This easy, creamy, spicy pasta recipe is ready in 30 minutes! With spicy Italian sausage, broccoli, and orecchiette: the perfect scoop shaped pasta for collecting this creamy sauce.
Need a comforting and filling meal, fast? We’re doing dinner right tonight with this spicy sausage and broccoli pasta. Just six main ingredients, a few minutes of prep, and about 20 minutes at the stove is all you need for this flavorful and rich pasta dish.
Main Ingredients You’ll Need
- Spicy Italian sausage - Buy ground, bulk sausage, or grab a package fresh Italian sausage links. If you get the links, remove the casings before you brown the sausage.
- Orecchiette pasta - Translates to “little ears” in Italian. This scooped pasta creates pools of creamy sauce in its curved shape. The perfect vessel for this pasta dish!
- Broccoli - Cut into bite sized florets.
- Garlic, of course. We're all garlic girls here.
- Red pepper flakes - To add an extra kick!
- Heavy cream - Mixes with a splash of salty pasta water to make a silky, creamy sauce.
- Parmesan cheese - We recommend buying a block to freshly grate for this recipe. (Asiago or Pecorino romano would also work!)
Our Basic Order of Operations
- Cook the sausage with some minced garlic in a large skillet until sausage is cooked through and lightly browned.
- Boil the orecchiette in well salted water.
- Add the broccoli to the boiling water when the pasta is 2-3 minutes away from al dente.
- Stir red pepper flakes and heavy cream in with the cooked sausage and simmer.
- Transfer the cooked pasta and broccoli to the skillet with a slotted spoon or spider strainer (this will bring in a little of the pasta water which is ideal!)
- Sprinkle in parmesan cheese and stir until melted.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately!
Riffs and Substitutions
This spicy sausage pasta is pretty delicious as is, but you can easily change it up to fit your taste buds!
- Make it milder by swapping in sweet or mild Italian sausage, or omitting the red pepper flakes.
- Lighten it up by using an equal amount of chicken or veggie stock, milk, or our Magic Cauliflower Cream Sauce in place of heavy cream.
- Change up the greens. Swap broccoli for broccolini, spinach, or broccoli rabe (broccoli’s leggy and slightly bitter cousin).
- Change up the protein. You can use slow cooker shredded chicken, chicken sausage in place of the spicy Italian sausage. (This pasta is also good with some turkey meatballs thrown in!)
- Use what you have! We know limiting food waste can be tough. Pastas like this (and our favorite Summer Gnocchi!) are great to use any extra veggies you have on hand. Throw in some onions, pepper, garlic, tomatoes, or any fresh herbs (hellooooo, sage) that need to be used up. Roasted butternut squash or sliced fennel would also be delicious in this dish.
A Few Tips
- Drain the excess oil from the sausage after browning if it's especially oily.
- Don’t be afraid of salt! Cooking the pasta and broccoli in salty water means it will be well seasoned when added to the pasta sauce.
- Allow some of the pasta water to drip in when transferring the orecchiette and broccoli. Pasta water is salty starchy magic and works wonders in bringing together a sauce.
- Use freshly grated parmesan cheese in place of the pre-shredded kind. Shredded cheese often includes anti-caking agents that prevent it from melting into the sauce.
Kitchen workflow tips
Instead of having this be a one pot recipe, we found boiling the orecchiette and broccoli separately from the sausage made for a better sauce. Having multiple pots on the stove at once can feel intimidating, but fear not, friend. We have some tips to help make you a pot-juggling pro!
- Prep, chop, and measure your ingredients first. This way everything is on deck and ready to go.
- Next, set a pot of water to boil (don’t forget the salt!), then start browning the sausage. After a few minutes of cooking the sausage, the water should be ready for the pasta.
- By the time you add the broccoli to the boiling pasta (when it’s a few minutes away from al dente), the sausage should be cooked and ready to add the cream and red pepper flakes. The broccoli will be cooking while the sauce is simmering.
- The final step is to bring it all together by transferring the broccoli and pasta over to the simmering sauce, adding in the parmesan, and doing a final taste test for salt and pepper.
To make it super simple, just remember these steps:
- Prep ingredients first.
- Pasta is cooking while sausage is browning.
- Broccoli is cooking while the sauce is simmering.
- Bring it all together.
A Few FAQs
How can I reheat this pasta?
Pastas with a cream based sauce have a tendency to break in the microwave, so they are best served immediately. For best results, reheat this pasta slowly in a skillet over medium heat while stirring. Add a splash of milk or cream to help loosen up the sauce.
How long will this pasta keep?
Store any leftovers in the refrigerator for 3-4 days!
More quick and easy pasta dishes
- 20 Minute Creamy Pesto Gnocchi
- Pesto Pasta with Mushrooms and Tomatoes
- 30 Minute Corn and Tomato Pasta
- Spicy Tomato Pasta with Italian Sausage
- 30 Minute Creamy Chicken Spinach Pasta
Video: How to make this spicy sausage and broccoli orecchiette
Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Orecchiette
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4
- Category: Pasta
- Cuisine: Italian-American
An easy pasta recipe with broccoli, spicy sausage, and a simple cream sauce.
- ½ pound spicy Italian sausage
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ pound orecchiette pasta
- 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
- Set a large pot of water on the stove, bring to a boil, and add salt to taste.
- Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook, breaking up any chunks with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, for 7-10 minutes or until cooked through and lightly browned. Add minced garlic when sausage is mostly cooked. If the sausage is especially oily, discard some of the extra fat.
- While the sausage browns, cook the orecchiette in very salty water. When the pasta is 2-3 minutes away from being al dente, add the broccoli florets to the water to cook.
- Stir red pepper flakes and heavy cream into the sausage. Bring to a low simmer while the pasta finishes cooking.
- Use a slotted spoon or spider/skimmer ladle to lift cooked pasta and broccoli out of the boiling water and add it to the skillet with your sauce mixture, letting a bit of the starchy pasta water drip into the sauce as you go.
- Add parmesan cheese and stir until cheese has melted and cream has returned to a simmer, then turn off the heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
For great pasta, cook the pasta in a separate pot while you build the sauce in the skillet. It can take some practice to successfully balance both pots at a time! We like to use a spider spoon to transfer the pasta to the sauce skillet because it pulls some of the starchy pasta water in with it, which helps emulsify the sauce and keep it nice and creamy. If you’d rather use just one pot, cook the pasta and broccoli, then drain it, set it aside, and return the pot to the stove to build your sauce. If you do this, just make sure to reserve a bit of pasta water to help the sauce come together!
Use quality parmesan cheese here – pre-shredded cheese is often treated with preservatives that prevent it from melting smoothly into a sauce. I like to buy a nice block of parmesan and shred it myself with a microplane or cheese grater.
Add any veggies you like to this pasta or swap the sausage out for chicken to switch it up!
Use ¼ cup stock, milk, or pasta water in place of ¼ cup of the cream to lighten this recipe up a little.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 516
- Sugar: 2.8 g
- Sodium: 1195.4 mg
- Fat: 26.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 47 g
- Protein: 21 g
- Cholesterol: 67.1 mg
Keywords: dinner, weeknight, pasta
This was absolutely incredible! Such an easy recipe to throw together on a weekday but it tasted like Saturday night at my favorite Italian restaurant. Cannot wait to make this again!
Team Life As A Strawberry
We're SO happy this recipe brought back great memories!
Love this recipe! Also, I wish you the best of luck as you take the time to let things settle in your career. It sounds exciting but I imagine it is also unsettling at the same time.
Thanks, Christina! It's definitely a bit of a roller coaster, but I'm excited to see where it takes me! Hope you're doing well!