Skillet Penne and Sausage Supper

You know when you have one of those moments that you know what you are planning to serve your family is going to to totally bomb at the dinner table, but you want to just make it for yourself anyway. This dish, I thought, would completely bomb at our house. It has spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, penne pasta instead of spaghetti, and white sauce instead of red. In short, it had vegetables and it wasn’t spaghetti.

The thing was, it didn’t bomb… in fact, everyone happily munched away. It might have been the right day for introducing new foods, it might have been that it was later than it usually was and everyone was starving, or it might have been because this dinner is so darn delicious.

Whatever the reason, it reminded me that many times my own fears about how my kids will feel about foods inhibits my cooking style.  I am often holding my own self back from introducing them to new foods because the stress of them not eating or rejecting what I am offering influences how I cook. It offered a reminder to me to keep on introducing those new foods, those new vegetables, those delicious nutrients and stop worrying so much!

The next night when I served sugared snap peas instead of the edamame that I had planned for our dinner hour because of a mix-up in the supermarket freezer section, my son found a new favorite food. My daughter still happily pulled the peas out and didn’t eat the skins, but it was a new food that they were willing to try.

Now that you know that this dish was a hit with my kids, I hope you might give it a try at your house. It is a recipe adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook and what drew me to the recipe was the fact that it was a skillet supper.

Skillet suppers rock and are one of my favorite weeknight meals because it is a one pot dish which cuts down on clean-up and leaves me more time to read or watch a little American Idol this winter. The Skillet Ziti with Chicken and Broccoli and Cheeseburger Pasta both make fun weeknight skillet dinners minus those packages of Hamburger Helper. Secretly though, I just love Hamburger Helper… I hope that I won’t be rejected completely from the foodie community with that admission, but I believe it must be said!

Tonight enjoy a night free from a sink full of dishes and be proud to introduce your kids to new fun foods that embrace just a hint of vegetable-packed deliciousness!

Easy Skillet Penne and Sausage Supper (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook)
Serves Six

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced (I do buy the bottled variety at Aldi)
1 pound Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage Links (remove from the casing)
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fine (I buy the packaged variety over by the potatoes in the produce section of Walmart, next to the garlic)
1/2 pound penne pasta
2 cups chicken broth – low-sodium
1 cup milk
1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
6 ounces baby spinach

Heat the oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Stir in the garlic and sausage and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the penne evenly over the sausage. Pour the broth and milk over the pasta. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes (it took mine around 15 minutes). Stir in the spinach a handful at a time, and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan and sun dried tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note: Italian pork sausage can be used here, however, you may need to spoon off some of the fat before adding the pasta. When you are adding the spinach, it may seem like a lot at first, but it wilts down substantially. Be sure to at least have a 12-inch wide skillet here– this recipe fills it nearly to the rim.

What are your kid’s favorite vegetables or favorite vegetable-packed dishes that you love to serve? Have you ever found yourself inhibited to serve things because you aren’t sure if they will like them? Feel free to share links to your favorite dishes!

Published February 01, 2010 by:

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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