This is one of our absolute favorite weeknight pasta recipes. We use freshly made chorizo from the store or local butcher, fresh tomatoes, spinach, red bell pepper, onions, and more great, flavorful ingredients.
This chorizo pasta recipe is packed with nutrients from the veggies, but has all of the comforting, spicy creaminess from the chorizo and sauce. This simple pasta dish is an easy meal that makes about four servings, mainly because we also love it as leftovers! But the whole family will love it if you have more than two mouths to feed. 🙂
INGREDIENTS FOR THIS CHORIZO SPINACH PASTA RECIPE:
- 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 1 cup fresh Cherry Tomatoes
- ½ of a large Red Bell Pepper
- ½ of a medium Yellow Onion
- Kosher Salt & freshly cracked Black Pepper
- ½ tsp. Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
- 2 cloves Garlic
- ½ lb. fresh Mexican Chorizo (best quality – see notes)
- ½ tsp. Sugar
- ½ cup Half & Half (or whole milk, or cream)
- 1 ½ cups dried Medium Shells Pasta (or your favorite)
- 4 cups tightly packed Fresh Baby Spinach
- ⅓ cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese
- Pasta Water (be sure to save it!)
- 1 or 2 Lemon Wedges
Mexican Chorizo vs. Spanish Chorizo
Mexican Chorizo is raw, uncooked, slightly spicy pork sausage with flavors of chiles and vinegar, and lots of seasonings (and red bell peppers). It’s a savory sausage with just a little bit of heat (depending on the recipe), and it can be cooked just like breakfast pork sausage.
Spanish Chorizo is cured sausage, so it is not fresh. It can have a consistency similar to salami or pepperoni (which is considered fully cooked and dry), or semi-cured and soft. It’s not quite as spicy as Mexican chorizo, and it’s great for charcuterie platters!
IMPORTANT INGREDIENT NOTES & RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Use the freshest vegetables you can find. This does make a difference in flavor, I promise! Try to grab these ingredients on the same day you make the pasta, or a day before (if you can). This is particularly important for the spinach.
- Look for Mexican chorizo that is behind the meat counter. We want freshly made Mexican chorizo that resembles ground pork (or beef) for this recipe. If you have a store that makes chorizo in the meat department and sells it by the pound, I would definitely recommend purchasing it. I actually prefer the Mexican chorizo from Whole Foods; it has a really awesome cinnamon note, and it’s always super fresh. The chorizo you use makes a big difference in this recipe, so if you can find some really good stuff, buy it! Purchasing it by the pound is also so helpful when you only need half a pound. 🙂
- Half and half, whole milk, and heavy cream are interchangeable in this recipe. Half and half is an equal blend of milk and cream, so it offers the richness of the cream with fewer calories per serving. Whole milk doesn’t offer as much flavor, but still lends a luxurious creamy texture to this recipe. Heavy cream is full of rich flavor, but comes with the calories, too. Use whichever you’re most comfortable with or craving!
- Use good Parmesan Cheese. This is another thing that I talk about a lot; good Parmesan is worth it. I actually buy a chunk from Whole Foods (I like to buy things there that really are worth it!), and it costs me $5. That $5 chunk lasts us for at least 5-6 meals, so it’s an easy choice to make that really steps up the flavor of your recipes.
- Save your pasta water!! Don’t dump out that liquid gold! It’s actually easy to save it for this recipe, because you use a slotted spoon to scoop the cooked shells directly into the creamy chorizo sauce. The shells will already transfer over some of the pasta water inside of them, and that’s a good thing. Save the rest of the pasta water so you can make the sauce even creamier if you want!
- Don’t skip the lemon juice. It may seem odd, but the fresh lemon juice at the end adds a touch of acidity that really balances the creamy, rich flavors in this dish. It won’t make it taste lemon-y, I promise. It just make the whole dish taste better. 🙂
STEPS TO MAKING THIS CHORIZO PASTA:
I like to keep this part easy to follow and to-the-point, so I’ll break it down into five main steps.
- Cut the tomatoes into quarters, and finely chop the bell pepper and onion. Cook all of them in olive oil (with a pinch of salt and crushed red pepper) over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes until softened.
If you’re new to my blog, I love to pair wine with food whenever possible. My fiancé sells wine for a living, and I work in a boutique wine shop part time (mainly just to pay for my wine costs.) 🙂 We are passionate about it, and I am a full believer that wine and food can blend together and elevate one another. Here are my favorite wine pairings for this creamy chorizo spinach pasta:
WINE PAIRINGS FOR CHORIZO PASTA:
Budget Friendly + Easy Choice: Rioja (Spain) :: Rioja is a great example of Spanish red wine. Rioja is a region that produces affordable, very drinkable, dry, and food friendly red wines. They usually have a blend of grapes in them (you’ll see a lot of the Tempranillo grape in Rioja), and can be found at nearly any major store or wine shop. Look for a bottle that is pretty young, which indicates that it didn’t spend a lot of time in an oak barrel. Rio Madre Graciano or Flaco Tempranillo are really delicious for around $10!
If You’re Feeling Adventurous: Mencía (Spain / Portugal) :: If you’ve read any of my other wine pairings, you’ll know that I have a THING for this grape. Mencía is a grape from Spain and Portugal, and it’s really food friendly. There are some cool fruit notes, a decent amount of acidity, and a ton of flavor! Raúl Pérez makes a REALLY great bottle, Ultreia, which you can find for under $20 at most wine shops.
Another Fun Option: Cava (Spain) :: Bubbles are so much fun to pair with food! Specifically Cava because it’ss delicious, very affordable, and incredibly food friendly. Cava comes from Spain, and is made up of a blend of Spanish grapes. It is made in the same method as Champagne (with a lot of TLC), but the prices are WAY better. Look for Naveran Brut for about $15, or Cava Bracino, also about $15.
Make this a Meal:
If you make this pasta and love it, be sure to tag me on Instagram so I can see! Or leave a comment & rating below so I know how it went for you! And as always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.
Cheers to your dinner tonight, and cheers to your creamy chorizo spinach pasta!
Creamy Chorizo Pasta with Spinach
- 1 cup Cherry Tomatoes
- 1/2 Red Bell Pepper
- 1/2 Yellow Onion
- 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 1/2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper
- Kosher Salt & freshly cracked Black Pepper
- 1 1/2 cups Medium Shells dried pasta
- 1/2 lb. fresh Chorizo
- 2 cloves Garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp. Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 cup Half & Half*
- 4 cups fresh Baby Spinach
- 1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
- Pasta Water
- 2 wedges fresh Lemon
- Quarter the cherry tomatoes. Remove the stem and the seeds from the red bell pepper. Finely chop the bell pepper and onion.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add tomatoes, bell pepper, and onion with a pinch of salt and the crushed red pepper. Stir to coat everything in the oil, then cook for 7-8 minutes until the vegetables are softened.
- Cook the dried pasta shells in boiling salted water until al dente (about one minute less than the package directions.). To time this best, pour the pasta into the boiling pasta water when you add the chorizo to the softened vegetables.
- Add the chorizo and garlic, and cook for 5-6 minutes, breaking the chorizo into small pieces as it cooks. Stir in the sugar, then pour in the half & half. Stir the half & half into the chorizo until it is mostly absorbed, then stir in the fresh spinach until it has completely wilted down and mixed into the chorizo sauce.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked pasta shells directly into the chorizo and spinach sauce, reserving the pasta water. Stir to coat the pasta entirely in the chorizo and spinach sauce, then turn the heat off from under the skillet.
- Stir in the parmesan. If you want a creamier pasta, stir in reserved pasta water 1/4 cup at a time until it's as creamy as you like it. Taste the pasta, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Stir in the freshly squeezed lemon juice, and serve immediately (with more parmesan if you like!)