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Rustic Italian Zucchini “Sauce” with Penne and Chicken Sausage

Posted Apr 04 2013 10:17am

Pasta with Zucchini and Sausage

Pasta with Zucchini and Sausage

This simple and delicious rustic Italian zucchini “sauce” with pasta is the first recipe from  The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks , a wonderful book that jumped off the shelf to me during a visit to Powell’s Books in Portland several weeks ago. Written by Kathleen Flinn, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, it’s the story of her experience providing cooking lessons to a diverse group of nine volunteers, who all feel intimidated in the kitchen. By the end of a series of basic cooking and tasting classes each woman is transformed, gaining both confidence in the kitchen and in herself.

For anyone interested in home cooking, it’s a fun, inspirational, and educational read, with recipes for several delicious-sounding dishes.

Based on a southern Italian farmhouse dish, Kathleen explains that, “the slow-cooked zucchini takes on a nutty, earthy flavor and the pasta water ‘melts’ the vegetables in a sort of thick sauce.” She also includes suggestions for variations: adding caramelized onions, cooked Italian sausage, fresh basil and/or pine nuts.

I adapted the recipe slightly: beginning with thinly sliced onions (instead of caramelizing them separately), adding the chopped zucchini and then stirring in sliced grilled Italian chicken sausage at the end.

We all thought this simple rustic Italian pasta dish was satisfying and delicious; a definite do-over.


Rustic Italian Zucchini “Sauce” with Penne
Prep time

Cook time

Total time


A simple and delicious rustic Italian pasta with zucchini “sauce” and sliced Italian sausage
Recipe type: Pasta
Serves: 4

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • I large onion, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 3 pounds zucchini, chopped into ½-inch pieces
  • 6 ounces whole wheat pasta, such as penne
  • 2 links cooked Italian chicken sausage, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they begin to soften. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until the zucchini browns and starts to fall apart. This should take about 15 to 25 minutes, depending on your pan, the heat level, and the size of the zucchini pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, add the pasta to boiling salted water. Cook 2 minutes less than the package instructs. Before draining, carefully scoop out 3 cups of the hot pasta water. Add 1 cup of the pasta water to the browned zucchini. Bring to a gentle simmer, adjusting the heat if necessary, and stirring to scrape up any browned bits. Add another half cup of the pasta water and repeat the process until the zucchini takes on a thick, almost creamy consistency.
  3. Add the cooked pasta to the zucchini mixture, along with a couple large pinches of coarse salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Cook, for a couple of minutes, until the pasta softens. Stir in the sliced sausage. Remove the skillet from the heat and taste again to see if the dish needs salt or pepper before serving.

Nutritional Estimates Per Serving (1/4th): 351 calories, 13 g fat, 45 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 18 g protein and 9 Weight Watchers PointsPlus




Adapted from  The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: How a Few Simple Lessons Transformed Nine Culinary Novices into Fearless Home Cooks

More Weight Watchers Friendly Pasta Recipes

Light and Creamy One Pot Pasta
Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage and Kale
Italian Sausage and Pasta
Angel Hair with Zucchini and Tomatoes (SkinnyTaste)
Creamy Zucchini Pesto Pasta with Chicken (Slender Kitchen)

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