• Alessandra DeNardo

Penne "of the Forest"

Updated: May 28, 2020

I love pasta with pink sauce. Also love pasta with crumbled sausage and mushrooms, so when I saw this pasta on "Cooking with Nonna", I had to make it. This is my interpretation, where I use tomato paste rather than sauce.

You should know: mushrooms are extremely good for you (a superfood), and I think adding them to pasta dishes is a great way to eat them without having an overwhelming mushroom flavor or a ton of their sometimes strange texture.

Definitely look at my story/highlight for a visual because I did not measure when I made this and it helps to show what it should look like. This is easy, though, and hard to do anything wrong. The most important thing is make sure you have enough sauce for all your pasta. Depending on the size of your onion and how many mushrooms you use, it's possible to fall slightly short. I would suggest not adding the entire Lb of pasta from the pot when you make it just in case (I fell short and had about 1/4 lb leftover dry pasta). And always make sure to save and then add the pasta water.


  • 1 Lb Mezze Penne or Penne

  • 1 white onion, chopped small

  • 1 package of mushrooms (type does not matter. I used baby bella, typical is porcini for this) sliced

  • 1/2 – 1 C cream 

  • 1/2 C regular milk

  • 1 can tomato paste (I used about ¾ of the can)

  • 1-2 C reserved pasta water (when the pasta is almost done)

  • parmesan cheese (1/2 C)

  • spinach or anything else you want to throw in for extra nutrients

  • ground sausage. If you have casing on it, remove it and crumble the meat

  • olive oil

  • spices to taste (I used black pepper and parsley)


  1. Boil large pot of generously salted water

  2. Add Sausage to LARGE pan and begin to brown. Break up with a spatula until it is in small pieces.

  3. Add 2 TBSP olive oil, add mushrooms and onions and cook down

  4. Add pasta to your boiling water

  5. Once cooked down, lower the heat, add tomato paste and move around so it is broken down, covering the vegetables, and heated

  6. Once the tomato paste begins to cook and 'melt', add about ½ C cream and move around. Add milk. 

  7. If you think you need more, add a little more cream or milk (adjust this based on how it looks). Should be pink. Cream is obviously heavier and makes it richer than milk. 

  8. Add parmesan cheese and stir in

  9. Add spinach if you’re using

  10. Reserve 2 C of your pasta water when the pasta is just about done

  11. Add cooked pasta to the sauce and mix around

  12. Add about 1 C pasta water – trust me. It may seem weird or watery at first but it will make everything come together. If you need more sauce to cover the pasta, add even more water. 

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