Full of comfort food flavor yet simple to make, this Sausage Broccoli Pasta is the perfect weeknight dinner. It comes together in just 30 minutes and it’s family-friendly too. It’s gluten-free and stands alone as a one-pot meal. The Italian sausage combined with the Parmesan cheese adds plenty of savory flavor. And the broccoli makes a tasty combination while adding plenty of veggies to the mix.
This easy-to-make pasta hits our table on the regular. It’s a tasty combination that never gets old. And I make this dish for everything from a weeknight dinner to date nights, and for your company as well.
We all need dinners that come together quickly, there’s no doubt time feels very limited for everyone these days. But it’s even better when your dinner tastes just as good as something you’d order in a restaurant!
Make sure to use the best quality ingredients you can find for the best flavor. Good quality olive oil, fresh garlic, and freshly grated parmesan are the star of the show here and make up the ‘sauce’ for this pasta.
Watch how to make Sausage Broccoli Pasta
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Penne pasta – I use the 100% gluten free brown rice penne from Jovial for the best texture. You can also use whole wheat or any type of pasta you enjoy. Just be aware the gluten free pasta comes in 12 oz packages and regular pasta usually comes in 16 oz packages. You can also use different shapes like fusilli, farfale (bowties), shells, or orecchiette. Try to stick to shapes rather than noodle type pasta like spaghetti.
- Italian sausage – I like to use mild bulk Italian sausage and add a touch of red pepper flakes, but spicy Italian sausage makes a great change as well. Be aware of labels and try to choose a quality sausage if you can. The cheaper sausages often contain a lot of extra ingredients that aren’t allergy-friendly.
- Broccoli – fresh broccoli florets will give you the best texture here. But you can use defrosted frozen broccoli as well if you don’t mind the soft texture. If you don’t like broccoli, try 6 cups or 6 ounces chopped baby spinach instead.
- Garlic – fresh minced garlic adds a lot of flavor here. Rather than using jarred, I recommend getting a garlic press to make prep work faster.
- Olive oil – good quality olive oil add a lot of flavor here, so try and choose the best you can.
- Red pepper flakes – adds just a touch of spice here, but you can definitely omit them if desired. This dinner is also more kid friendly by omitting anything spicy, use mild sausage and leave out the red pepper flakes.
How to make this recipe step by step
Step 2: Next brown the sausage and remove it from the pan. Remove some of the grease if there’s a lot.
I usually have a couple of tablespoons left in the pan which is perfect for the next step.
Add the pasta to the salted water and cook stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking.
Step 3: Then add the olive oil to the pan you cooked the sausage in, along with the garlic, red pepper flakes, and broccoli florets. Sauté for a few minutes, then add 1/4 cup of water and cook just until crisp tender.
This takes about 6-8 minutes and you can add more water if needed during this time to prevent sticking.
Step 4: When the pasta is just done, scoop out 2 cups of the pasta water and set it aside. Drain the pasta and add it to the cooked broccoli along with the sausage.
Toss the pasta sausage mixture together, then add half the cooking water with the parmesan cheese.
Continue to mix together and add the remaining pasta water as necessary to create a light ‘sauce’. Season with salt and pepper and serve with extra grated parmesan!
No, you can use frozen broccoli in this pasta dish. The texture of fresh is much better with more bite to it, but if you don’t mind the soft texture of frozen, it definitely works here. I recommend defrosting it first and draining off any excess water.
No, you can use chicken or turkey sausages here as well. I prefer to use bulk ground sausage. But if you only have link sausage, try and look for pre-cooked so you can slice it up. Or you can remove the sausage from the casings if it isn’t pre-cooked.
Yes, I use gluten-free penne here, but you can use whole wheat or your favorite pasta. Shapes like penne, fusilli, and farfalle work better here than noodle shapes like spaghetti.
- To store – store any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- To reheat – add a touch of water along with the pasta to a skillet and reheat stirring often over medium heat. Add water as necessary to ‘rehydrate’ the pasta. Gluten-free pasta tends to dry out and get crumbly after a few days in the fridge. Adding a bit of water solves this problem.
- Freezing – I don’t recommend freezing this pasta dish as both the broccoli and pasta get mushy.
Tips & Tricks
- Salt the pasta water well! This adds so much flavor to your pasta and seasons this dish so much better.
- Use fresh garlic for the best flavor, it really does make a difference. Try using a garlic press if you don’t want to mince it up by hand.
- Buy the best quality parmesan cheese you can because it adds so much great flavor here. This is no time for the green canned kind because it will really show!
- Don’t forget to save some cooking water. I use a glass Pyrex measuring cup to scoop some out of the pot. The pasta cooking water adds both salt and body to this pasta dish and acts as the ‘sauce’ combined with the other ingredients.
I really hope you enjoy this Sausage Broccoli Pasta! If you do get a chance to make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Sausage Broccoli Pasta
- 12 ounces gluten free penne - I use 100% brown rice pasta
- 8 ounces ground Italian sausage - see notes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/2 tsp 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes - optional, or to taste
- 6 cups broccoli florets - about 1 pound broccoli
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese - or pecorino romano
- 2 cups reserved water from cooking the pasta
- 1/2 tsp sea salt - or to taste
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper - or to taste
- Extra grated parmesan cheese for serving
- Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
- While the water heats up, cup up the broccoli and mince the garlic.
- In a large skillet, (I use a 10 or 12″ cast iron skillet) brown the sausage over medium high heat. Remove the sausage from the pan when it’s no longer pink, and set it aside. You should have about 2 tablespoons of leftover grease in the pan.
- Salt the pasta cooking water with 1 tablespoon sea salt and start cooking the pasta. Stir the pasta occasionally to keep it from sticking together. Cook according to the package instructions.
- Meanwhile in the skillet you cooked the sausage in, add the olive oil along with the garlic, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, and broccoli florets.
- Sauté the broccoli over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly. Then add 1/4 cup cup of water and continue to cook until the broccoli is crisp tender.
- Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan and add more water if necessary to keep it from sticking.
- When the pasta is al dente, or just tender, scoop out and reserve 2 cups of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.
- Add the pasta back to the pot you cooked it in, then add the broccoli and sausage and mix to combine. Add the parmesan cheese and 1 cup of the reserved pasta water.
- Toss to combine again, then season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Add the remaining reserved pasta cooking water little by little, just enough to create a light ‘sauce’.
- Serve immediately with extra grated parmesan to sprinkle on top.