flavor, it seriously feels like I’m cheating when I cook with it. Seasoning isn’t even needed.