Creamy Italian Sausage and Tomato Sauce with Penne Pasta or Zoodles Recipe

Creamy Italian Sausage and Tomato Sauce with Penne Pasta or Zoodles Recipe

Michigan Mama Recipe Blogger-Alison Catone

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My husband travels A LOT and he’s always telling me about these meals he’s tried in different cities and countries. Sometimes he sends me pictures and I text him how great the food looks. Then other times he sends photos of delicious dishes while I’m neck-deep in the morning chaos, refereeing an argument, consoling a child for a “cut” I can’t see, or rushing them out the door to someone’s practice…then he doesn’t usually get an excited reply – I’ve had to refrain from sending him certain emojis; and sometimes, it’s better if I just don’t reply at all. I know you parents out there know exactly what I mean, with or without traveling partners. It’s all about timing, right?!

The other day, he told me about a dish he saw that looked amazing. He said it appeared to be like a penne alla vodka sauce with a tomato base and Italian sausage with fresh spinach folded in. Maybe it was the mood I was in or maybe I was really hungry, but I decided to try to relive this dish and see if we could concoct our own version. Again, it’s all about the timing because when I was ready to roll up my sleeves in the kitchen, it also happened to be a Sunday when football was on. This then made it difficult for my husband to recall what he thought was in the dish…or even stay completely focused at times. At one point, he even changed his mind and called from the living room, ”Maybe it was chicken tenderloins…oh, and I think it had bacon..!” {insert me sighing, forehead in hand}.

This was definitely a challenging recipe because I counted on another person to tell me what to do and what ingredients to include….all while football was grabbing the attention that I needed!! Grrr, football, grrr! In the end, though, my husband and I made a good team and pulled it off. The result was a meal the entire family enjoyed. In fact, I think it was a great dish with a ton of flavor and I’ll be making this again. I also learned that if I need my husband in the kitchen, to avoid Sunday afternoons. Tell me what you think!


  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Coconut Oil
  • 1 Small Onion, Chopped
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, Whole
  • A Handful of Basil, Rinsed and Dried
  • 1 Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes PLUS 1/2 Cup of the Tomato Juice – Reserve Remainder
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 1/8 Tsp Ground Pepper
  • 1 Packet Stevia or 1 Tsp Sugar
  • Pinch of Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage
  • 8 Oz Heavy Cream
  • Spinach Leaves
  •  Penne Pasta or Zucchini Noodles
  • Grated or Shredded Parmesan – Optional


  • If you don’t own an immersion blender, you can use a food processor or other type of blender. Just be sure that you don’t seal the lid or there is an opening for the steam to escape. Otherwise, it could be a disaster – believe, me, I’ve only made the mistake once (ok, maybe three times).
  • Add the reserved tomato juice if the sauce becomes too thick while simmering.
  • Be sure to drain the sausage. I know some people think it adds flavor, but I don’t. I especially don’t like seeing it all thickened if we have leftovers and refrigerate it. I recently learned to use a turkey baster to suction the fat out of the pan and into a bowl lined with aluminum foil. Let the oil cool and harden, then discard.
  • I recommend saving some pasta water because you can always add it if you want a thinner sauce after the spinach is added. The starch liquid will help keep it from becoming ‘watery.’
  • Don’t forget to taste as you cook! You don’t want to be overwhelmed with seasonings or find that it’s too bland when it’s too late.
  • My family ate this with penne pasta. I set some aside before mixing in the penne pasta, and ate my portion over some zucchini noodles – I really enjoyed it! If you don’t know what zoodles are, they’re noodles made from zucchini (I know, what a profound name, haha!). My girlfriend, Amanda, had this tool and I had to get it – I just love it (I had a hand one that was awful). Plus, the heat from the sauce softens the zoodles, so I didn’t even have to steam them.


  1. Add the oil to a medium-size pot; heat at medium. Add chopped onion and saute until they become slightly transparent, then add the whole cloves of garlic. Saute for another few minutes.
  2. Add the basil. Once it’s wilted, begin adding the tomatoes (I use a slotted spoon) and tomato juice, leaving the remaining liquid in the can.
  3. Add the four seasonings and bring the heat down to low as you mix everything together.
  4. Using an immersion blender, remove the pot from the heat and pulse the blender until you get the desired consistency. Keep the blender handy because you may want to blend it a little more as it simmers.
  5. Simmer, uncovered. I like to cover the pan with a splatter screen to avoid those occasional explosions of sauce.
  6. While the sauce is simmering, heat a pan on medium-high and add the Italian sausage. Continue to cook and break up until it is thoroughly browned. Drain and set aside.
  7. Boil pasta, following the instructions on the bag or box, and drain.
  8. Place the sausage pan on medium-low heat and add your homemade tomato sauce to it.
  9. Slowly stir in the cream, adding more if desired. Just remember you want to avoid diluting the flavors with too much liquid. I think it is a perfect amount when it’s a creamy orange.
  10. Fold in the spinach and then add in the cooked pasta so that all the ingredients are in one pan.
  11. Top with parmesan cheese before serving.

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Michigan Mama News Recipe Blogger-Alison Catone

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Credit: My Life’s Manual

Alison Catone

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