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Orecchiette Pasta with Kale & Sausage

June 10, 2024

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

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

Creamy Pastas From The Modern Proper

Italian Sausage Pasta—Need We Say More?

Weeknights and pasta are a match made in heaven. This orecchiette pasta recipe is garlicky, creamy, and bright, and not to mention, this creamy kale pasta is suuuper easy. 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. Want even more sausage pasta? Try our Baked Ziti or Baked Tortellini.

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

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! Our Tortellini Soup and Penne Alla Vodka are also both filled with that winning Italian sausage and kale combo!

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

Ingredients For Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Kale

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. 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

ground Italian sausage being cooked in a frying pan with a wooden spoon
Heavy cream and parmesan being stirred with a wooden spoon 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

How to Make The Best Sauce For Orecchiette Pasta

A spritz of lemon and a good handful of kale keep this dish from being overly rich. 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 cook it with the sausage just for another minute or so.

  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

How to Store ​​Orecchiette Pasta + Tips

  • Pasta keeps forever and is budget-friendly so we’ve always, always got at least a box or two (or 10) in the cupboard.

  • Wondering what to serve with this orecchiette pasta recipe? We like to serve our orecchiette with sausage alongside a big Italian Salad and some Garlic Bread for sopping up all the delicious sauce. For a date night in, this pasta orecchiette pairs beautifully with a Campari Spritz with an Easy Tiramisu or Baileys Chocolate Bundt Cake for dessert.

  • Store any leftovers refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

orecchiette pasta with kale and sausage in a bowl next to a small bowl with red pepper flakes

Tools You’ll Need

Our Favorite Easy Pasta Recipes

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

Creamy, Comforting Weeknight Ease

For more recipe inspiration, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Pinterest or order our cookbook. We love when you share your meals. Tag us on Instagram using #themodernproper. Happy cooking!

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Orecchiette Pasta with Kale & Sausage

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

Ingredients

  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage, casing removed
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1½ cups 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)

Method

  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. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water. Drain and set aside.

  2. Meanwhile, heat a large nonstick skillet 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 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon juice, ½ cup reserved pasta water 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. Add pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time until the sauce is your desired consistency.

  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

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  • Annie

    The flavors of this are delicious! When I added the cream and parmesean, the sauce did not thicken up much. Should it boil for 2 minutes or just be warm? I'm not sure what I did wrong. 🤔 Help!

    You can cook it a little longer than 2 minutes if it needs to thicken up more but we wouldn't bring it to a boil sot hat the cream doesn't curdle. Hope this helps Annie!

  • Elizabeth

    Could you use ground chicken instead?

    Sure!

  • Julie

    My husband made this. We subbed regular kale and a different type of pasta (spirals). When he attempted to stir it, the kale clumped around the cheese - making kale nuggets. No amount of stirring would release the cheese-kale clumps. Any idea what went wrong? The flavor was delicious!

    Hi Julie, My only thought is that maybe you used pre shredded parmesan cheese? If so, it doesn't melt and break down into a sauce the same way that freshly grated does. If you happened to use freshly grated, then I am not sure what went wrong.

  • Ashley

    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.

  • Talia

    Really enjoyed this! It came together quickly and easily with minimal prep. My husband who doesn’t usually like pasta dishes even ranked this 5 stars! (Which for us means he would serve it to friends and family and eat it regularly.) Excited to have a new recipe in our rotation!

    Thanks Talia, we are so happy you BOTH loved it!

  • Kait

    We made this tonight, and it was a HUGE hit. My husband said “add it into the regular rotation” as soon as we were done. We made the recipe as written and have no notes or substitutions. Thank you for a great, easy recipe!

    Thanks Kait, we are so happy you both loved it!

  • Blqine

    I just made this tonight. It was delicious. I made it with what I had. I substituted spinach for kale, half and half for heavy cream, and small shells for the pasta. This is something I will make again. The sauce was so flavorful but not heavy. I loved adding the pasta water to get the right consistency. Your pictures were so enticing, I had to try it and I was not disappointed! Thank you!

    Thank you! We are so happy you loved it!

  • Ruthie

    The lemon elevates this to the next level! I added a splash over the top at the end along with Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes and it took the flavor profile to new heights. The fam was over the moon about it and wished I had made more.

    Thanks Ruthie, so happy you all loved it!

  • Erin

    This was a hit with my family! I did reserve some of the pasta water and added just a teaspoon to help the sauce. It felt a little fancy, a little "home-y" and a little healthy (LOL, just the kale really). It will definitely stay in rotation for us. Oh, and I used Italian ground turkey, which I have never bought before, but Publix had it on sale. I actually searched your website for ground sausage recipes to use it with, and that's how I found this recipe! This would be a good sub for people looking for a way to make it a little healthier, or if they don't eat pork.

    We are so happy you loved this and will be making it again. Thanks Erin!