This is the time of year when I’m constantly searching for quick meals to make at night when more important things trump a long-winded weeknight dinner…like cookie baking, tree decorating, vanilla eggnog drinking, and old-school Christmas carol singing.  And this year, add organizing my house for a big move to that list.  Yep, that’s right…our house is almost finished and we expect to be moved in during the week between Christmas and New Year’s!  It’s been quite an insane time of my life and much to my excitement (and relief?), I’ve recently discovered a gold mine of quick meals with my new Cook’s Illustrated online subscription.  (Don’t have one?  Want to win one??)

Skillet Penne with Chicken Sausage and Spinach

This recipe is one of those.  It’s a one pot meal that I had on the table in under 30 minutes from prep to finish and after running to between noon and 5 yesterday, the last thing I wanted to do was make dinner.  But you know what?  This meal practically got itself on the table and I couldn’t have been happier with how it turned out.  I tweaked the recipe a little, adding some white wine in place of the chicken broth and finishing off the sauce with some cream (it needed a little boost) and I’ve reflected my changes below.  It’s a killer meal and I can tell you that it will be on my table again in the next couple of crazy weeks, for sure.


Skillet Penne with Chicken Sausage and Spinach
source: adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, May 2007 (also found in The Best 30-Minute Recipe)
You can most definitely swap out the raw sausage for pre-cooked chicken sausage, as I did, in this recipe.  Simply slice the sausage into 1/4-inch slices and saute the sausage for 2-3 minutes, just as in step 1 below; then proceed as directed.  If you don’t want to use wine, use 2 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth and reduce the water to 2 1/4 cups – the total liquid in the recipe (excluding the cream) should be 4 1/2 cups.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb hot or sweet Italian turkey or chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/4 cups dry white wine
  • 3 1/4 cups water
  • 8 oz (2 1/2 cups) penne, ziti, or rotini pasta
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed, dried, and chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)


  1. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add sausage, breaking it up with a spoon, and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in wine, water, pasta, tomatoes, and salt.  Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring often, until penne is tender and liquid has thickened, 15 to 18 minutes.  Stir in 3/4 cup of cream or half-and-half; increase the amount up to 1 cup if the dish needs a little thinning after you add the spinach in the next step.
  3. Stir in spinach, one handful at time, and cook until wilted. Off heat, stir in Parmesan and nuts (if using).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hot.


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Leave a Comment

  • November 30, 2011 at 6:08 AM

    This is such a great recipe! I love that you use chicken sausage in here for so much flavor. It keeps things on the lighter side so you can afford to add a little more cream or wine- which must send this dish over the top..holy yum! Love CI’s recipes and it’s nice to find ones that are easy weeknight meals. Good luck on your move!

  • November 30, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    Quick meals are a must this time of year, for sure! This sounds great, can’t wait to try it!

  • Ali
    November 30, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    I loooove super fast weeknight meals! This looks delicious…perfect for a chilly evening! Thanks!

  • November 30, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    Quick meals are always something I need more of. And this one looks amazing!

  • November 30, 2011 at 10:39 AM

    A quick meal with that ingredient list? Sign me up! I will definitely be making this…stat! Thanks!

  • November 30, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    Looks quick and delicious- i’ll probably make a version of this for tomorrow’s dinner!

  • November 30, 2011 at 3:15 PM

    Wow. This looks delicious. I love chicken sausage – and thank you for the quick meal ideas. I totally agree – I barely want to be in the kitchen any more after I’ve been baking all day!

  • November 30, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    I just had a huge lunch and these pictures are making me hungry all over again! My roommate actually had something similar last night from one of those Healthy Choice frozen dinners and I couldn’t help but think that I could make something more appetizing. I’ll definitely have to show her this so we can make it soon!

  • November 30, 2011 at 9:58 PM

    Oh my goodness! This looks so yummy!

  • December 1, 2011 at 12:12 AM

    Tara, this looks so good! Definitely adding it to the rotation soon. And thanks for the shout-out!

  • December 1, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    Yum! This sounds and looks delicious! It’s a good way to sneak in a little extra veggie power, too ;). Thanks for sharing!

  • December 1, 2011 at 11:26 PM

    This looks incredibly rich, and delicious. Putting this one on a future menu for sure!

  • December 2, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    That dinner did not take 30 minutes! It’s gorgeous! I would have absolutely no problem entertaining with this or serving it to my family after a long day of carpool, changing diapers, tying shoes, doing dishes…

  • Lisa
    December 4, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    I made this last night and added roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts and fresh tomatoes…. yum!

  • Michelle
    December 11, 2011 at 9:15 PM

    I made this tonight and it was delicious! Tasted better that something I would eat at a restaurant. I was excited to only have to clean one pot.

  • Amy
    December 11, 2011 at 9:21 PM

    I made this tonight, and it was fantastic! I think your changes really put it over the top. Thanks for a great recipe. 🙂

  • February 23, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Sounds like the perfect weeknight meal!