Trottole with Sausage and Spinach

In the shape of spinning tops, trottole pasta soaks up the cream sauce perfectly. If trottole pasta is unavailable, substitute with rotini or fusilli, or orecchiette if you can find it. I recommend reading through all instructions before you get started (as you should with any recipe you've never before made). You will have two pots cooking simultaneously and the goal here is to finish the cream sauce just in time for the pasta to finish cooking. 

Trottole with Sausage and Spinach

(serves about 5)

4 tablespoons salted butter, divided
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (not garlic salt)
16 ounces ground chicken sausage
16 ounces trottole pasta
6 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2/3 cup cream or heavy cream
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 cups fresh spinach (one small bunch), thoroughly washed, stems removed, and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Prepare a large pot for cooking the pasta: fill to 2/3 with water and add one tablespoon sea salt. Bring to a boil, but don't add the pasta yet. Meanwhile, as you are waiting for water to boil...
In a skillet large enough and deep enough to hold one pound of cooked pasta, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat (remaining 2 tablespoons butter will be used later). Stir in panko and garlic powder for two minutes or until golden brown. Transfer cooked breadcrumbs to a small bowl. Return skillet to the stove and turn heat to medium-high. Remove sausage from casings and add to skillet. Use a wooden spoon to break sausage into crumbles as it cooks. When sausage is thoroughly cooked (no pink), transfer to a large plate, leaving oil in the skillet.
At this time, add pasta to boiling water and cook for lower range of recommend time on package (if range is 7-9 minutes; cook for 7 minutes).
While pasta is cooking, add minced garlic to skillet with oil and cook over medium-low heat for one minute or until fragrant but not burning, stirring constantly. Remove skillet from heat; add red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Add broth, cream, and Dijon, then return skillet to medium or medium-low heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Mixture will thicken slightly. Stir in chopped spinach, salt, and black pepper and cook for two more minutes or until spinach is wilted. Return cooked sausage to the skillet with cream sauce, leaving heat on a low setting. When pasta is done cooking, reserve about 1/4 cup cooking water and then drain pasta in a colander and immediately add drained pasta to the skillet with sausage and cream sauce. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter and stir for one minute to thoroughly coat pasta with butter and sauce. If desired, add reserved pasta water by tablespoon if you feel the mixture is too dry (probably not necessary, but it's your choice).
Turn off stove heat and top with reserved breadcrumb topping. Serve with cherry tomatoes for each person to add on top. 

Inspired by this recipe. I found the website while looking for a way to use chicken sausage that was nearing expiration in my refrigerator. At the time of this writing -- January 2024 -- it is Lauren's favorite pasta dish. We've doubled the amount of cream sauce from the original recipe and  made just a few other changes.