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Toasted Penne with Chicken Sausage

Photo: Oxmoor House


Hands-on time 55 mins
Total time 55 mins

Serves 4 (serving size: 1 2/3 cups)

Dry pasta lends itself to a variety of cooking techniques, so let's toast it, and then cook it risotto-style to build a creamy sauce from the noodles. I learned this method from a chef who was from Togo but apprenticed in italy. It was what the kitchen staff ate for lunch. He called it "toast pasta." Here, it's presented with browned chicken sausage. Chop and add the Spicy Broccoli Rabe for an impressive and very complete meal.


  • 6 cups unsalted chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 links Italian-style chicken sausage (13 ounces), casings removed
  • 1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) uncooked penne pasta
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 recipe Spicy Broccoli Rabe (optional), at room temperature, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced Calabrian chiles
  • 1/2 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Nutrition Information

  • calories 355
  • fat 13.8 g
  • satfat 3.5 g
  • monofat 5.4 g
  • polyfat 0.9 g
  • protein 24 g
  • carbohydrate 36 g
  • fiber 2 g
  • cholesterol 51 mg
  • iron 3 mg
  • sodium 678 mg
  • calcium 77 mg

How to Make It

  1. First, think risotto, not pasta. Your brain will thank you.

  2. Bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Hold it hot. You'll be using risotto (but for pasta).

  3. Place a high-sided 12-inch skillet (probably your largest, right there, stored underneath everything) on medium heat.


  5. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet. Add the sausage and onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sausage is done and onion is golden brown.

  6. Remove sausage mixture with a slotted spoon, leaving drippings in pan. Set aside.


  8. Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. Swirl into an even layer. Give it about 30 seconds. If the oil starts to smoke too fast, turn down the heat--we want this to be a slow, even heat.

  9. Add the dry pasta to the pan. Shake. Toss. Stir. Tumble. Observe the transformation.

  10. The more controlled the heat, the more evenly the pasta will be toasted. This is a matter of taste. I happen to like the pasta to be unevenly toasted, even charred, in places. It makes for a more complex dish, particularly against a slightly bitter vegetable such as broccoli rabe.

  11. When the pasta has transformed in color from its original pale khaki color to something resembling a better beer, about 5 minutes, add the sausage mixture. Sauté for about 2 minutes.


  13. Now, add a cup of stock. Stir. Stir. You'll see the starch begin to integrate with the pasta water. That's a good thing.

  14. Lower the heat to a slight simmer, and keep stirring.

  15. Reduce the liquid until it is almost fully absorbed, about 5 minutes. It will look like you threw a pat of butter or two into finished pasta.

  16. Add stock 1 cup at a time, stirring all the while and observing for the right amount of reduction.

  17. Repeat this step progressively until you have creamy, saucy, tender pasta (about 30 minutes total).


  19. Now add the salt. Stir. You may not use all of the stock if you've simmered slowly. You may need a cup of water or so if you let it bubble more aggressively. Either way, it will be spectacular.

  20. If you've opted to do the broccoli rabe thing, add it now, gently stirring and folding to incorporate, until the vegetable is warmed throughout. Taste it.

  21. Finish with lemon juice, chiles, and grated cheese.

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