This easy weeknight pasta dinner uses ricotta to make the delicious creamy penne sauce. A little out of the box, yes, but I like to make a game out of leftover or partially used ingredients in my fridge and pantry.
Like, how can half a lemon, six ounces of chicken stock, and sour cream be repurposed into some sort of delectable savory sauce to brush over a lightly salted grilled chicken breast? Hmmm…
Or, maybe a handful of berries, a bruised pear, and a mostly used carton of half-n-half can be whipped into one of the best cobblers on the planet.
Not only is that “game” fun, it’s also practical. Like the companion piece to eating dinner leftovers at work the next day. Or like your own personal episode of Chopped.
Recently I stared into the refrigerator, puzzled about what to make for dinner. Mushrooms, fresh spinach, onions, chicken sausage … ricotta?
Ricotta: The cheese that’s relegated to lasagnas and stuffed shells.
Despite what you may think of as a meager one trick pony ingredient, ricotta is actually quite versatile! Aside from the obvious Italian recipe uses, fans of the creamy lower fat cheese also find it’s brilliant in delectables like cheesecake and pancakes.
Or, in this case, pasta sauce to make creamy penne!
- 8 ounces dried penne
- 1 package savory fully cooked chicken sausage (your favorite flavor)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 8 white mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup whole milk ricotta
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Place a large pot of water, plus the 2 tablespoons of salt, on the stove to boil. Cook the penne for 9 minutes, reserve a cup of pasta water, then drain.
- Meanwhile, add the olive oil to a large skillet, and warm it over medium heat for a few minutes. Add the sausages, browning each side for 2 minutes until they're seared all over. Remove the sausages to a paper towel-covered plate to rest.
- Saute the mushrooms in the skillet for a few minutes, until they've started to brown. Add the onions, and continue to cook them until they're almost translucent, then toss in the spinach. Once the spinach has wilted, add the garlic, sprinkle everything with 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper, then continue sauteeing for 1 minute more.
- Add the chicken stock to the skillet and bring it to a boil. Whisk in the ricotta*, then reduce the heat to keep it at a simmer. Add the pasta and the reserved pasta water (the pasta will finish cooking in the sauce).
- Slice the sausage and toss it with the skillet mixture and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Serve with warm crusty bread.
*The ricotta has a tendency to break in the sauce and look curdled. This doesn't affect the flavor, but it can look odd to some people. If the look of a broken sauce bothers you, wait until the last minute to stir it in — right before serving.
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- Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet with Assist Handle Holder, 12", Red Silicone
- OXO Good Grips 12-Inch Tongs with Black Silicone Heads
- AmazonBasics Stainless Steel Wire Whisk Set - 3-Piece
- Pyrex Prepware 2-Cup Measuring Cup, Red Graphics, Clear
- Bialetti Oval 5 Quart Pasta Pot with Strainer Lid, Nonstick, 1, Black
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 305Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 57mgSodium: 704mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 19g