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Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale on a plate. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Shell Pasta with Italian Chicken Sausage and Kale

Healthy, comforting, utterly delicious - that's today's Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale.  The sauce is loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel.  Kale is cooked in the flavorful sauce so it wilts down and melds into the backdrop so perfectly. Hearty shell pasta perfectly holds the creamy parmesan cheesy sauce in each shell cup.  Parmesan on top is the salty and nutty finish! #healthypasta #healthyitalian #familydinner #dinnerideas

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Author Carrie Tyler

Ingredients

Italian Sausage

  • 16 oz Lean Ground Turkey or Chicken raised without antibiotics
  • 2 cloves Garlic minced
  • 3 tbsp Parsley Chopped
  • 1 tsp Fennel Seed
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Fresh Ground Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

All Other

  • 10 oz Uncooked Pasta, Shells or Orecchiette
  • 2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, small
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup Chicken Broth
  • 1 cup Milk
  • 2 tbsp Cornstarch
  • 2 cups Kale, chopped
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
  • 3/4 cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Instructions

Prep Ahead Steps

  1. Mince the garlic, chop the parsley, and measure out the fennel seed, salt, and pepper. Then add all to the ground chicken in a large mixing bowl. Mix to combine. Cover the bowl and store in the fridge until ready to cook.

    Italian Sausage ingredients in bowl for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  2. Dice the onion and store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to cook.

    Knife dicing onion for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  3. Clean the kale and dry it in a clean towel.  Then rough chop it into bite-size pieces.  Store the kale in the fridge with a cool damp towel on top until ready to cook.

    Cleaned & chopped kale for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Cooking Steps

  1. Boil a large pot of water for the pasta. Once the pasta water is boiling, add a splash of Olive Oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and stir so that it doesn't stick it itself. Boil the pasta until al dente. Remove 1 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta. Leave the pasta in the strainer until the sauce is ready.

  2. To a preheated large pan/skillet, add a tsp of Olive Oil and then add the Italian Sausage, breaking it up with a spatula or spoon into small bite-size pieces. Let it sit and sear for about 4-5 minutes. Then stir so that the other sides sear. Cook for another 3-4 minutes until no pieces are pink and look fully cooked through. Remove to a plate.

    Italian Sausage cooking in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  3. Add another tsp of Olive Oil if needed, then add the onions and garlic. Stir so they do not burn. Cook on medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the kale, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.

    Cooking kale in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  4. While the kale begins to cook, make the slurry by adding the 2 tbsp of cornstarch to the milk and stirring until dissolved.

    Cornstarch & milk slurry for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  5. Add the chicken broth and the milk slurry to the pan. As the sauce heats up, it will start to thicken, so be sure to stir every couple minutes as this happens to prevent clumping. Once the liquid has thickened a little, about 4-5 minutes (note, it will not be very thick, just a little bit thicker than it was), add the sausage back to the pan.

    Italian Sausage being added to kale sauce in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  6. Test the Kale, if it needs to cook more, cover and let cook for another few minutes. If the Kale is cooked to your liking, add the cooked pasta, 1/2 cup of the pasta water, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan Cheese. Mix to combine. If needed, you can add more of the pasta water to thin out the sauce.

    Mixing parmesan with pasta and Italian Sausage in pan for Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 
  7. Serve the pasta garnishing with more Parmesan Cheese.

    Shell Pasta with Italian Sausage and Kale on a plate. It's loaded with a salty homemade Chicken Italian Sausage flavored with garlic and fennel in a parmesan, garlic and kale sauce. 

Recipe Notes

  1. You could replace the homemade Italian Sausage with 1 lb (16oz) store-bought bulk Italian Sausage
  2. For the pasta, I used medium shells, but you could use any pasta you like.  The small-cut pasta with a cup shape to capture the parmesan and sausage is traditional, but any will taste great!
  3. For the parmesan, you can use grated or shredded.  The grated is best as it can really mix into the dish to create a sauce.