People often ask me how I have time to cook during the week. The days are so busy, they tell me, that the last thing they want to do is spend their evening hovered over a recipe in the kitchen.

My answer to their question is simple: Have a set of go-to dishes that you can make in 30 minutes (or less) without a recipe. These dishes don’t have to be radically different from one another, or use fancy ingredients that you probably don’t have stocked in the pantry. Instead, these dishes can be variations on a theme, each with a slightly different flavor profile and set of ingredients. The key is to have a flexible base recipe, one that allows you to recreate the dish 2-3 times a week without it feeling repetitive.

This dish meets all of those requirements. The concept is very simple, combining pasta, vegetables, and protein. The recipe itself is infinitely adaptable, making it a great dinner option for every season.

During the winter, I try to stick with vegetables that are easily available. This recipe features cherry tomatoes and kale, although root vegetables also work well. My preferred protein is sausage, which adds a hint of spice without a huge investment of time. Just remember to cook the sausage before the vegetables, since the cooking oil from the sausage adds great flavor to the sautéed kale.

pasta in pot edited

During the week, I rarely dig up that complex recipe from Bon Appetit that I’ve been waiting to try. Instead, I save that recipe for the weekend, whipping up something similar to the recipe below.

Sausage and Winter Vegetable Pasta Recipe


  • 2 cups penne pasta, uncooked
  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 spicy Italian-style sausage (I’ve used both turkey and chicken sausages here)
  • 8-10 kale leaves, stemmed and chopped
  • 2 tbsp Romano or Parmesan, or a mixture of the two cheeses
  • red pepper flakes
  • dried thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and follow directions on package for correct cooking time. Before draining, reserve about 1/2 cup of the pasta water for later.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise, coat with olive oil, and spread on a foil-lined baking pan. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until tomatoes are wrinkled and slightly brown on the bottom.
  3. Remove sausage from casing and break into small pieces. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add sausage and stir occasionally, until the sausage is browned and fully cooked.
  4. Remove sausage but leave as much oil in the skillet as possible. Add onion to the same skillet and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, kale, red pepper flake, and thyme and sauté for another 4-6 minutes, until kale has broken down slightly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add sausage and tomatoes to the kale filled skillet. Toss in the pasta and stir, adding pasta water as necessary for additional moisture. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Makes 2 servings.


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