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Penne with Italian Sausage, Spinach and Bread Crumbs

Pasta dishes are often an ideal way to entertain during the week. Many require nothing more than assembling a few ingredients in a large bowl and tossing them together with just-cooked pasta. You can spice up the dish with hot, rather than mild, sausage, if desired.

Ingredients:

  • Coarse salt, to taste 
  • 1 lb. penne 
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil  
  • 1 1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed 
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine  
  • 6 oz. baby spinach leaves 
  • 1/2 cup olive oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped  
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed 
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes 
  • 1/2 cup crushed seasoned croutons 
  • 1/2 cup shaved pecorino romano cheese, plus more for serving 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed 
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

Directions:

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stir well and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes, or according to the package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Crumble the sausage into the pan and sauté until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a warmed large bowl.

Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes to release its flavor. Pour in the red wine and deglaze the pan, stirring to scrape up the browned bits from the pan bottom. Transfer the garlic and the pan juices to the bowl with the sausage. Add the spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and croutons to the bowl and cover to keep warm.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Immediately transfer the pasta to the bowl with the other ingredients and toss, adding the 1/2 cup cheese, the cream and the reserved cooking water.

Season the pasta with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately, passing additional cheese at the table. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Entertaining, by George Dolese (Oxmoor House, 2004).