Decadent and sumptuous, this Creamy, Cheesy Italian Sausage and Basil Penne pasta is comfort food at its best. Italian sausage, fragrant with fennel, is sautéed with garlic and onion, combined with cream, parmesan cheese, and fresh basil, and then tossed with hot buttered penne. Elegant, yet so quick and easy, it's one of those dishes I keep in my back pocket for busy weeknights.
Creamy, Cheesy Italian Sausage and Basil Penne is best served right after combining the sauce and the pasta. The sauce can be made ahead and gently reheated before tossing with the penne just before serving. If I cook this dish an hour or so in advance, I keep the hot, buttered pasta warm by wrapping it in a blanket and mix it with the sauce at the last minute.
Creamy, Cheesy Italian Sausage and Basil Penne
For the Sauce:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (1.5oz, 42g)
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped fine or put through the garlic press
- 1 lb sweet Italian sausage (454g) **see note**
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or a mix of dried basil, thyme, marjoram, and oregano)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup chicken broth (8.3oz, 235g)
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream (12.6oz, 357g)
- ¾ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (2.6oz, 74g)
- handful of fresh basil, sliced thin
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Penne
- 1 lb penne pasta (454g)
- 1 tablespoon butter (.5oz, 14g)
For the Penne:
- Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook until al dente. Drain and toss with butter.
For the Sauce:
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until it is soft and translucent.
- Remove the sausage from casings and add to the pan. Cook until browned.
- Add Italian seasoning, bay leaf, chicken broth, and heavy cream. Let simmer on low for 15 minutes.
- Off the heat, stir in parmesan cheese, fresh basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss with hot buttered penne and serve immediately.
**If your sausage doesn't contain fennel seed, toast ½ teaspoon fennel seeds in a pan until they become aromatic, then pound in a mortar and pestle and add to sausage.
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Makes me love Pasta even more
Thanks Cookie Monster!
Made this a number of times and its great! I like to add extra red pepper flakes to make it a little more spicy 🙂 One edit I would make (and this is me being nit-picky) is in the "Note" you mention pounding the fennel in a mortal and pestle... It's actually mortar and pestle. Thanks for the great recipe!!!
So glad you liked it, Thomas! Thanks for pointing out my typo!
Can I use Greek yogurt or sour cream rather than heavy cream?
I've never tried it, but let me know how it turns out if you do!
I made the sausage and penne... delicious! Such a great recipe! Thank you for sharing
My husband made the penne pasta with chicken sausage. It was amazing but the sauce was not thick, it was like a milk consistency. What did he do wrong? I didn’t want this to happen again when he makes it again. Thank you
Hi Anna! Just simmer the sauce until it is thickened. This takes about 15 minutes for me. You can use a little higher heat as well. The cheese when melted also helps to thicken the sauce. Also, the longer the pasta sits in the sauce, the thicker it becomes. Another way to make it thicker would be to use a little less chicken broth.
This was sooo delicious! I had the same problem with mine not thickening up, even with extra time but the flavor was so good I just ended up eating it with a spoon. Yum!
Thanks so much, Ashley! The sauce won't get very thick in the pan. After it's tossed with the pasta, it gets absorbed and starts to thicken.
This was a really good recipe. I did not have fresh basil, nor did I have the mortar and pestle to chop up the fennel seeds so I skipped that but it tasted great nonetheless! Thank you!
Thanks so much, Kristi! So glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
Tried it tonight and the flavors were very good. I thought the sauce was too thin as well, but I see the tips you left to thicken it. Delicious!
Hi Alexis! Simmering the sauce for 15 minutes thickens it perfectly for me. Perhaps try simmering it on a higher heat? Also, it thickens as it cools and is absorbed into the pasta. So glad you liked it! Thank you!
This recipe was awesome. Will be making again. Thank you!
So happy you liked it! Thanks so much, Rhiannon!
We loved this! The flavor was fantastic! We added chili flakes on individual portions so it wouldn’t be too spicy for our young kids, and I used whole milk because that’s all I had. Let the pasta sit in the sauce for 15 or 20 min to allow it to absorb some of the flavor. Delicious!
So happy you liked it, Amanda!
Fabulous dish! Easy to make and very tasty. I followed the recipe exactly and had no problem with the sauce thickening. I did add the fennel, which added a nice flavor. I will definitely be making this again.
So happy you liked it, Dianne! Thanks so much!
Made tonight. Turned it into a one pot meal (32 oz of a combo of chicken broth, wine, and cream and 16 oz of pasta). Added a little crushed red pepper. My teen boys loved it. Will definitely make again. Might add some pesto or sun dried tomatoes.
Sounds wonderful, Amy!
When reheating the sauce for serving, is it better to reheat over the stove or just pop it in the microwave? Thanks!
Hi Sarah, you could heat it either way. I usually do it on the stovetop and add any liquid as necessary if it has thickened.
Very easy & yummy. I substituted non-fat Greek yogurt in place of heavy cream and I added mushrooms. I’ll definitely make this again.
Sounds amazing, Sandra! Thanks so much!
I’m so craving another Italian Sausage! I keep waiting for an excuse to make one! Thanks so much, Kelly!
This is a family fall favorite. All the flavors are such a delish combo. I serve with steamed broccoli or pan fried green beans (if you’re low carb, you can serve the delicious sauce over veggies). Thank you for this delicious recipe!
Thanks so much, Dorothy! So happy you liked it!
This looks soooo delicious. Im gonna tell my hubby to try making it this weekend. will share my reviews once i taste it.
Hope you like it! Thanks Sam!