Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr 
Hands-on Time
55 Mins
Total Time
55 Mins
Serves 4 (serving size: 1 cup)

Here's a saucy, creamy pasta dish without a lick of cream or milk and only a wee bit of cheese. The trick is to cook the pasta like risotto, which releases starch into the liquid that becomes the sauce. The toasting step adds nutty, rich character and is a step we don't advise skipping.

How to Make It

Step 1

Bring stock to a simmer in a saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.

Step 2

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pasta; cook 5 minutes or until toasted, stirring frequently. Remove pasta from pan.

Step 3

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, onion, and sausage to pan; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove sausage mixture from pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Return pasta to pan. Add stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of stock is nearly absorbed before adding the next (about 35 minutes total), stirring frequently. Stir in sausage mixture, juice, chiles, salt, and cheese. Garnish with oregano, if desired.

Step 4

Skillet-Toasted Penne with Bacon and Spinach: Follow steps 1 and Substitute 4 chopped center-cut bacon slices for the sausage, and 1/2 cup sliced shallots and 8 sliced garlic cloves for the onion. Substitute 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind for the 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Substitute 6 ounces baby spinach for the chiles. Serves 4 (serving size: 1 cup) Calories 394; Fat 8g (sat 1g); Sodium 601mg

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Ratings & Reviews

Good recipe. Two little secrets helps make it faster. The penne themselves are awesome !

June 24, 2016
Some cooks complained on the time spent preparing this dish. Not I. I have a large very old thick-walled Dutch Pot to cook on stove top. So after I browned penne in the flat large skillet, I moved the penne to the Dutch Pot to cook it there in Chicken Stock.  I've used less than 32 oz of stock for 8 oz of penne-much less than the recipe called for. Penne turned out simply awesome ! (I did add a little butter to it at the end of cooking, though). One complaint-onions and sausage didn't brown. Next time, I'll brown onion first, then add sausage and quickly sautee it (it gets done very quickly).   Beware of parmesan-it adds a considerable amount of salt. Lemon juice is a good addition.  Will do this recipe again.

Julie8179's Review

January 29, 2015
This has become one of my favorite pasta dishes. I save it for when I have plenty of time to enjoy being in the kitched with family or friends. I catch up with my teenage daughters while we cook together - the prep is easy and quick, then one of us stirs while the others make a salad, bread and/or dessert. Definitely use a good quality STOCK (not broth) and take your time. It is SO worth it.

sprky182's Review

January 05, 2015
I did not think this recipe was worth the time it took to make. Even after 45 minutes of stirring, the stock still wasn't fully soaked up and I was afraid that the pasta would get too soggy if I kept trying. I would have preferred to just boil the pasta separately and toss it with the onions and sausage and finish with the lemon and cheese. I will not make this again.

LDombeck's Review

March 04, 2014
This recipe did take 2x longer than stated in magazine. That said, it is worth making, as long as you have time. I used trader Joe's sweet italian chicken sausage quartered and sliced instead of crumbling. Very filling with lots of meat. I didn't use the chiles. The oregano was a great addition! Don't omit. great flavor burst.

juliea344's Review

March 01, 2014
LOVED this! I used mezzi rigatoni because it doesn't take quite as long to cook. Also used chili powder because I didn't have any fresh peppers. This is a keeper. Can't wait to try different variations.

ChefAmandaLynn's Review

February 28, 2014

MaryEliz's Review

February 12, 2014
Good, not great. Not as creamy as risotto.

pmw804u's Review

February 01, 2014
This was very good but not exactly creamy. Next time I will make sure to use stock instead of broth based on other reviews that may have been the issue.

JKL033's Review

January 18, 2014
My family enjoyed this, kids rated it 9.5 and 10/10. I roasted a head of garlic and put about half of it into this recipe along with some sautéed cherry tomatoes. I still feel it is lacking something, more acid and/or spice. Maybe more lemon juice would've done the trick. I have a very similar (tasting) recipe that uses a bit of light bechamel sauce and therefore doesn't require the 40 mins of stirring to achieve the creamy texture, so I'm thinking I'll go with that when I crave a dish like this. I'm glad I tried it, though, and glad to know about this pasta method.

Amy0324's Review

January 18, 2014
This was really good! I am glad I read other reviews & found out how time consuming! The others were not kidding! Luckily, I get up very early, so made it before work-when I got home, I just had to reheat & add a little more stock, cheese & oregano. My husband also loved this recipe. Next time, I will make this over the weekend.