Whole Wheat Penne with Sausage, Spinach, & Ricotta

I adapted this recipe from one I saw on Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations. I substituted whole wheat penne for the pappardelle, onions for the scallions, and parsley for the sage. I also added in Italian turkey sausage and some crushed red pepper, since Jim requires meat with dinner and we both like a little spice. I was a little nervous that Jim wouldn’t care for this, but was pleasantly surprised when he asked that it be put into the weeknight dinner “rotation”. That won’t be a problem since it was quick, easy, and relatively healthy.


  • 12 ounces whole wheat penne
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 links Italian turkey sausage, 1 package, casings removed
  • ¼ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper, optional
  • Two 5-ounce bags baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, I used part skim
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the penne until al dente. Drain the penne thoroughly, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Cook the sausage until browned and cooked through. Add the scallions, garlic, and crushed red pepper, if using. Cook over high heat until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach in large handfuls and cook, stirring, until wilted.
  4. Add the pasta, butter, parsley and ricotta and toss.
  5. Add 3/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water and the Parmigiano and season generously with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook over moderately low heat, tossing, until the sauce is thick and creamy, adding more of the pasta water as needed.
  7. Transfer the pasta to bowls and serve right away, with grated Parmigiano.

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