This pasta with sausage and broccolini is a simple yet rich homemade meal the whole family will love. It’s made with gluten-free penne pasta tossed with tender broccolini, flavorful Italian sausage, and a decadent lemon cream sauce.
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This broccolini pasta dish is the perfect example of the simplest ingredients coming together to make the best meal. Thanks to its creamy sauce, this quick meal has a few simple ingredients but tastes like you spent all evening on it.
It’s light and refreshing, but hearty and comforting at the same time. And while we love our classic San Marzano marinara sauce and easy dairy-free basil pesto, this lemon cream sauce is a nice change of pace and a fun variation on a classic Italian dish.
📖Why This Recipe Works
- 30-Minute Meal- This recipe is ready in a total of 30 minutes, but tastes like you spent way more time on it. By cooking the broccolini with the pasta we save a considerable amount of time and save some dishwashing.
- Hearty and Filling- With carbs, protein, and veggies, a serving of this will have you totally satisfied. That’s not to say, of course, that you can’t enjoy it with your favorite side dishes!
- Versatile- This meal is easy enough to whip up on any weeknight, but also decadent enough to serve for a dinner party.
This recipe can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta.
This recipe uses dried pasta, and you can use regular or gluten-free pasta depending on your needs.
I typically use penne pasta. But you can also swap it out for another short pasta shape like fusilli, bowtie pasta, or orecchiette pasta. Just keep in mind that different kinds of pasta need different amounts of time to cook.
Fresh Broccolini - Broccolini is a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli. It has a slightly sweeter flavor and smaller florets. You can also just use regular broccoli florets or broccoli rabe if preferred
Italian Sausage - I recommend mild Italian sausage bought in bulk (i.e. ground pork, not in link form). The mild flavor pairs well with the lemon flavor. If you can only find sweet Italian sausage in link form, you can simply remove it from the casing.
Aromatics - Sautéed onion and garlic create the perfect sweet flavor base for the cream sauce.
Lemon Zest and Juice - A sprinkle of lemon zest and a couple of tablespoons of juice gives the sauce the perfect light, citrusy flavor. You need 1 to 2 fresh lemons.
Heavy Whipping Cream - You could also use whole milk or half-and-half, but the flavor won’t be quite as rich.
Cream Cheese - Be sure to cut the cream cheese into small cubes before adding it to the sauce. This helps it melt more quickly into the other ingredients.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
This recipe can be made vegetarian. You can leave the sausage out entirely or swap it out for a meatless variety.
Feel free to boost the nutrition by sautéing other chopped veggies with onion and garlic for the sauce. Try sliced zucchini, mushrooms, spinach, or kale.
⏲️How to Make Pasta with Sausage and Broccolini
This sausage broccolini pasta is ready in a total of 30 minutes! Here’s a quick breakdown of the recipe. See the recipe card below for ingredient amounts and instructions.
Step 1 - Brown the Sausage
In a large skillet enough skillet to hold the final dish, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add in the ground sausage.
Let the sausage cook for a few minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking it into pieces with a wooden spoon. Once browned, move the sausage to a small plate. Drain off the excess oil but do not wash the pan.
Step 2 - Cook the Pasta
While the sausage is cooking, fill a large pot with water, add in a sprinkle of salt, then bring the water to a boil. Add in the pasta and cook for 4 minutes less than the time listed on the box. So, if the box says 10-12 minutes, cook it for 6-8 minutes.
Next, add in the chopped broccolini to the boiling water and let that cook with the pasta for another few minutes or until the broccolini is fork tender and the pasta is al dente.
Drain, but reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water.
Step 3 - Make the Cream Sauce
In the same pan, you cooked the sausage in, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and cook until tender, then stir in the garlic and lemon zest.
Slowly pour in the heavy cream whisking as you go. Add the salt and pepper followed by the cubed cream cheese. Whisk in the lemon juice.
Step 4 - Assemble and Serve
To the saucepan, add the cooked sausage, cooked pasta, and broccolini. Toss to coat, making sure everything is fully combined. Add little bits of the pasta water at a time just until the sauce thins enough to come together. You may not need the full ½ cup of water.
Finish with red pepper flakes and chopped parsley. You can add a little parmesan cheese if you like.
🥗What to Serve with Sausage Broccolini Pasta
This hearty pasta dish is a complete meal all on its own, but you definitely can’t go wrong with a couple of simple side dishes.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tip
Don’t forget to save the starchy pasta water! It’s easy to forget and drain it all out of the pan, but it really is important for helping the cream sauce come together.
Leftover broccoli sausage pasta will last in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days.
To reheat, warm either in the microwave or on low on the stove until heated through. If the pasta needs a little extra moisture, add in a splash of water or warm chicken broth to thin it.
I don’t recommend freezing this dish as the texture of the cream sauce won’t hold up when thawed.
More Easy Weeknight Dinner Recipes
💬Frequently Asked Questions
Broccolini does cook faster than broccoli because of its thinner stalk. If you substitute fresh broccoli florets, they will need 2 additional minutes of cooking time. You will need to add it to the cooking pasta earlier so that the broccoli finishes cooking while the pasta is still al dente.
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Penne Pasta with Sausage and Broccolini
Lemon Cream Sauce
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 small onion finely diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ⅓ cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 2 ounces cream cheese cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add a generous amount of salt. Add the penne. Cook for 4 minutes less than what is on the box. Add the broccolini and cook until fork tender the pasta is al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, then drain.8 ounces penne pasta, 10 ounce broccolini
- While the water is boiling, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Brown the sausage, stirring occasionally until the chunks are broken up. Transfer the sausage to a plate. Drain the grease from the pan but don't wash.8 ounces ground Italian pork sausage, 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Melt the butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until tender. Add the garlic and lemon zest.2 tablespoons butter, 1 small onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- Slowly stir in the heavy cream, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the cubed cream cheese and stir until melted.⅓ cup heavy whipping cream, ¼ teaspoon salt, 2 ounces cream cheese, ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add in the lemon juice. Add the pasta water, if needed, to thin the sauce.2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Stir in the cooked sausage, pasta, and broccolini. Gently toss to coat.
- Season to taste and garnish with parsley and red pepper flakesfresh parsley, crushed red pepper flakes
- I recommend Jovial and Barilla gluten-free penne for this recipe.
- If you can't find the ground sausage use links and remove the meat from the casing.
- You can use hot Italian or mild but I find mild works best with this sauce.