Spicy Italian Pecan "Sausage" and Grilled Penne Pasta

Spicy Pecan Italian “Sausage” and Grilled Vegetable Penne

Submitted by: Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN

 Simply season and ground pecans to create a plant-based version of spicy Italian “sausage.” In this recipe it’s added to grilled vegetables and pasta but you can also use it on a flatbread, pizza, soup and more.


  • 1 12-ounce package brown rice penne pasta
  • 1 teaspoon pecan or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 small zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 small yellow squash, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 1 24-ounces jar pasta sauce (no sugar added), warmed
  • Fresh basil leaves and parmesan cheese, optional, for garnish
  • Spicy Pecan Italian “Sausage”
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup raw pecan pieces (or lightly toasted)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high.
  2. Heat water in pot on stovetop for pasta.
  3. Make pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.
  4. Make the spicy pecan Italian “sausage”: In a pan over medium heat, add oil, onion, fennel seed, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, sea salt, and red pepper flakes (do not add pecans or vinegar yet). Cook 4 minutes or until onion is translucent.
  5. Add pecans, red wine vinegar, and onion mixture to food processor and pulse until consistency of ground pork, about 8 to 10 pulses. Makes 1 cup pecan “sausage”.
  6. Lightly brush zucchini and yellow squash with olive oil and place on hot grill for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until tender. Remove and chop into bite-sized cubes.
  7. Serve family-style or in individual bowls. Layer pasta, vegetables, and pasta sauce. Top with pecan “sausage” and fresh basil and parmesan if desired.

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