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Creamy Tomato and Sausage Penne is my MOST POPULAR RECIPE for cooking right from your pantry, to include bright tomatoes, tender pasta, a bit-o-heat, and this entirely CREAMY sauce!
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
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Creamy Tomato and Sausage Penne
You can make this Creamy Tomato and Sausage Penne with ingredients you already have on hand! This is my MOST POPULAR RECIPE for cooking right from your pantry, to include bright tomatoes, tender pasta, a bit-o-heat, and this entirely CREAMY sauce!
Quick skillet pasta dishes like this Creamy Tomato and Sausage Penne are great ‘get it done quick’ meals which are big on flavor and low on cost and time. This dish requires only a few 100% real ingredients, most, if not all of which are likely already in your pantry or refrigerator. The method requires the use of cream cheese and heavy cream to make what starts out as a regular tomato sauce, smooth, rich, and creamy. If you do not have cream cheese on hand, you could go all cream without compromising on the flavor.
I add sausage, either Italian pork sausage or a fave chicken sausage, for extra flavor to the finished dish along with shaved blended cheeses; Parmesan, Asiago…whatever I have on hand. If sausage isn’t your thing, spinach, sliced grilled chicken, or grilled shrimp may be used. Whatever your vice, Creamy Tomato and Sausage Penne is one to earmark for YOUR next busy weeknight!
If sausage isn’t your thing, spinach, grilled and sliced chicken, or even seared or grilled shrimp can be used.
Many weeknights are decided for me based on how my day went. In other words, if I am not pulling in until late, I am OFTEN forced to cook right out of the pantry.
Luckily, I have a handful of recipes for which I am always fully stocked. And of course you knew it had to include a creamy sausage pasta dish, didn’t you?
The heavenly tomato cream sauce that envelopes each ‘pencil of penne’ is pure unadulterated comfort food! I love that I simply cook pasta while the rest of this easy recipe is made in one skillet over 30-ish minutes.
Some nights I use hot Italian sausage, other nights a mild flavored chicken sausage. If sausage isn’t your thing, spinach, grilled and sliced chicken, or even seared or grilled shrimp can be used.
Ingredients for Creamy Tomato and Sausage Penne
- Italian pork or chicken sausage
- penne pasta
- chicken stock
- garlic cloves
- olive oil
- diced tomatoes
- dried oregano
- dried basil
- red pepper flakes
- Kosher salt
- black pepper
- tomato paste
- cream cheese
- heavy cream
- grated Parmesan cheese
- fresh basil
How This Recipe Came About…
There are about a zillion versions of this recipe floating all over the internet, and so many really great ones at that! I like to think that this version is inclusive not only of all of the most delicious ingredients, but also the most straightforward steps to getting it cooked and on the table in under 1 hour. AND, the flexibility as far as add-ins and substitutions is limited only to what you have on hand and how creative you allow yourself to get!
I had three or four very similar versions of a creamy sausage pasta recipe that I would alternate between whenever I wanted comfort food. There were ‘steps’ I liked in each one, but for the most part, they were largely each the same creamy tomato sausage pasta dish. One day, I took all of the unique steps and nuances and folded them into one dish. It took making it several times to get things correct, but in the end, this is the version that captured all of the attributes I liked from the previous recipes.
How Do You Make Pasta With Sausage?
There are two ‘correct’ answers to this question, and both are equally delicious methods regardless of what sauce you plan to use!
- If wanting to use large slices or chunks of sausage in your finished pasta dish, boil a stockpot full of water. Add the link sausages and parboil for about 6 minutes. Remove from the boiling water and light a gas grill on high. Line the grates with heavy gauge aluminum foil and use kitchen tongs to add the sausages. Grill on all sides for 6 to 8 minutes or until sausages begin to ‘juice.’ Remove and allow to cool slightly before cutting into the desired lengths you want to serve.
- If wanting to cook the sausage directly into your sauce, remove sausage from casings and add to skillet. Cook, breaking up the meat, until brown. Once sufficiently browned, tilt your skillet allowing the sausage to tumble out onto paper toweling and drain. Loosely wipe the skillet of remaining grease but NOT of any accumulated browned bits. Return skillet to low heat, re-add the drained sausage crumbles, and onions to sweat.
AND….sausage is not limited to Italian pork sausage – dare to be different and cook up the many varieties of chicken sausage flavored with anything from sage to apples to sundried tomato.
How To Make Creamy Sausage And Tomato Penne?
This is a straightforward penne with marinara dish, only the marinara is elevated by the addition of sweet onion, sausage, hot pepper flakes, cream cheese for creaminess and a spot of heavy cream (purely optional) for added richness. The intentionally undercooked noodles are then simmered in the creamy tomato sauce until al dente and slightly thickened.
With the exception of boiling the pasta, the creamy tomato sauce is built in a skillet over medium heat until it’s cooked through. The sausage may be grilled and sliced and added to the pasta just before serving, or may be broken up and browned directly in the skillet and become the base of the sauce. Both methods are correct.
I begin by browning my sausage in a bit of butter or olive oil. To this I sweat a chopped onion. If my mixture appears dry, I add chicken stock 1/4 cup at a time and reduce the heat slightly. I want everything soft and translucent versus crispy and browned. Minced garlic rounds out the flavor profile.
I am using an apple and sage chicken sausage that I’ve removed from the casing. I am browning it with only about 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Once browned, I will drain on paper toweling to rid my sauce of any additional fat.
As the sausage takes on a golden color, I add chopped onion to sweat. Rough chopped garlic cloves will follow, but only once the onions and sausage are close to where I want them. I do not want to burn my garlic.
Next I add a can of diced tomatoes and all of my aromatics such as basil and oregano and hot pepper flakes. I measure out roughly a cup of chicken stock and add a bit of tomato paste which I stir to dissolve right in the stock. It helps to warm the stock in the microwave slightly for this step.
There are a good amount of ‘brown bits’ or fond at the bottom of my pan. I want to keep this and incorporate into my sauce, as this is where the flavor is. I begin by adding the canned tomatoes and scraping all of those brown bits into the liquid using the back of a wooden spoon.
Next, I add tomato paste which I have dissolved in warm chicken stock. Paste is essential as it helps to not only thicken my sauce, but also lends that one-two tomato punch, as paste in concentrated tomato pulp.
Once the stock and paste mixture has been added, the cream cheese is melted in along with a scant amount of heavy cream. In go the penne and all is tossed very well. Pop a lid on and lower the heat to the lowest setting for simmer. I stir it after 5 minutes and again at 10 minutes. Then I remove the entire skillet from the heat and allow the penne to rest, lid on, for an additional 5 minutes. What I finally ladle into bowls is pure penne with sausage and spicy cream tomato sauce magic.
Add the cream cheese and allow it to melt into the sauce. Use a wire whisk to hasten.
Now add the heavy cream. Continue to whisk until smooth. Lower the heat to simmer.
Add the undercooked penne to the sauce. Stir gently to coat the noodles very well. Place a lid on the skillet and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir. Replace the lid and simmer another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat but leave the lid in place. Allow pasta to rest for another 5 minutes.
Remove the lid and stir the pasta. The noodles will appear considerably more tender and the sauce thickened. Prepare to plate the dish in individual pasta bowls and garnish with fresh Parmesan and basil leaves. Alternatively, ladle into a single large pasta serving bowl. Offer fresh Parmesan and basil leaves tableside.
Modifying The Norm To Make It Not Entirely Average…
In my step by step photos, you will see I am forgoing the Italian pork sausage today, opting instead for a chicken sausage flavored with apple and sage. Use what you and yours love the best. Go sliced grilled chicken or shrimp if sausage is not your jam. And for a meatless pasta, consider fresh baby spinach, artichokes, Kalamata olives, roasted eggplant, or mushrooms.
Right before serving, I toss in fresh basil leaves. The flavors are outstanding in tandem with the sauce. Add basil or opt instead for fresh oregano leaves or toasted sage leaves. My family enjoys this dish best with freshly grated Parmesan. I also serve with room temperature Burrata to absolute applause!
What To Serve With Creamy Sausage And Tomato Penne?
This dish requires little, if any, additional dishes to support it. I “go lite” by offering my Beet Napoleons with Garlicky Balsamic Vinaigrette as a starter/appetizer, or quickly toss a salad with my Apricot Vinaigrette. Garlic bread or hunks of buttered Italian bread are a must!
What To Drink With Creamy Sausage And Tomato Penne?
A dry oaky and smoky Cabernet compliments this dish beautifully. Or enjoy this with a well-chilled, semi-sparkling Moscato. Moscato is known more as a dessert wine. Moscato razzle-dazzles the creamy tomato sauce in this pasta dish like no other.
If considering a beer, then a pale ale or lager such as Huger Street India Pale Ale, Stella Artois, or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, again very well-chilled, go quite nicely.
Can Creamy Sausage And Tomato Penne Be Made Ahead?
YES! Make Creamy Sausage And Tomato Penne ahead. In fact, my family personally thinks this pasta dish gets better overnight!
Cook through the entire recipe completely, omitting the addition of Parmesan cheese. Allow the pasta to cool right in the skillet. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate.
To reheat, turn pasta out in a skillet. Use a wooden spoon to hasten the pasta loosening up as you warm over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Garnish with the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Can Creamy Sausage And Tomato Penne Be Frozen?
Yes, this pasta dish freezes well! This is true whether leftovers or a full recipe to be brought out at a later date. This is a good recipe to make and freeze for later.
Cook through the entire recipe completely, omitting the addition of Parmesan cheese. Allow the pasta to cool right in the skillet. Transfer to a container with a tight-fitting lid and freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw in refrigerator overnight. To reheat, turn fully thawed pasta out in a skillet. Use a wooden spoon to hasten the pasta loosening up as you warm over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Garnish with the Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Creamy Tomato and Sausage Penne
- 4 sausages cooked; may be pork or other; see notes regarding preparation of sausage
- 1 (dry) pound penne pasta
- 1 medium onion rough chopped
- 3 cloves garlic rough chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 ½ – 2 cups chicken stock divided
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon basil dried
- pinch red pepper flakes optional but does add a nice heat to the finished dish
- ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- black pepper freshly cracked, to taste
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 4 ounces cream cheese softened to room temperature
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Parmesan freshly grated
- Prepare sausage based on preference; see notes below.
- Bring a large pot of water seasoned with 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta. Cook according to package directions EXCEPT undercook by 2 minutes. Drain the pasta in a colander and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil to keep it from sticking.
- Sweat onion in a large skillet with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the unsalted butter over medium-low heat until softened and transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
- Reduce the heat slightly, and slowly add 1 cup of chicken stock, the diced tomatoes with their juices, the oregano, basil, red pepper flakes if using, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to the skillet with the onions and garlic. Stir well to combine.
- Boil the remaining cup of chicken stock in a microwave-proof bowl or measure cup in the microwave. Remove carefully from the microwave, and add the tomato paste to the hot chicken stock and stir to dissolve. Add to the skillet and stir.
- Turn the heat down to low. Cut the cream cheese into a few pieces and then add to the skillet with the tomato sauce. Stir the sauce until the cream cheese has fully melted in and the sauce is very creamy. Add the heavy cream and stir again. NOTE cream cheese melts SLOWLY, so continue to stir and simmer over low heat for as many as 10 minutes until the cream cheese is no longer visible in the sauce.
- Add the pasta and stir until it is well coated in the creamy tomato sauce. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Add additional hot pepper flakes as desired if using.
- Turn the heat to the lowest setting. Place a lid on the skillet and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Stir. Replace the lid and again simmer for another 5 minutes. Sauce will be thicker and pasta will be considerably more tender.
- Remove the skillet from the heat but leave the lid in place on the skillet. Allow the pasta to rest an additional 5 minutes.
- Stir the pasta well. Ladle into individual pasta bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves. Alternatively, mount all of the pasta in a large serving bowl. Offer Parmesan cheese and fresh basil leaves with the pasta tableside.
The nutrition value can vary depending on what product(s) you use. The information below is an estimate. Always use a calorie counter you are familiar with.
Please note that table salt and iodized salt are NOT substitutions for Kosher salt. Do not deviate unless otherwise specified.