This hearty pasta with sausage, delivers lots of flavour with the addition of roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes.
I’m not sure my husband has ever been a true pasta lover, but when it comes to pasta dishes, this pasta with sausage is hands-down his favourite. I credit the sausage for that, as he’s a meat-lover at heart. Beyond the lovely browned Italian sausage in this dish, is the addition of roasted red peppers and sun-dried tomatoes to the basic plum tomato sauce. As it all cooks together, it produces the most perfect rich, hearty sauce.
I love to serve this sauce with a short pasta. I’ve used rigatoni here. Top with lots of freshly grated Pecorino (or Parmesan) and some fresh chopped basil for an easy, quick and delicious meal.
Pasta: While you can use any pasta you like or have on hand, I find a short pasta suits this sauce especially well. I’ve used rigatoni here. Penne, rotini or fusilli would also be nice.
If you have a scale, it’s worth weighing out your dried pasta to 8 oz. (225g for metric folks). It’s not as much as you may think :) If you don’t have a scale, I usually do a rough calculation of the total weight of the bag or box and what portion would be roughly 8 oz (so if the box is 24oz, for example, 8 oz would be 1/3 of the box. That requires doing math though, so I think a scale is much easier :)
Roasted Red Peppers: I’ve mentioned before that I love the jarred roasted red peppers, as they are both easy and flavourful. Alternately though, you can roast off your own fresh red peppers and add into the dish in the same amount.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Again, I love the jarred sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. Not only are they easier to use than the dried variety (no re-hydration needed), the oil they are packed in makes a great addition to dishes, too.
Italian Sausage: You basically have two choices here generally – mild or hot. I’m a mild fan myself, but it you like it spicy, go for the hot.
Canned Tomatoes: Use whatever canned tomatoes your prefer. I love the flavour of San Marzano canned tomatoes.
Basil: Most of the year, I have a fresh basil plant growing on my window sill, as fresh basil is always my first choice. If you don’t have any on hand, dried basil is fine in the sauce, as well.
Pecorino Cheese: I have been enjoying Pecorino cheese lately. It’s a nice change from the usual Parmesan. Pecorino is made from sheep’s milk, while Parmesan is made from cow’s milk, so it has a slightly different flavour profile. Pecorino is often a younger cheese than Parmesan, so has a bit stronger and tangier flavour. I think it’s a worthy addition to the cheese drawer, but if you only have Parmesan, it will work just fine here as well.
I like to thinly slice the garlic, rather than mincing, as it is less prone to burning and introducing a bitter taste to the sauce.
Don’t rush the sausage-cooking part of this recipe. Keep it cooking until it browns well, as that browning in the pan adds great flavour to the sauce.
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My Three Top Tips for Delicious Pasta Dishes
My pasta dish cooking technique has evolved over the years, to include a couple of techniques that I think produce the most satisfying pasta dishes …
1. Be sure to generously salt your pasta cooking water, to bring lots of flavour to your finished dish. It’s adequately salted when it “tastes like the ocean”.
2. Rather than draining pasta in the sink, I scoop the cooked pasta right out of the boiling water with a spider strainer (or tongs, for long pasta) and put it directly into the hot sauce. Adding hot pasta to the sauce helps the pasta to absorb the flavours of the sauce more easily. It also allows for having the pasta-cooking water handy, in case you need to add some to thin your pasta sauce. Be sure to still drain the pasta well in the spoon before adding to the pasta, to avoid watering down your sauce.
3. I always cook the pasta with the sauce in a hot skillet (or saucepan) for several minutes before serving. I’ve found that the perfect pasta dish needs to come together in a hot pan first, not in the serving bowl.
Simply add the hot pasta to the hot sauce and cook, stirring, for just a couple of minutes. Take the time to taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning, as needed, as well. If you sauce thickens or tightens up during this last short cooking, add a splash of your pasta cooking water to loosen it up.
To make sure I don’t dirty another pan, I always start my sauce in a large enough skillet or pot so that it will comfortably hold my cooked pasta as well, when it is cooked and ready to be added to the pot.
Bonus Tip! For tomato-heavy sauces, stirring a small pat of butter into the tomato sauce at the end of cooking tempers the acidity in the sauce and rounds out the flavours.
Get the Recipe: Pasta with Sausage Tomato Sauce and Pecorino
- 8 oz short pasta, such as rigatoni, penne, fusilli or rotini
- Salt for pasta cooking water
Sausage Tomato Sauce:
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 3 links Italian sausage, mild or hot
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- Pinch red pepper flakes, omit if using hot sausage
- 28 oz canned whole tomatoes, San Marzano recommended, hand-crushed*
- 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, chopped
- 1/3 cup roasted red pepper, jarred, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or 2 tsp-ish dried basil
- 2 tsp fresh oregano, chopped or 1/2 tsp-ish dried oregano leaves
- 1/2 Tbsp butter, optional
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Additional chopped fresh basil
- Freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
- Start a large pot of water salted water boiling for the pasta.
- Cut the sausage links into 1/2-inch slices. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Add the sliced sausage pieces and cook, stirring, until cooked through and well browned. While sausage is cooking, slice up your garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers and basil.
- When pasta water is boiling, add dried pasta and cook to al dente.
- When sausage is nicely browned, add garlic and red pepper flakes, if using. Cook, stirring, for about 1 minute more or until garlic is softened. Add the hand-crushed canned tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers and stir to combine. Add the fresh or dried herbs and a bit of salt and freshly ground pepper. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer the sauce at least 10 minutes. Stir in the 1/2 Tbsp butter, if using. Reduce heat under sauce to low to keep warm until pasta is ready, if necessary.
- When pasta is cooked, increase the heat under the sauce to medium. Spoon pasta from the cooking water with a spider strainer or slotted spoon (let it drain well back into the pot!) and add hot pasta right into the hot sauce. Cook the pasta with the sauce for about 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Taste sauce and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.
- Serve garnished with grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese and some more freshly chopped basil.