A homestyle Italian feast for fall: rigatoni with Italian sausage and vegetables

I have fallen in love, culinarily speaking, with pasta dishes that have no heavy sauces, simply because they take pasta in such a different direction than sauces laden with  cream, tomato sauce and beef. A lighter touch allows you to actually taste the delicious flavor of the rigatoni, so use a good quality pasta when you try recipes that don’t have heavy sauces.

There is a lovely flavor awakening that happens when the veggies are sauteed and added to the pasta. The flavors meld, they’re not overwhelmed by cream and tomato sauce…though I like that, too, sometimes. But at the moment, I’m feeling the pure flavor of pasta with vegetables!

Here is what I did to make this for my family tonight:


Spicy rigatoni with Italian sausage and vegetables


16 oz. box of rigatoni

3TBS olive oil

1 lb. of bulk Italian sausage

one medium onion, chopped

two pints of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved  (I used a pint of red and a pint of yellow)

16 oz package of baby Bella or button mushrooms, sliced

4-5 cups of raw spinach, washed

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 to 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes


Cook rigatoni according to package directions. (save one cup of the pasta water to add to the sauce before draining.)

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high heat.

Add the chopped onions; saute for a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms. Saute for 3-4 minutes until the mushrooms are dark and have shrunk in size.

Add the tomatoes, and saute for another minute or two.

Add the sausage to the pan, and break up with a wooden spoon. Stir while the sausage browns.

When completely browned, add the garlic and the spinach. Sprinkle the reserved cup of pasta water over the spinach.

When the spinach wilts, add the cooked and drained pasta to the pan, and stir in.

Add the grated Parmesan and the red pepper flakes. Stir well to combine.

Taste for saltiness; add a bit, as needed.

Pour into a beautiful serving dish, top with a bit more grated cheese, and serve. Or, do what I did, and mix it up in your big Dutch oven and serve from there, family style! Isn’t that really the best way? Serve with crusty French or Italian bread.

The nice thing about a dish such as this is that it can be customized to your family’s likes. Add more spinach, if you prefer, or switch it out and use escarole instead, for instance. (check out this how-to that explains how to clean escarole, as it tends to be a bit sandy) Use more onion or leave out the mushrooms, and add zucchini…whatever you like! That’s what cooking is all about: creating something that will be a delicious expression of love to your family…and to yourself.



Perhaps you’re in the mood for a saucier pasta? You might like this: Quick and fabulous bolognese (with vide0)

Copyright 2012 Stephanie Hill-Frazier. All rights reserved.


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