January 6, 2016

Whole Grain Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage | via forkknifeswoon.com

Over the weekend we had our first snow; gentle, delicate flurries that drifted down peacefully from grey skies. It snowed last year too – our first year here in the Pacific Northwest – but just barely, and this time it actually stuck, coating the already icy ground with an inch-or-two-thick blanket of lovely, pure-white snow. We had fun watching the pup romp around in it, for a bit, but spent most of the day cozied up inside, escaping the cold, content to watch the snowflakes settling softly on the pines through the windows.

I do like the idea of starting the new year out fresh, with healthy-eating resolutions and lighter fare. There is something rejuvenating about this time of year, but Winter days like these still call for warm-you-up-from-the-inside comfort food. Hearty soups and stews and braises, and steamy bowls of pasta.

Green smoothies alone just aren’t gonna cut it.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage | via forkknifeswoon.com

This flavorful pasta dish is a perfect compromise: soul-satisfying in the way that a big bowl of pasta should be, but packed with healthier ingredients in the form of whole grain penne pasta, lots of garlic, and dark green, broccoli florets. I toss in some chicken sausage (studded with sundried tomatoes) and a good bit of Parmesan, because really, what is pasta with parm?

Now, though this recipe is written for regular broccoli, I actually prefer using tender broccolini. Sometimes labeled as “young/baby broccoli” in the grocery store, broccolini is actually a hybrid, crossed with Kai-lan, or Chinese kale, and has a sweeter flavor, longer, more tender stock, and cooks to al dente perfection in a flash. If you can find it, go that route. If not, don’t worry, standard broccoli is, of course, still delicious.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage | via forkknifeswoon.com

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage | via forkknifeswoon.com

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage | via forkknifeswoon.com

If you’re not a fan of broccoli/broccolini, you could also definitely use a combination of spinach, kale, Swiss chard or other dark leafy green, instead.

However you mix it up, one of my favorite parts of this recipe is that the whole thing comes together super quickly. You start a big pot of salty pasta water boiling, heat some olive oil, garlic and onion, sauté the broccoli and sausage, and everything’s ready to go by the time the whole-grain penne is cooked. After a quick toss together – and a generous dusting of Parmesan – a healthy, hearty, resolution-worthy dinner is on the table in under half an hour.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage | via forkknifeswoon.com

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage | via forkknifeswoon.com

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage

  • Author: Fork Knife Swoon
  • Prep Time: 10 mins
  • Cook Time: 20 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Yield: 4 Servings 1x



  • 1/2 lb uncooked whole wheat penne pasta
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium yellow or sweet onion, minced
  • 4 (3 oz) links cooked/smoked chicken sausage, sliced
  • 1 bunch broccoli,* chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus more for serving
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta al dente, according to package directions (about 11 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-heat, until the butter is melted and the oil just begins to shimmer. Add the garlic and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped sausage to the skillet, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. During the last two minutes of cooking, add the chopped broccoli to the pasta pot. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of pasta water.
  5. Add the drained pasta, broccoli, and reserved pasta water to the skillet with the sausage. Stir to combine. Add the Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm with an extra dusting of Parmesan. Enjoy!


You can also substitute broccolini (sometimes labeled as young or baby broccoli), broccoli rabe, or another favorite green for the broccoli.

Make it gluten-free: Switch out the pasta for a gluten-free version. My favorite by far is Jovial brown rice pasta, which tastes as much like the “real” thing as any I’ve tried. I find it in several shapes at Whole Foods or on Amazon.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage | via forkknifeswoon.com

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  • Reply
    February 4, 2018 at 8:51 am

    How many calories in each serving please?

  • Reply
    January 5, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    I’ll be making this for dinner with friends tomorrow night, as I’ve been eyeing this recipe for a while and it seems like a good cold weather not-too-unhealthy meal! Wondering if I could add a little goat cheese for creaminess and flavor to the sauce. Anyone tried that?

    • Reply
      January 5, 2018 at 1:22 pm

      Hi, Ingrid! I would never, ever discourage you from adding goat cheese (to just about any pasta dish)! It would be super yummy here. Enjoy!! 😊

  • Reply
    RuthAnn L.
    December 11, 2017 at 8:04 pm

    Awesome recipe! Made it with kale and it was sooo good. Just a tad on the saltier side.. but overall so yummy!

  • Reply
    Katie Rodriguez
    July 7, 2017 at 6:58 pm

    Made this tonight. I was so excited to try but it was incredibly bland. After all, the “sauce” is just pasta water and cheese. I even used some sausage that had lots of flavor. I was really excited and it looked so good, but I was disappointed.

  • Reply
    May 23, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Does it have enough flavor without a sauce? Is it bland?

  • Reply
    National Noodle Month - Health Alliance Blog - Helping You Be Your Best
    March 26, 2017 at 1:10 am

    […] Whole Grain Pasta with Broccoli and Chicken Sausage […]

  • Reply
    September 13, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    I made this tonight and it was great. We went back for seconds. The only thing I changed was added some diced fresh tomatoes to the top which added extra color and flavor. Will be making this again, thank you!

    • Reply
      September 14, 2016 at 11:39 am

      So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks, Natalie!

  • Reply
    January 15, 2016 at 12:31 am

    For whatever reason I can’t get any of these recipes to print . Has anyone else had this problem ? And I have two different printers.

    • Reply
      January 15, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      Hi Pam! I’m sorry you’re having an issue with the recipe printing – I will definitely look into it. Would you mind sharing which browser you use?

  • Reply
    January 11, 2016 at 5:37 am

    I am hungry just looking at this dish. I love how practical, healthy, and easy-to-make this is.
    Best meal for the chilly weather outside!

    • Reply
      January 11, 2016 at 9:13 am

      Thanks so much, Aysegul! XO!

  • Reply
    Lydia Plunk
    January 7, 2016 at 4:21 pm

    Hi, Laura! Any recommendation on whole wheat pasta brands?

    • Reply
      January 7, 2016 at 5:20 pm

      Hi Lydia! I’m honestly not super picky (give me just about any pasta and I’ll be a happy girl), but I am a big fan of Delallo organic whole wheat penne and often buy the Whole Foods 365 brand organic pastas. If you’re looking for a gluten-free version, I don’t think you can beat Jovial’s brown rice pastas. Hope that helps! 🙂

      • Reply
        Lydia Plunk
        January 7, 2016 at 5:25 pm

        Thank you! I make my own “regular” pastas- but the whole wheat and gluten-free, I’ve not had much success with. So the info is VERY useful.

  • Reply
    Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps
    January 7, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    The perfect winter meal — healthy, hearty and beautiful!

    • Reply
      January 7, 2016 at 3:54 pm

      Thanks so much, Nicole! Hope you are enjoying lots of snuggle time with your little one!

  • Reply
    Heidi @foodiecrush
    January 7, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    I’m with you on the broccoli rabe, I love it’s slightly bitter bite.

    • Reply
      January 7, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks, Heidi!

  • Reply
    January 7, 2016 at 12:28 pm

    This looks like a great way to start the New Year — healthy, but hearty!

    • Reply
      January 7, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks, Joan!!