Let me start off by saying this is not the healthiest of dishes…Yes, it has healthy components like a whole bag of spinach and a bunch of mushrooms, but pasta is the base and it’s loaded with parmesan cheese and olive oil and pine nuts (as most pestos are). So, if you’re trying to eat healthy this may not be the dish for you. But if you’re looking to treat yourself and still want to eat something nutritious, this recipe is totally worth the calories. Also, read on if you’d like to know how to still enjoy a dish like this but not ingest a ton of calories.
I recently lost 10 pounds and have been trying to keep it up and eat healthier…but I also love food. Anyone who has looked at this blog for more than two seconds should know that. And I’ve learned that I can’t ALWAYS deprive myself of the stuff I want to eat. I’ve also learned that I can’t ALWAYS just go for it either. So, I made a bit of a compromise and for those of you who also love food and pasta but are trying to eat healthier or lose weight or cut carbs or whatever, this is what I did with this dish to alleviate a bit of the guilt.
First, I reserved a bit of the spinach pesto, which wasn’t hard because this recipe makes extra. I also reserved some sausage and mushrooms. I then went ahead with the rest of the recipe and mixed the pasta, pesto, sausage and mushrooms together and I ate a small portion (maybe half a cup) of it to satisfy my craving. I savored every bite and it was heaven. I wanted more but I stopped myself. Self control. Then, I used this awesome veggetti spiral vegetable cutter, which my mom bought me one year for Christmas and I had kind of forgotten about, to make “zoodles”, aka zucchini noodles. I mixed some of the reserved spinach pesto, sausage and mushrooms with the zoodles and filled up on that instead of eating the pasta. And, you know what? It was good. Maybe not pasta-good, but considering all the calorie saving I did, it was really really good. I’ve moved the veggetti cutter to a new drawer. It’s been promoted and I plan on using it quite a bit more.
So, do that if you want to save some calories and eat more veggies. Reserve some of the stuff and eat it over some zoodles.
If you don’t want to or don’t need to watch what you eat, I’m jealous. Here’s the recipe and enjoy.
Pasta with sausage and spinach pesto
Ingredients for the spinach pesto:
16 oz. bag of baby spinach
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2-3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts
olive oil – approximately 1/2 – 2/3 cup
salt & pepper
Ingredients for the pasta:
1 lb of penne pasta
1 lb of spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1.5 cups of baby portobello mushrooms
3/4 of the spinach pesto (recipe above)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper
1. To make the pesto, blend the spinach, basil, parmesan cheese, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor. You may have to add the spinach in batches. After everything is well blended, drizzle in the olive oil slowly until the mixture loosens and becomes sauce-like. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Set the pesto to the side.
2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne pasta in and cook until al dente. Before draining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
3. In a separate skillet, while the pasta is cooking, cook the spicy sausage, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula until brown and crumbly. Remove it to a plate lined with a paper towel. Add a touch of olive oil to the pan with the sausage drippings and cook the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.
4. In a large bowl or pot, combine the pasta, the sausage, the mushrooms and about 3/4 of the spinach pesto. To loosen the mixture, add some of the pasta water in increments (don’t add the whole cup all at once, you probably won’t need it all). Add some black pepper if desired.
5. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and top with extra parmesan cheese and the toasted pine nuts.