Looking for a unique yet easy pasta dish to add to your weekly rotation? This healthy and delicious Sausage and Kale Pasta is it! Together, chicken sausage, leafy kale, and a creamy pesto sauce pack a wallop that's full of flavor, hearty yet light, and super cozy!
🥬 The Best Weeknight Pasta
Pasta needs little convincing but if you're on the fence about this recipe, let me give you a few reasons why you have to try Sausage Kale Pasta. First, the sauce is homemade. And it's a very light and incredibly easy sauce made from chicken broth, pesto, and butter (of course). It comes together in just minutes thanks to the starchy pasta water to become a creamy, effortless pesto sauce.
Second, this chicken sausage kale pasta is healthy! Kale is a superfood, but add in bone broth, onions, garlic, and tomatoes and you've got yourself a very nutritious meal. There's lean protein from the chicken sausage and if you choose an alternative pasta, you can bulk it up even more.
And lastly, this pasta is just so darn tasty. The tangy sun-dried tomatoes balance the richness of the pesto and sausage. And the leafy kale adds vibrant color and an earthy, fresh taste. This dish truly hits all the marks.. so what are you waiting for?!
Why You'll Love It
- Quick and easy: This pasta recipe only requires 9 ingredients and 30 minutes to come together. It's also very simple and easy to follow.
- Healthy: Chicken sausage, kale, and pesto offers a ton of flavor while providing protein, fat, and plenty of nutrients. This is a well-balanced meal!
- Cozy: This pasta dish is perfect for fall and winter. It's a great, satisfying meal that will warm your tummies on a cold night.
- Pasta: You can use any type and shape of pasta you'd like. I love chickpea pasta when I want more protein but white or whole wheat pasta holds up better, especially if you're meal prepping or making Sausage Kale Pasta in advance. My favorite shapes for this dish is rigatoni, orecchiette, bowtie, penne, or ziti.
- Cooking oil: Avocado oil is my favorite oil to cook, fry, and sauté with because of its high smoke point (500°F) and neutral flavor.
- Sausage: I like chicken sausage to keep it leaner, but feel free to use Italian pork sausage if you'd like.
- Kale: Curly and lacinato (dinosaur) kale are the most common varieties at the supermarket. Curly has thick stems and very curly edges, while lacinato is more dark-blue green with wrinkled leaves. Either will work as long as they're washed and dried with the stems removed. I buy pre-shredded for convenience but you can simply chop large leaves down.
- Chicken bone broth: I cook exclusively with bone broth. It's rich in collagen, supports digestion, and has anti-inflammatory components. Use low or no-sodium when possible.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: Brings a pop of tart flavor and color. Choose the ones packed in oil for more flavor.
- Butter: I like unsalted, grass-fed butter. Just a pat helps emulsify the broth and pesto into a creamy, cohesive sauce.
- Pesto: You can use store-bought jarred pesto or make your own. Since it's the base of our sauce, make sure to use one that you like.
Substitutions & Variations
- If using an alternative pasta like chickpea or lentil, cook the pasta very al dente. Because it's more delicate, overcooking the pasta will cause it to break and tear in the sauce.
- Use any type or flavor of sausage you'd like. Spicy, sweet, cajun, chorizo, or andouille sausage are all great.
- Kale can be replaced with your favorite leafy green. Spinach, collard greens, or Swiss chard are the best substitutes.
- Add your favorite vegetables to this healthy pasta. Broccoli rabe, peas, mushroom, or butternut squash would be delicious!
🔪 How To Make Sausage and Kale Pasta
⬇️ Please scroll down to the recipe card to see full ingredient amounts and instructions.
STEP ONE: First, prepare your ingredients. Dice the onion, grate or mince the garlic, thinly slice the chicken sausage, and remove any thick or hardy stems from the kale.
STEP TWO: Next, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta. You want it to be almost done cooking, about 30 seconds to 1 minute less than package instructions. Also reserve ½ cup of the starchy water.
STEP THREE: Meanwhile, heat a splash of oil in a large skillet or pot over high heat. Add the chicken sausage and sear both sides until browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
STEP FOUR: Add a little more oil if needed and turn the heat down to medium. Sauté the onion with a pinch of salt until it becomes lightly translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
STEP FIVE: Stir in the garlic and toast for 30 seconds until fragrant. If there are browned bits on the bottom of the pan (like mine), deglaze the pan by adding a splash of chicken broth and scraping it up.
STEP SIX: Next, add all of the broth and kale. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and let simmer, stirring frequently, until the kale starts to break down and turn bright green.
STEP SEVEN: Turn the heat down to low and off completely Add the cooked sausage and pasta, pesto, butter, and sun-dried tomatoes. Keep stirring until the butter melts and a sauce forms, adding a splash of pasta water if it looks dry. Season to taste and serve hot.
💭 Top Tips
- Don't use too much water to cook the pasta so it can be extra-starchy. You want just enough water to cover the pasta by 1-2 inches. Also, wait for the water to come to a boil before adding the salt. Salted water takes longer to boil and can over-reduce to become much saltier than intended.
- On that note, save the pasta water! It's such a magic ingredient when cooking pasta dishes. Adding this starchy water to the sauce helps it thicken naturally. It'll also cling onto the pasta better to provide more flavor and silkiness.
- Cut the sausage thinly and diagonally (also called on the bias). This provides more surface area so you'll get more seared, browned areas.. aka more flavor!
- When adding the pesto, make sure the heat is on low or completely off. Cooking it will dull the flavor and color.
🥡 Storing & Freezing
Storing: If you have leftover chicken sausage and kale pasta, let it cool completely before storing it an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezing: I don't recommend freezing this pasta because it's not ideal to reheat pesto. If you'd still like to, just let it cool completely before freezing individual portions in zip-top bags with as much air removed as possible. Store in the freezer for 3 months.
Reheating: Reheat the pasta in the microwave in 1 minute intervals until warm. Alternatively, you could heat it in a pot over medium-low heat, adding splashes of water or broth to revive it as needed.
📖 Recipe FAQs
Most of the time, yes. All you have to do is slice and sear it to get more flavor. However, you should always check the packaging to double check and make sure it's pre-cooked first.
Adding in fresh ingredients like basil, Parmesan cheese, or lemon zest will bring out the flavors of jarred pesto to make it taste more homemade.
🍽 Looking For More Pasta?
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Sausage and Kale Pasta
- 6 oz pasta about 2½ cups
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil I use avocado oil
- 2 links chicken sausage thinly sliced
- ¼ small onion diced; about ⅔ cup
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 3 handfuls shredded kale large stems removed; about 3 packed cups
- ½ cup chicken bone broth Low or no sodium recommended
- 2 tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes oil reserved
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup pesto
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Cook pasta 1 minute less than box instructions and reserve ½ cup pasta water. Then drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat half the cooking oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the sausage in a single layer and sear each side for 1-2 minutes or until browned. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Turn heat down to medium and add remaining oil. Add onion along with a pinch of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes until it starts to get translucent, then stir in garlic for 30 seconds. If the bottom of your skillet is browning, add a splash of broth and use your wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits.
- Add kale, chicken broth, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until kale turns bright green and starts to wilt down, about 2 minutes.
- Turn heat down to low. Add cooked pasta and sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, butter, pesto, and a small splash of pasta water. Stir until butter melts and everything is evenly coated (if it looks dry, pour in a small splash of pasta water as needed). Season to taste.
- Use any type or shape of pasta you'd like. If using an alternative pasta (like chickpea or lentil), cook the pasta very al dente since it's more delicate. I recommend boiling it about 2-3 minutes less than package instructions.