Dinner Rush: Zucchini, Tomato Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Ricotta

Easy weeknight meal #2.  This one was quicker than last week’s Mango Shrimp, and cheaper!  If you choose to leave out the chicken sausage, then its an even more frugal (and also a vegetarian) dinner.  Nothing in the preparation of this dish is time consuming.  There is a little chopping and slicing to do, but nothing tedious…unless you consider slicing a couple garlic cloves to be tedious.

I don’t often make vegetarian dishes when I cook for Ben and myself.  I am content with a dinner where mushrooms, black beans or artichokes are the “meat”.  Tofu?  Not yet, people.  I fear tofu.  Ben would prefer chicken, beef, turkey, etc. as a part of a balanced meal.  So, I made this pasta dish with chicken sausage.  Ben liked this addition, but I think it would have been better as a purely vegetarian pasta.  I love my husband, and I like him to be happy…so I will make this again with the chicken sausage or maybe prosciutto.  Ben can eat his meaty pasta, but I will set aside some pure, vegetable goodness for myself before adding the animal product.  Marriage is all about compromise!

pasta1This meal came about by reading a Martha Stewart recipe for Penne alla Norma which sounded so good…until I reached the line that read…EGGPLANT…gasp…blech!  I hate eggplant.  If someone wants to convince me that it’s delicious, then fly me to your house and treat me to dinner featuring this outwardly beautifully purple vegtable with an slimy inner evil.  If you can convince me that it’s edible…I will retract the last few remarks and worship you.

Anyway, I decided to replace the eggplant in the recipe with zucchini.  That was the first change I made to the original recipe, and some other changed followed; added the chicken sausage, used grape tomatoes, doubled the tomato paste, and the basil, and reserved the pasta water to make the dish saucier.  I also used whole wheat penne.

I really like this pasta.  The vegetables were just tender, not too hard or too mushy.  The flavor of the sauce had a perfect level of spicy because of the red pepper, and it was light enough to be a good summer pasta.  A dollop of ricotta on top gave the pasta a nice amount of creaminess and was also a great complement to the spice.  You could sprinkle parmesan on top instead, but I really liked the refreshing ricotta.

Zucchini, Tomato Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Ricotta


  • 1 pound whole wheat penne rigate
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 container of grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 pound chicken sausage, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup torn fresh basil, plus more for garnish
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese


  1. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Drain pasta and reserve 1 cup of pasta water; return to pot.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add zucchini to skillet; season generously with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook until zucchini is just tender, about 3 minutes. Add chicken sausage, stir, then cover and let chicken warmed through, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes. Uncover; cook, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes more.
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1/2 cup reserved pasta water to skillet; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Toss sauce and basil with pasta; gently reheat if necessary. Top each serving with a spoonful of ricotta, and garnish with more basil.