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Orecchiette Pasta with Kale & Sausage

A sumptuous, quick, and creamy kale and sausage pasta recipe made with orecchiette for all of your weeknight needs.


Orecchiette pasta with kale and sausage in a large bowl with a fork.
Photography by Gayle McLeod

Creamy Sausage Pasta—Need We Say More?

Weeknights and pasta go together like peanut butter and jelly — a match made in heaven for so many reasons! This orecchiette pasta recipe is an easy sell to even the harshest dinnertime critic. It’s garlicky, creamy, and bright, and not to mention, this creamy kale pasta is suuuper easy. This recipe is the kind of thing most of us can pull together in even a really last-minute situation. Which is why we think it’s the best orecchiette recipe we’ve made to date. Fast, flavorful, and hearty, you know it’s going to be a big hit from the moment you start cooking. And that’s a weeknight feeling we’d all like to have a little more often!

ingredients to make orecchiette pasta in small bowls including kale, sausage, parmesan cheese, sausage, pasta and pepper.

What is Orecchiette?

We love these little pasta “ears,” also known as pasta orecchiette, because they really hold onto pasta sauce sooo nicely! Although they’re not shells, they look very similar and are made by pressing with your thumb to create a concave shape! Of course, you can use any pasta of your choice for this recipe but they’re ideal for holding chunkier sauces with pieces, which is why orecchiette with sausage and kale is perfect! We’ll let you in on a little secret: pasta keeps forever and is budget-friendly so we’ve always, always got at least a box or two (or 10) in the cupboard. And of course, it’s a pretty good blank slate! You can pretty much throw whatever is in your fridge or cupboard at a bowl of pasta and end up with something palatable—especially if you top it with lots of Parmesan cheese.

ground Italian sausage in a frying pan
Cream and parmesan cheese in a black cast iron skillet
cream sauce with kale a cast iron skillet
cream sauce with kale, garlic and sausage in a cast iron skillet

Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Kale — So Simple, The Ingredients are (Mostly) In the Name

This creamy sausage pasta recipe is pantry-friendly: just by reading the title, you’ll have a sense of what you’ll need to make it. You might have a lot of the ingredients—or, if you’re really lucky, all—around the house already, but if you don’t, you can find them all at your local grocery store. BTW, easy and fast doesn’t mean this recipe lacks in deliciousness. With plenty of garlic and a bright lemon cream sauce, it’s dressed to impress and bursting with goodness! It is definitely worthy of a date night in or even a dinner party. Here’s everything you’ll need to make it:

  • Orecchiette (or any pasta you love!)

  • Mild Italian sausage (feel free to spice it up with spicy Italian sausage)

  • Fresh garlic

  • Heavy cream

  • Parmesan cheese

  • Lemon

  • Kale

orecchiette kale pasta with sausage in a large black skillet with a wooden spoon

What to Serve with this Easy Orecchiette with Sausage and Kale

While our orecchiette with sausage can be devoured all by itself, we like to enjoy it alongside a big Simple Italian Salad or a Simple Butter Lettuce Salad. Or, try a variety of roasted veggies such as Roasted Carrots, Perfectly Roasted Broccoli, or Roasted Zucchini with Parmesan. Crusty Sourdough Bread or Garlic Bread can sop up all the delicious flavor from the sauce. For date night, this pasta orecchiette pairs beautifully with a Campari Spritz or Moscow Mule. We suggest wrapping up the night with an Easy Tiramisu or Baileys Chocolate Bundt Cake.

How to Make This Easy, Yummy Orecchiette With Sausage and Kale

This is seriously the best sauce for orecchiette pasta: a spritz of lemon and a good handful of kale keep it from being overly rich or cloying. It comes together quickly for the ultimate dinner! Follow these step-by-step instructions on how to make this orecchiette recipe:

  1. Cook the pasta in salted water and set it aside while you make the sauce.

  2. Sauté the sausage until it’s cooked through.

  3. Add the garlic and sauté it with the sausage just for another minute or so. Set the sausage aside.

  4. Pour the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese into the pan and stir it over medium heat until it has thickened a bit.

  5. Add salt, pepper, kale, and lemon juice and stir just until the kale has wilted.

  6. Stir in the sausage, garlic, and pasta, and serve!

close up of orecchiette kale pasta with Italian sausage cream sauce

Our Favorite Easy Italian Sausage Pasta Recipes

When sausage orecchiette isn’t on the menu, but we still want something just as comforting and easy, we like to make:

Tools You’ll Need For This Sausage Orecchiette Pasta

orecchiette kale pasta with a stone bowl next to a small bowl with red pepper flakes

Creamy, Comforting Weeknight Ease

This dreamy, creamy weeknight pasta can be all yours in less than 30 minutes! Did you make it for yourself or family and friends? Let us know how you like it – share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

Orecchiette Pasta with Kale & Sausage

  • Serves: 4
  • Prep Time:  10 min
  • Cook Time:  15 min
  • Calories: 765


  • 12 ounces orecchiette pasta
  • ¾ pound mild Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • Sea salt to taste, plus more for serving
  • Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste, plus more for serving
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 bunch Tuscan or lacinato kale, tough stems discarded and leaves roughly chopped (about 4 cups)
  • Red pepper flakes, for serving (optional)


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

  2. Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 more minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage and garlic to a bowl.

  3. Add the cream and parmesan to the saucepan. Cook, stirring often, until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon juice and kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes.

  4. Return the sausage mixture to the saucepan along with the drained pasta, stir to combine.

  5. To serve, sprinkle the pasta with additional parmesan and red pepper flakes, if using and salt and pepper if desired.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories765
  • Protein27 g
  • Carbohydrates55 g
  • Total Fat51 g
  • Dietary Fiber1 g
  • Cholesterol154 mg
  • sodium1083 mg
  • Total Sugars4 g

Orecchiette Pasta with Kale & Sausage

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

  • Ashley Gold

    I just realized I am out of orecchiette. What other pasta would you rec? What about pearl couscous?

    Any other shaped pasta would be fine in this recipe! We like the smaller ones for this as opposed to the long like fettuccine/spaghetti but whatever you have on hand is fine. Hope you enjoy Ashley!

  • Jessie

    I have left over buttermilk in the fridge…would it be weird to use that instead of heavy cream?

    We wouldn't recommend that swap in this recipe.

  • Linda

    Can I substitute spinach for kale?


  • T

    how many servings is this recipe?


  • Phyllis Covici

    Can I use a lactose free milk in place of the heavy cream and can I substitute baby spinach for the kale?
    Lots of dietary issues for family

    We get that! Baby spinach is fine and we haven't tried it with lactose free milk so difficult to say for sure but we'd love to know how it turns out!

  • Erin

    Very good! Instead of ground sausage, I cooked two sausages in the oven and sliced into bite-sized pieces. Will be making this again for sure.

    Thanks Erin, so happy you loved it!

  • Deb F

    Made this one twice and it's a keeper! Son loved it and requested it again. I added a 1/2 tsp of chili flakes into the sauce before adding the pasta and we enjoyed the kick.

    Thanks Deb, so happy you and your family loved it!

  • Sarah MacWatters

    So delicious! My husband is not a fan of kale but he ended up eating all of it. Love the creamy sauce. So easy to make!

    Thanks Sarah, so glad you loved it!

  • Brittany

    This was delicious! I made it dairy free with coconut milk and used broccoli instead of kale. So good!!!

    Thanks Brittany, so glad you loved it!

  • Gregory Parkinson

    Wasn’t too lemony. Sort of rustic. I will make it again.

    Thanks Gregory, glad you enjoyed it and want to make it again!