Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage


Easy, simple, tasty Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage with kale in a light cream sauce topped off with a buttery, crispy topping! This 30-minute meal will be your weeknight go-to dinner recipe!


My family just loves one-dish meals. So easy, so tasty, and so easy to clean up (since I cook, someone else has to do the cleaning!). This orecchiette pasta recipe doesn’t disappoint, and adding the kale in there guarantees my kids eat a veggie too (they don’t even bother to pick it out — huge win). 

Here’s How You Make It 


  • Orecchiette pasta — I love to use orecchiette because it soaks up the dijon sauce so well but you could substitute another type of pasta too. 
  • Ground Italian sausage — I like to purchase ground sausage for ease of cooking but you could also take sausage out of sausage casings to make it ground or cook up sausages and then slice them thin to add back into the orecchiette with sausage recipe.
  • Kale — fresh, chopped, may substitute spinach
  • Chicken broth — I use low-sodium chicken broth but you can use whatever kind you have on hand or even vegetable or beef broth in pinch. 
  • Heavy cream — Heavy cream goes well in this dish, and it helps to thicken the sauce. If you don’t have heavy cream, you can use whole milk or fat free half and half. 
  • Garlic — I use minced garlic from a jar, but you can mince your own if you prefer. 
  • Dijon mustard — Dijon mustard gives a great depth of flavor to this sausage and pasta dish and pairs well with the ground Italian sausage too. 
  • Crushed red pepper flakes — You can skip these if you’re not a fan of spice. But any red pepper flake brand will do. 
  • Salt and cracked pepper Add salt and cracked (or ground) pepper to taste. 
  • Parmesan cheese — I shred my own parmesan, it melts so much better into this pasta with sausage dish. But if you don’t have a wedge of parm to grate, you can substitute pre-grated parmesan.  
  • Butter — I use unsalted butter and add salt later. But you can use whatever kind of butter you like. If you use salted butter, be sure to go light when salting later. 
  • Panko bread crumbs — Store-bought Panko breadcrumbs are fine, any brand you like. 
  • Garlic powder — Any store-bought or name-brand type of garlic powder is fine in this pasta with sausage dish. 

Step By Step Instructions 

  1. First, cook the orecchiette pasta, drain, and set aside. While pasta is cooking, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. Stir in the panko breadcrumbs and garlic powder into the melted butter and stir all together for 1-2 minutes or until the panko is golden brown. Transfer the crumble to a dish and set it aside.
  2. Now, in the same skillet you used for the breadcrumbs, brown the sausage over medium-high heat, breaking it into crumbles as it cooks. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate and cover it to keep it warm, leaving the sausage oil in the skillet.
  3. Next, add the garlic into the pan and stir it over medium heat for 1 minute, or until fragrant, then stir in the red pepper flakes.
  4. Now stir in the broth, the cream, and the dijon for 2-5 minutes, or until it’s reduced by half and thickened slightly, then stir in the kale for 2-3 minutes, or till it’s wilted.
  5. Finally, add back in the orecchiette pasta and then the parmesan and stir until the parmesan is melted, then stir in the sausage.
  6. Season this pasta with sausage dish generously with salt and pepper (to taste), and top it with additional parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs. Enjoy!

Why This Recipe Works

Easy — This recipe only takes about 30 minutes to make and contains simple ingredients. It’s truly as easy as cooking pasta, cooking sausage, making a quick sauce and golden panko topping, and putting it all together. 

Sausage — I love using ground Italian sausage in this pasta with sausage recipe. It has the perfect blend of spices that I think are so tasty. But you can use whatever kind of sausage that you prefer. 

Orecchiette — Orecchiette is just a fun pasta shape that I think not only looks yummy but tastes great too. It holds the little bites of sausage and sauce perfectly like eating a mouthful of tiny little spoons. You can use whatever pasta you have on hand though, you don’t have to wait till you get orecchiette in your pantry to try this pasta with sausage dish out. 

One pan — Okay so yes, you have to cook the pasta and drain it but after that, this orecchiette pasta recipe comes together in just one pan. Cook in it, serve out of it, clean it up. No muss, no fuss! 

Expert Tips

  • Use freshly grated/shaved parmesan, not pre-shredded as it doesn’t melt and incorporate as well as fresh. 
  • Feel free to swap out the kale for fresh spinach instead. 
  • This orecchiette pasta recipe will keep for up to 5 days in the fridge. Or you can freeze it for up to 5 months.
  • I also like to sometimes add halved cherry tomatoes into this dish for some added color and nutrition. 
  • For a vegetarian version of this orecchiette pasta with sausage, you can add instead a can of drained white beans (navy or cannellini). It will still be just as delicious! 
  • Store any dry, uncooked pasta in an airtight container in a cool dry place (like your pantry). 

What Is Orecchiette Pasta? 

First thing’s first, let’s learn how to pronounce this long, crazy word: Oh-reck-ee-ET-tay. Got that? Good. 

Now, next, what is orecchiette pasta? It’s kind of like a shell but not as curved or rounded. I think it looks like a small spoon. The word actually means “small ears” in Italian so I guess you could say this pasta shape looks like a small ear. The edges of the pasta are thicker than the middle and it’s chewy when cooked al dente. 

Orecchiette pasta is great with sausage, like in this dish of course, but it’s also a great carrier for lots of sauces like tomato sauce, alfredo (for a healthier alfredo try my Greek Yogurt Alfredo Sauce), pesto, and more. 

What Is Orecchiette Pasta Good for? 

Orecchiette pasta is good for dishes with simple sauces like tomato sauce or pesto. It’s also great with sauteed vegetables or alternative sauces like roasted red pepper sauce. 

It’s also great in mac and cheese, in chicken noodle soup, and as a super simple side with butter and parmesan. 

How Do You Know When Pasta Is Al Dente? 

“Al dente” means to be “cooked just enough to retain a somewhat firm texture.” With pasta, this means you want the pasta to have some “bite” in it. You don’t want to boil it until it’s mushy. 

The best way to cook your pasta “al dente” is to try it about two minute before the package says it’s going to be done. If you take a bite of the cooking pasta (cool it off first before you bite into it, of course), and it is tender enough to chew (no crunch) but isn’t yet mushy or too soft, then that’s al dente. You can take the pasta off the burner and strain at this point. 


More Pasta Recipes

If you love easy pasta dishes, then you’ll be sure to love making Cajun Shrimp Alfredo Pasta, Spicy Tomato Garlic Shrimp Pasta, and Chicken and Sausage Pasta

If you make this blueberry cobbler, please come back and let me know what you think by leaving a comment and rating the recipe! And be sure to snap a photo and email it or tag me on social media, I love connecting with you and seeing your CDLC creations!