Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

The holidays always bring about strong feelings of comfort food, and this Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni fills the void so incredibly well. If gluten and dairy aren’t for you, I’ve tested this recipe using a grain-free pasta alternative as well as dairy-free milk and cheese. Luckily, there are loads of swaps you can make to create the dish that works for you based upon your dietary needs, or just use the real stuff. I love this as an easy weeknight dinner or as a solution to your Christmas Eve dinner needs for gatherings large and small. I hope you enjoy it!

Ingredients needed to make Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

This dish uses all the traditional Italian pasta ingredients like rigatoni, ground sausage, herbs, and cheese. Here’s a full list of everything you’ll need, plus links to some swaps I used to make this compliant with my current gluten- and dairy-free eating habits:

  • Rigatoni or other cylindrical pasta shape (I like this brand if GF)
  • Ground Sweet Italian sausage
  • Olive oil
  • Kale
  • Fresh garlic
  • Crushed red pepper flake
  • Heavy cream (substitute non-dairy milk or cream alternative if DF)
  • Pasta cooking water
  • Mozzarella (substitute non-dairy cheese or goat cheese, if tolerated)
  • Lemon zest
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Tools used to make Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

I love pasta dishes because they take close to no equipment to pull off. This dish comes together with only a few tools, most of which you likely already have. Here’s the complete list:

How to make Creamy Sausage and Kale Rigatoni

This pasta recipe is very straightforward, making it a welcome addition to any weekly meal plan. It’s also the perfect recipe to throw together the night before a big holiday, such as, ahem, Christmas Eve… particularly if you haven’t finished wrapping gifts for the big day.

You’ll start by cooking your pasta in the pasta pot according to package directions. Be sure to reserve approximately 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid before draining, as this helps us achieve a silky creamy sauce that adheres to each noodle.

While the pasta cooks, brown your sausage in a large skillet or deep pot. I prefer to use my Dutch oven for this step. Once browned, push the sausage into a ring at the outside of the pan to make space in the middle for the garlic. Add the olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes, stirring it around until fragrant, then stir to combine with the sausage. Add the kale and stir again, allowing it to wilt slightly.

Once the pasta is drained, add it directly into the pot with the sausage and kale while still hot. Add the heavy cream, pasta cooking water, and cheese, folding everything together. If needed, you may turn the burner on low to encourage melting of the cheese and thickening of the sauce.

Once the pasta is creamy and all ingredients are incorporated, fold in the freshly grated lemon zest and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately! Leftovers keep well in the fridge or freezer.

Looking for other weeknight comfort food ideas?

Try these recipes from The Ardent Cook!

Favorite Roast Chicken

Curried Pumpkin Chickpeas with Cucumber Raita

Wild Mushroom Farro with Parmesan and Microgreens

Recipe Ingredients

1lb Rigatoni

1lb ground sweet Italian sausage

1tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste

1 head kale, stems removed and roughly chopped

3/4 cup heavy cream, plus more if needed

1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid

1 cup mozzarella cheese

1 tbsp fresh lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Recipe Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions Before draining, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and set aside.
  2. While the pasta cooks, brown sausage in a large skillet or deep pot. Once browned, push sausage to the sides of the pan and make an open area in the center.
  3. Add olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes to the center of the pan and cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Mix to incorporate with the sausage. Add the kale and stir again, allowing it to wilt.
  4. Add the pasta directly to the pan with the sausage and kale, turn the pan to low heat, then stir in the heavy cream, pasta cooking liquid, and mozzarella. Fold consistently until a creamy sauce forms. You may use additional cream to achieve your desired sauce consistency, if needed.
  5. Stir in the freshly grated lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and serve hot! Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.

Herbed Chicken Tortellini Soup

Herbed Chicken Tortellini Soup is a bowl of comfort, perfect for a chilly Tuesday evening such as this one (if you live in the northeast). While many traditional tortellini soups incorporate a basic cheese tortellini, I’ve chosen to use a variety filled with a mixture of chicken, herbs, and a little ricotta for a dose of protein and extra flavor. If you’d like to keep this soup vegetarian, simply swap the chicken-filled tortellini for a cheese variety and use vegetable or mushroom stock instead of chicken broth. Make this soup dairy free by choosing a vegan tortellini (with a non-dairy filling) and incorporating canned coconut milk instead of the heavy cream. There are loads of ways to make this soup fit into your diet preference, just as long as you enjoy it with a hunk of crusty bread, wrapped in a cozy blanket. I know you’re going to love it!

Ingredients needed to make Herbed Chicken Tortellini Soup

This soup calls upon a lot of long-lasting vegetables and canned goods, making it the perfect meal for weeks when it’s already Tuesday and you haven’t made it to the grocery store for the week yet. I’m having one of those weeks. The worst. Here’s the list of everything you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Yellow onion
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Fresh thyme
  • Garlic
  • Chicken stock
  • Canned crushed tomatoes
  • Tomato paste
  • Heavy cream
  • Chicken and herb filled tortellini
  • Tuscan kale
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Crushed red chili flakes
  • Black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

Tools used to make Herbed Chicken Tortellini Soup

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I love a good soup because of the minimal clean up. You pretty much always need a good sharp knife and large cutting board to make my recipes, but other than that, you’ll just want to get out your favorite large soup pot and a ladle for serving. Optional, but not necessary, is a citrus juicer for squeezing the lemons. This one is a force juicer and it makes my life in the kitchen so much easier!

How to make Herbed Chicken Tortellini Soup

As with most soups, the base is comprised of a mirepoix. Mirepoix is a term referring to a blend of diced celery, carrots, and onions. It’s the start of many popular dishes in classical French cooking, and it’s what we use to create ample flavor for this soup.

You’ll begin by sautéing the mirepoix with some fresh thyme in olive oil. Once the onions are translucent, you’ll add the garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken broth, along with a few seasonings. This liquid gets simmered for 10-15 minutes or so, until the carrots have softened, as they take a bit longer to cook than the celery and onion.

The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it only takes about 25 minutes from start to finish, including prep time for chopping. Towards the end of the cooking, you’ll lower the heat and stir in your heavy cream, kale, and tortellini.

I recommend using fresh tortellini in this recipe, which is typically found in the refrigerated section by the deli or cheese area. Shelf-stable tortellini takes much longer to cook, and you run the risk of overcooking the vegetables in your base if you choose this variety. If you can’t find the fresh tortellini, simply add the dried tortellini (while the soup is still simmering) a bit earlier, before adding the heavy cream and kale.

At the very end, you’ll stir in the fresh lemon juice (it tends to get bitter if cooked for too long), ladle the soup into bowls, and garnish with parmesan cheese. It’s a complete meal packed with vegetables, starch, and protein, and the slightly creamy broth is so soothing.

I like to enjoy this soup with a hunk of crusty bread for dipping, or a batch of homemade garlic knots (if you’ve got the time). I don’t have my own recipe for garlic knots, unfortunately, but there are loads on the internet that don’t require too much time or effort. It’s a great Sunday project if you happen to make this soup over a weekend!

Looking for other cozy soup options from The Ardent Cook?

Chipotle Peanut Pumpkin Soup with Spiced Pepitas

Mom’s Checkerboard Chicken Chili

Potato, Leek, and Corn Chowder

Recipe Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

1 medium carrot, diced small

2 stalks celery, diced small

3-4 sprigs fresh thyme

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups chicken stock

1 (14oz) can crushed tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup heavy cream (or coconut milk if dairy free)

1 (10oz) package fresh tortellini, filled with chicken and herbs if available

1 bunch tuscan kale, ribbed and sliced into ribbons

1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice (about ¼ lemon)

1 tsp salt

¾ tsp crushed red chili flake

Black pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, for serving

Recipe Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Stir until the tomato paste is fully incorporated. Season with the salt, crushed chili flakes, and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the carrots have softened. 
  3. Lower the heat and stir in the heavy cream, stirring constantly while pouring. Add the tortellini and kale, then let cook for the time specified on the package of tortellini (no more than 3-5 minutes for fresh tortellini). Stir in the lemon juice at the very end, then season with additional salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Ladle into bowls and top with parmesan cheese, if using. Serve with crusty bread and a big salad, family style. Enjoy!

There may be affiliate links in this post! By purchasing a product I recommend, I may receive a small compensation. However, I only recommend products I love and use myself. Thank you for your continued support of The Ardent Cook, it does not go unnoticed.