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  • Brianna Rhodes, RD, CD

Sun-Dried Tomato Penne Pasta

Combine savory sausage and a burst of flavor with sun-dried tomatoes in this penne pasta dish and you have a delicious family meal that beats your favorite Italian restaurant. And the best part—you can have this one on the table in about 30 minutes start to finish!

Summer is upon us, and so is the need for quick and simple meals that don’t heat up the whole kitchen. Let’s be honest, adults need outdoor play-time just as much as kids do. Whether it’s socializing with neighbors, biking, walking, gardening, or even getting in the sandbox with the kids, outdoor play is the hallmark of summer.

With that in mind, it’s great to have a few healthy meals you can whip out quickly, without much forethought. This is one of those. This pasta requires a little bit of chopping and slicing, and about 10-15 minutes of stove-top cooking. Paired with a big, fresh spinach salad, you have an excellent summer meal.

A few tips—slice the sausage real thin—about 1/8 inch thin. It allows you to use less, but no one minds because there’s still plenty in each bowl. For a little kick, add crushed red-pepper flakes over your bowl before eating.

Typically, it’s recommended to garnish with parsley. It’s beautiful and adds color, but I always feel like it’s such a waste because I have to buy an entire bunch and it always goes bad before I can use it up. Instead, I finely chopped up some spinach leaves. It looks about the same as the chopped parsley and it’s one less ingredient to worry about.

Finally, for the sun-dried tomatoes, I recommend using a whole tomato rather than a pre-prepared bruschetta. This allows you to coarsely chop the tomatoes and have larger pieces in the finished product.

My kids definitely enjoyed this meal. It was pretty easy for them—they love the sausage because they think it’s hot dogs. Then sauce is quite mild, and although my middle child insisted on wiping the noodles off on her napkin before eating them, well, she ate them anyway. Once again, my little guy gobbled this up, no problem!

My husband stated that this was the best pasta dish I’d ever made. A funny story about the salad though. Whenever we have large salads with dinner, he refers to it as rabbit food. As we were getting ready to head to the table, I asked him what kind of dressing he wanted. He told me and I got it out of the fridge. Then we carried everything to the table and sat down to eat. About half-way through his salad, I noticed him making a rather strange face. Turns out he assumed I had poured the dressing on when I asked him which kind he wanted. Nope! I just brought it to the table so he could put it on himself. But the best part is he proceeded to finish the salad with no dressing. True rabbit food for him!

The Meal:

  • 1 ½ cups Sun-dried Tomato Penne

  • 2 cups fresh spinach

  • Chopped vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers)

  • 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinaigrette

Recipe Used in this meal:


Sun-dried Tomato Penne Pasta

Serving size: 1 ½ cups pasta

Servings per Recipe: 6


  • 1 lb penne pasta

  • 1 (12-oz) rope sausage

  • 4 tbsp fresh spinach chopped fine

Cream Sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp butter

  • 2 tsp minced garlic

  • ¼ cup flour

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • 1 cup 2% milk

  • 2/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (drained, coarse chopped)

  • ½ cup Parmesan (grated)

  • ½ tsp oregano

  • ½ tsp basil

  • salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

  2. Thinly slice the rope sausage (approx. 1/8 inch rounds). Brown the sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside in a large bowl.

  3. Prepare to make the sauce by measuring out the flour, chicken broth, milk, and Parmesan in separate containers. Coarsely chop the sun-dried tomatoes. (Each ingredient is added in quick succession so it’s best to have everything ready)

  4. To make the sauce, melt butter in the same skillet (this will incorporate more flavor from the browned bits of the sausage). Add garlic and cook for about 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Add the flour, whisking constantly for 1 minute, allowing it to brown.

  5. Gradually whisk in the chicken broth and cook for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly.

  6. Stir in milk, sundried tomatoes, parmesan, oregano and basil. Continue cooking over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 1-2 minutes.

  7. Combine penne and sauce with the sausage in the large bowl. Stir until well combined. Serve warm, and garnish with chopped spinach, add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.


Nutrition Facts Label for Entire Meal:

Nutrition Facts Label for Sun-dried Tomato Penne Pasta:

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