Reviewed by Dietitian Jessica Ball, M.S., RD
I'm incredibly choosy about the meals I make on busy weeknights. I want our time to be spent reconnecting after a long day, and not squabbling about the food on the plate. To make the cut, a meal has to be healthy, fast, easy and each of us must enjoy eating it!
I have two teen boys (13 and 16) and though it's true that they're less finicky about food than when they were little, I still have to work my mom magic to find ways for them to eat dark leafy greens, such as spinach.
If I'm being honest, I'm not a huge fan of it either. I don't like how my teeth feel after eating fresh spinach, but I don't mind cooked spinach. Plus, I know that it's good for us – spinach is full of important nutrients that I try to ensure we all eat plenty of, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, iron and fiber.
So when my husband sent me the recipe for One-Pot Spinach, Chicken Sausage & Feta Pasta a couple of years ago, I was intrigued. It was quick, easy, full of flavors that my family likes and, perhaps most importantly, included spinach. I crossed my fingers and served it to my family. They loved it so much, it's been on steady rotation ever since.
Featuring thick slices of chicken sausage, Kalamata olives and salty feta, this pasta is so packed with flavor that the spinach practically vanishes into the background, which is why it works for my family. But that's not all I love about it.
The genius of this one-pot recipe is that, unlike other one-pot recipes I've tried, you can't mess it up! Often, one-pot pasta recipe instructions include cooking dry pasta along with the other ingredients. So the ratio of liquid to other ingredients needs to be precise. But I tend to scale this recipe up – remember, I'm feeding two teen boys, so dinners need to be hearty! Changing quantities means that I also have to change the amount of liquid used, which can change the amount of time it takes, and so on. It gets complicated, and my weary brain isn't the best at calculations when I'm in a hurry to get dinner on the table.
By cooking the pasta first, the recipe is more flexible, which allows me to use as much as I want. Since pasta usually comes in 16-ounce packages and the chicken sausage I buy comes in a four-pack, I go ahead and use it alI, adapting the other ingredients as necessary.
While this recipe was designed as part of a meal-prep plan in which you cook the pasta on Sunday, I never quite get to prepping ingredients ahead of time. That's OK, though, because it's easy enough to boil the pasta while I chop the rest of the ingredients. Then I drain the pasta, saving some of the pasta water in case I want to use it to moisten the pasta later. I use the same pot to sauté the onions, garlic and sausage. Once the onions and sausage are well browned, I add the tomato sauce, pasta, spinach, olives and feta. The heat from the pot is enough to wilt the spinach into almost invisible greens. I may add some of the reserved pasta water in case the dish looks dry.
If there happen to be leftovers, they pack well for school lunches. After dinner, I separate what's left into containers to microwave the next morning until the pasta is piping hot. Then I transfer it to a thermos, which keeps it hot until lunch.
Besides the ease and flavors, I also appreciate that all the ingredients for this recipe are easy to find and require very little prep work. I opt for bagged baby spinach because of the tender, mild-tasting leaves, plus I don't need to trim hard stems. When it comes to feta, I buy blocks of it packaged in liquid. I find it to be creamier and more flavorful then what comes already-crumbled, but either will do.
Spinach might not be one of our favorite foods, but One-Pot Spinach, Chicken Sausage & Feta Pasta is the one dish that my whole family loves it in.