This sausage and broccolini pasta is a quick and easy dinner ready in under 30 minutes! Savory sausage, tender broccolini, and a hint of lemon make this dish light but so satisfying at the same time.
My boyfriend and I eat pastas on the regular. Most people think that pastas aren't "healthy," but I find that by adding some heavy greens and going light on the sauce, it's a perfectly good meal for any time!
This pasta is for when you're craving pasta, but don’t want the heaviness of a cream based sauce. I have you covered with this light pasta dish!
Highlights of this recipe
This recipe is:
- Ready in under 30 minutes
- Gluten free (using gluten free pasta)
No fancy kitchen equipment is needed here! Just a large pot for boiling the pasta, and a large skillet.
To make this a one pot meal: Boil the pasta, drain (reserving some pasta water) and set aside, then use the same pot to cook the sausage in and create the rest of the pasta.
I love the way a few simple ingredients come together to make such a light but flavorful meal in this easy pasta dish.
- Pork or chicken Italian sausage - Sweet Italian sausage works well for this recipe. You can also use spicy if you want an extra kick, but omit the red pepper flakes if doing this. Make sure to remove the casings from the sausage. Turkey sausage could work as well.
- Broccolini - Broccolini is a type of broccoli with long tender stems. If you can’t find broccolini, you can substitute broccoli or baby broccoli. Chop it up into bite size pieces. More on that in a minute!
- Beef broth - Helps to add extra flavor to this sauce. You can use your favorite brand. You can also use vegetable broth or chicken broth in its place.
- Lemon juice - Freshly squeezed please! You can also add a bit of lemon zest for plating.
- Pasta water - The key to bringing this whole dish together!
- Garlic cloves - Fresh garlic is the best.
- Red pepper flakes - Omit this if using spicy Italian sausage.
- Parmesan cheese or pecorino romano - Adding cheese to this pasta is optional, but it does give a little extra creaminess and flavor to this dish.
- Pasta - Use your favorite pasta shape. For this pasta, I like Rotini, Penne, Orecchiette, or going wild and finding whatever fun shapes I can find! (Like this Gemelli!)
Broccolini vs baby broccoli vs broccoli rabe
So what exactly is the difference between broccolini and broccoli? Or what about broccoli rabe? You may have seen some or all of these at your local grocery store.
Broccolini is a hybrid version of regular broccoli plus Chinese broccoli. It has long tender stems similar to Chinese broccoli, but florets that more closely resemble regular broccoli. The flavor is also very similar, but broccolini tends to be a little more mild in flavor. Sometimes broccolini is referred to as baby broccoli, but this isn’t entirely correct.
Baby broccoli is just as the name suggests. Little tiny baby broccoli picked before it reaches full size. Baby broccoli is more tender than its full grown parents, but it does have the same flavor.
Broccoli rabe, also know as rapini, may look similar to broccolini, but is actually more related to the turnip family. It has longer stems and florets similar to broccolini, however it has a more bitter taste.
While broccoli, broccolini, baby broccoli and broccoli rabe are all different in their own ways, any of these options would taste delicious in this sausage pasta recipe!
What kind of pasta should I use in this dish?
With a lighter sauce like this one, use pasta shapes that have holes or indents to help hold the sauce best.
Orecchiette pasta or Shells - pasta in a circular shape that looks like a curved palm. It translates to "little ears" in Italian. This is probably the best pasta for lighter sauces. It holds the sauce in its indented space.
Penne or Rigatoni - short, tubular pasta with small ridges on the outside and a hole in the center. Penne and rigatoni are the most versatile pastas.
Best clean and gluten free pastas
There are so many gluten free pasta brands these days. Many become extra mushy when cooked. When that happens, the texture becomes different from traditional pasta.
Jovial - Their tagliatelle and rotini are both so good. The tagliatelle only takes a few minutes to cook. It also tastes exactly like traditional fresh pasta. The rotini doesn’t get mushy and tastes delicious.
Tolerant - I love their green lentil penne pasta. It is high in protein (25g plant-based protein per serving!) and doesn’t get mushy. They also have red lentil and chickpea pastas.
Trader Joe's - The quinoa and brown rice fusilli is probably my favorite gluten free pasta. I also love their egg fettuccine as a fresh pasta alternative. It cooks within 3-4 minutes and soaks up flavor for pastas with butter sauce.
Barilla - The corn spaghetti tastes sooo good. Beware, your kitchen will smell like corn while you cook it! This is my go-to for spaghetti.
For a pasta dish like this one, use any type of gluten free pasta or traditional pasta. You could use whole wheat pasta too if you prefer.
How to make sausage and broccolini pasta
Now that we’ve covered all the delicious ingredients in this dish, let’s get cooking!
First bring a large pot of water to boil and add salt. Cook pasta until al dente (typically 2-3 minutes less than the package instructions).
Reserve ⅓ cup of pasta water and drain cooked pasta. Starchy pasta water is important for bringing all the ingredients in this dish together, so don’t forget this step!
While the pasta cooks, heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the sausage in and cook while crumbling and breaking into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Brown the sausage for about 5-7 minutes. Allowing the sausage to develop some browned crust helps add even more flavor to this dish.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the broccolini, beef broth, minced garlic, garlic salt, and pepper to the skillet.
Let simmer for about 3-5 minutes. The broth should be thickening and form a sauce, and the broccolini should be tender.
Next, stir in the al dente pasta, lemon juice, red pepper flakes (if using) and pasta water. Let the pasta continue to cook, stirring until the pasta is fully coated in the sauce.
Do a taste test and add more salt and freshly ground black pepper if needed.
Serve hot and top with lemon zest, parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano if you wish.
This easy recipe serves two, but you can double it to make a delicious dinner for the whole family (or to have some yummy leftovers).
Want to pair this with a cocktail? It would be lovely with the Basil Limoncello Spritz. The lemon flavors in both will compliment each other well.
How to store leftovers
Store leftovers in an airtight container for 3-4 days in the refrigerator.
How to reheat
Pastas like this one are best served hot and fresh, but it is still possible to reheat them. Skip the microwave and reheat in a skillet. The leftover pasta most likely absorbed all the liquid in the sauce, so you will have to add a little more in. Warm the skillet to medium-high heat, and add in the pasta with a little bit of beef broth, water, or leftover pasta water. Heat while stirring for a few minutes until heated throughout. Don’t overcook.
Variations & substitutions
This pasta is pretty perfect as is, but is very easy to customize to your liking!
- Add in peppers for some more veggies.
- You can also throw in a handful of spinach when you add the pasta for extra greens.
- Trade the broccolini for bitter broccoli rabe or other bitter greens. This will compliment the rich sausage well.
- If you want to use smoked sausage rather than fresh, slice the sausage into coins rather than remove the casing.
Frequently Asked Questions
You should remove the casing from sausage when you want to use it as crumbles, rather than slices. For this pasta it is best to remove the casing from sausage.
No, broccolini is not quite the same as broccoli. Broccolini is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese broccoli. The flavor is a bit more subtle than broccoli. It has longer stems than broccoli, but similar florets.
More delicious dinner recipes
- High Protein Turkey Chili
- Lemon Pepper Pork Chops
- Spring Vegetarian Pasta with Butter Sauce
- Easy Grilled Swordfish Tacos
Pasta with Sausage and Broccolini
- 4 ounces Pasta
- 6 ounces Pork or chicken Italian sausage casings removed, (about 2 links)
- 8 ounces Broccolini chopped into ½” chunks
- 1 cup Beef broth
- ½ Lemon the juice of
- ⅓ cup Pasta water
- 2 Garlic cloves minced
- ½ tsp Red pepper flakes omit if using spicy Italian sausage
- ½ tsp Garlic salt
- ½ tsp Pepper
- Parmesan cheese or pecorino romano (optional)
Bring a pot of water to boil and add salt. Add pasta and cook until al dente (typically 2-3 minutes less than recommended on the box). Reserve ⅓ cup of pasta water and drain.4 ounces Pasta
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage in crumbles and cook. Break the pieces with a wooden spoon and let brown (about 5-7 minutes).6 ounces Pork or chicken Italian sausage
Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the broccolini, beef broth, minced garlic, garlic salt and pepper to the skillet. Let simmer for 3-5 minutes, until the broth thickens and forms a sauce and the broccolini is tender.8 ounces Broccolini, 1 cup Beef broth, 2 Garlic cloves, ½ tsp Garlic salt, ½ tsp Pepper
Stir in pasta, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and pasta water. Let the pasta continue to cook, stirring until the pasta is fully coated in the sauce.½ Lemon, ½ tsp Red pepper flakes, ⅓ cup Pasta water
- Add more salt and pepper if desired.
Serve and top with parmesan or pecorino romano (optional).Parmesan cheese or pecorino romano