A Restaurant-Worthy Pasta – So Much Rich Flavor, So Little Time!
The Italian approach of giving simple, high-quality ingredients a little TLC to transform them into something extraordinary is my absolute favorite way to cook. But just as much as I’d love to lovingly tend to a batch of slowly simmered bolognese any night of the week, my busy weeknights typically don’t allow for it.
That’s exactly how this Spicy Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta recipe came to be – a comforting, hearty, & downright restaurant-worthy dinner that’s easy to make any night of the week. It comes together in less than 30 minutes, but it tastes like it’s simmered for hours. Yes please!
Building tons of flavor quickly comes down to using smart ingredients & good technique. Simmering sweet bell peppers & spicy Italian sausage with powerhouse ingredients like tomato paste & white wine creates a bold, succulent sauce with the perfect balance of flavor. Simply toss in al dente rigatoni (or layer the sauce in a quick lasagna!) & dinner’s good to go!
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Sausage and Peppers Pasta Recipe Highlights
You are going to LOVE this sausage peppers pasta recipe. It’s…
QUICK & SIMPLE. 10 pantry staple ingredients come together to create a mega-flavorful sausage peppers pasta dish in 30 minutes or less. It’s one of our all-time fave weeknight dinners for a good reason!
FLAVOR-FORWARD. Don’t let its quick cook time fool you! This sausage and peppers pasta coaxes tons of flavor out of every ingredient for a super rich, succulent, spicy Italian sauce balanced with sweet tomatoes & bell peppers. Totally restaurant-quality!
THE PERFECT WEEKNIGHT DINNER. Every busy weekday deserves to end with al dente pasta tossed with spicy Italian sausage, sweet bell peppers, and a bold & rich tomato sauce. Tons of deliciousness in no time!
Absolutely perfect, in ever single way! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make this Spicy Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
This sausage and peppers pasta recipe creates bold, restaurant-worthy flavor thanks to a smart line-up of simple ingredients – most of them probably already in your pantry! Rich Italian pork sausage, white wine, & aromatics build flavor without requiring hours of simmering like a marinara sauce or ragu. It takes 20 minutes tops!
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
- Pasta – We love using rigatoni because its ridges & tubular shape are ideal for capturing all the beautiful bits of chunky sauces like this one. You can also use whatever you have – short pastas like penne or fusilli work well too, as do long pastas like bucatini or fettuccine.
- Italian sausage – We highly recommend using spicy Italian pork sausage here because its heat pairs beautifully with sweet Italian tomatoes. Full-fat pork sausage also has natural richness ideal for creating an especially flavorful Italian sausage pasta sauce in a short amount of time. You can either buy the sausage in bulk or use links & remove the casing.
- Veggies & aromatics – Colorful bell peppers & onion simmer alongside the Italian sausage, while garlic & crushed red pepper flakes add extra flavor.
- Sauce – It’s easy to whip up a quick homemade tomato sauce when you have the right ingredients! This spicy-sweet sauce comes together with a combination of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste (the secret to tons of rich flavor), & bright white wine.
- Parmesan – A sprinkle of cheese brings the whole sausage peppers pasta dish together as it simmers. It also adds more rich umami flavor!
How to Make Weeknight Pasta with Sausage and Peppers
We’re not kidding about how quickly this sausage and peppers pasta recipe is to make. After some simple chopping, the sausage peppers pasta sauce & rigatoni come together in 20 minutes or less! Minimum effort, maximum flavor cooking at its finest!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Boil the pasta. Always cook pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling, heavily salted water. This is the only chance you have to season the pasta itself – the water should taste like the ocean! I use a Dutch oven since it retains its heat really well. Remember! ⇢ Don’t forget to save a cup of starchy pasta water before draining. Learn more! ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!
Cook the aromatics & sausage. Soften the bell peppers & onion with the sausage, then add the garlic & red pepper flakes. Why? ⇢ Taking time to brown the sausage & soften the aromatics creates the foundation of flavor in this sausage and peppers pasta recipe. The sausage renders as it cooks, infusing the aromatics with its rich flavor.
Build the tomato sauce. Stir the tomato paste into the veggies & sausage. Cook for a few minutes, allowing it to brown & coax out even more flavor. From there, deglaze the pan with white wine & finish it off with crushed tomatoes & parmesan. Why? ⇢ White wine is a great weeknight cooking secret! Cooking with wine is an easy way to infuse tons of flavor without much effort.
Finish with the pasta. Once the sauce is bubbling away, toss in the al dente rigatoni with a splash of pasta water. Let everything simmer together for a few minutes longer. Why? ⇢ Al dente pasta should always have a moment to cook with the sauce on the stovetop. This turns the 2 separate components into 1 cohesive sausage and peppers pasta dish. If you feel like your pasta never turns out as good as it does in a restaurant, this simple step helps tremendously!
Easy Sausage and Peppers Pasta Variations
Along with being SUPER easy to make, this sausage and peppers pasta recipe is also incredibly versatile. A couple of quick tweaks allow you to customize the dish to your liking. Or feel free to mix things up if you love to make it often. A few ideas to get you started…
- Not a fan of spicy? ⇢ The balance between spicy sausage & sweet bell peppers is one of the best parts of this sausage peppers pasta sauce, but you can easily use mild or sweet Italian sausage instead of spicy &/or omit the red pepper flakes to dial down the heat to your liking.
- Not a fan of pork? ⇢ Feel free to use chicken or turkey sausage instead. It’s admittedly not our favorite option since the goal of this sausage and peppers pasta recipe is building lots of rich flavor in a short amount of time – the natural richness of the pork sausage is a crucial element. If you want to use chicken or turkey sausage, be sure to add more olive oil to help compensate for that richness.
- Make it vegetarian! ⇢ Go meatless & swap Italian sausage for tons of finely chopped mushrooms like baby bellas or shiitakes. Mushrooms are a satisfying & hearty option that we love with other pasta dishes like ragu or brown buttered noodles. You’ll need to make up for the fat & flavor of the pork sausage by adding in some extra olive oil & seasonings (try dried oregano or an Italian herb blend!).
- Make it creamy! ⇢ Add a splash of heavy cream or unsweetened plant milk to instantly give the tomato sauce a gorgeous velvety texture.
- Use what you have! ⇢ Sausage and peppers pasta is the perfect clean-out-your-fridge kind of meal for any extra veggies you have hanging around. Try wilted greens (spinach, arugula), shredded kale, broccoli florets, diced tomatoes, or zucchini.
Serving & Storage Suggestions
Serving suggestions. ⇢ We love to serve Italian sausage and peppers pasta with extra grated parmesan, some finely chopped fresh basil or parsley, & maybe a little more red pepper flakes if you love the heat.
Easy side dishes. ⇢ This dish is great all on its own & a well-balanced mix of protein, cozy carbs, & veggies (especially if you add some more in – see above!). Spicy Italian sausage pasta is also always fantastic with a Caesar salad or simple green salad. You can never go wrong with some toasted garlic bread, too!
Storage & Freezing
You can keep leftover sausage and peppers pasta in the fridge for up to 4 days. Simply reheat a bowl in the microwave!
If you want to freeze some for later, cool a portion of the sausage peppers pasta sauce before adding in the pasta & then freeze. You can thaw the sauce overnight in the fridge & reheat it on the stovetop, adding in freshly cooked pasta.
Check out the Recipe Notes, below, for more details on storage & reheating.
I can’t wait for you to try this Spicy Sausage and Peppers Pasta! It’s a go-to weeknight dinner here at the PWWB House because it’s so easy & so delicious. I think that once you try it, it’ll be in your regular dinner rotation too!
If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
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Weeknight-Friendly Pasta Recipes
This Spicy Italian Sausage and Peppers Pasta recipe is one of my personal all-time favorite PWWB recipes. With a goal of recreating the rich, simmered-all-day-long flavor of one of my favorite pasta dishes here in the Twin Cities (the Rigatoni con Salsicce a la Broder’s Pasta Bar!), I’ve tweaked & perfected this recipe over the years, ensuring it boasts amazing rich flavor but it’s quick & easy enough to make any night of the week.
The secret? Using a smart line-up of ingredients. Rich & flavorful spicy Italian sausage infuses the sauce with luscious texture & aromatic flavor, while a few flavor-forward additions like tomato paste & dry white wine help to build a tremendous amount of flavor in a short amount of time.
Feel free to toss the sauce into whatever pasta you love. Pictured is rigatoni (a nod to the restaurant dish this recipe is inspired by!), but fusilli, linguine, & bucatini are all great options too. Be sure to let the sauce & pasta simmer together for a couple of minutes before serving – it’s the secret to serving a restaurant-worthy pasta at home. ♡ Buon appetito!
- 8 ounces rigatoni or short pasta of choice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound bulk mild, sweet, or spicy Italian sausage (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 large bell pepper, diced (approx. ½ cup diced)
- 1 large yellow onion, diced (approx. ½ cup diced)
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
- up to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ½ cup dry, unoaked white wine (see Recipe Notes)
- one 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- for serving, as desired: grated parmesan, finely chopped fresh basil leaves, finely chopped fresh parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, etc.
- Boil the pasta: Generously season a large pot of water & bring to a boil. Add the rigatoni & cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is 2-3 minutes under al dente (“al dente” cooking time is typically included in package directions). Drain the pasta – do not rinse! – & set aside. (Learn more ⇢ How to Cook Pasta Perfectly Every Single Time!)
- Soften the aromatics & brown the sausage: Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot & shimmering, add the sausage, bell pepper, & onion, seasoning with 1 teaspoon kosher salt & ground black pepper as desired. Using a wooden spoon to break the sausage into fine, bite-sized crumbles as it renders, cook until the sausage is rendered & the veggies are fragrant, 5-7 minutes. The sausage should brown nicely & the veggies should soften – if anything starts to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low. Add in the garlic & crushed red pepper flake, cooking until just fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute longer.
- Build the tomato sauce: Stir the tomato paste into the skillet, stirring to coat the sausage & veggies. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until deeply red. Deglaze the pan by slowly pouring in the white wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits that may have formed on the bottom of the pan. Once the wine is almost completely cooked off, stir in the crushed tomatoes & parmesan. Bring the mixture up to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low. Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to thicken slightly & build flavor. Taste & adjust seasoning accordingly.
- Finish the pasta: Once the sausage & peppers have simmered in the tomato sauce, add the pasta to the skillet & toss to coat. Adjust as needed so the sausage and peppers sauce evenly coats the pasta – if the mixture is too thick, toss in a little reserved pasta water; if the mixture is too loose, turn up the heat or toss in an extra handful of parmesan cheese, etc. Cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, allowing the pasta to meld with & absorb some of the tomato sauce. Remove from the heat.
- Serve immediately, topped with additional grated parmesan, chopped basil or parsley, &/or a sprinkling of crushed red pepper, as desired. Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes:
- Sausage: I highly recommend opting for full-fat pork sausage for this sausage and peppers pasta recipe, as its natural richness helps build an especially flavorful sauce in a relatively short amount of time. I love the way the light heat of spicy sausage helps balance the natural sweetness of tomatoes, but if you prefer to use mild or sweet Italian sausage, it’ll work great. If you prefer to use leaner ground turkey sausage or meatless crumbles, they will work – plan to use an extra tablespoon of olive oil to help compensate for the richness of pork sausage.
- White wine: The addition of white wine helps create complex flavor in the spicy sausage and peppers sauce despite its short simmer time. Dry, unoaked white wines work best – I often cook with Pinot Grigio. Wine substitutes ⇢ If you cannot do not have white wine on hand, you can substitute with dry vermouth for this recipe. If you prefer not to cook with alcohol, substitute with an equal amount of chicken stock with a splash of apple cider vinegar whisked into it.
- Not a fan of spicy? No worries! Simply swap out spicy sausage with mild or sweet Italian sausage & omit chili flake – the sausage peppers pasta will be nice & mild!
- Storage & Reheating: Leftover sausage peppers pasta will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave until warmed through.
- 10-Minute Meal Prep: Nearly all of the active prep work for this sausage peppers pasta comes from prepping the veggies – dicing the onion & bell pepper. Take care of this in advance & store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It takes 10 minutes, tops, & with the prep work done, you can jump straight into cooking at dinnertime!
Keywords: weeknight pasta recipes, Italian sausage pasta, homemade pasta sauce recipe, quick & easy pasta recipe
by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Step-by-Step Photography by KJ & Company, Kate Poskochil