Sausage, Peppers and Onions Pasta is a hearty marinara sauce, full of sliced veggies like fennel, onion, bell pepper and big slices of Italian Sausage links. This is a seriously bold and chunky tomato sauce, extra healthy and deep in flavor, the perfect variation to pasta night!
It's Pasta Night!
- Pasta night is always a favorite in our house! - It's the night of the week I know the kids will eat! While we love our staple sauces, Spaghetti and Bolognese, this Sausage, Peppers and Onions Pasta is a fun variation, totally new yet still familiar. We're always trying to eat more vegetables, and this sauce is not short on them! Adding a few new ones to a hearty marinara sauce makes for well, something new! Fennel is not a regular vegetable is most people's shopping carts. But, that goofy looking stalky bulb adds great depth of flavor, definitely give it a try!
- Easy to Prep, One Pot Comfort Food - As the weather turns colder, a big pot of sauce on the stove is so comforting. This sausage and peppers marinara needs to simmer about an hour, but it can easily be put together anytime in the late afternoon and sit on low until dinner time. It's extra nutritious with all those veggies, but I like to serve it with a simple salad anyway and some crusty bread!
- Italian Sausage Links - Large slices of sausage links really go really well with the big slices of veggies in this extra chunky sauce.
- Olive oil
- Onion - A yellow, white or even a red onion will work, sliced in half moons.
- Bell Pepper - I've used a yellowish green pepper in this recipe, but really any color bell pepper is fine to use. Red, yellow, orange, or green will all work, or a handful of mini sweet peppers.
- Fennel - Not always a familiar vegetable! Fennel makes a great addition to this sausage and peppers pasta because of its unique flavor. Its sharp licorice taste mellows as it cooks, but marries perfectly with the rich flavor of the sausage. It's delicious!
- Salt and Pepper - Sausage is heavily seasoned, so not much salt is needed to season your veggies.
- Garlic - A classic flavor in a hearty marinara sauce, use 3 big cloves of fresh garlic if you can!
- Italian Seasoning - Turning up the Italian flavor, you can also substitute fresh herbs if you have them such as parsley, oregano, thyme or basil.
- Brown Sugar - A bit of sugar balances the acid in the tomatoes, and combines for great flavor with the sweet Italian Sausage and bell peppers.
- Canned Tomato - I like to use 1 can of crushed tomato and 1 can of whole peeled tomato, chopped on a cutting board to leave it a bit chunky. You can really use any combination of canned tomato, and you can add a third can if you want to stretch the recipe.
- Penne, Rigatoni, Ziti or any Hearty Short Pasta - Choose a hearty pasta shape that will hold up to your hearty marinara sauce.
- Parmesan cheese for serving
Step 1 - In a large pot or Dutch oven, simmer the sausage links in enough water just to cover them until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, you can slice your veggies (see how to slice fennel below). Remove the sausages to a plate with tongs, drain the water, and slice the sausage into large chunks.
Step 2 - In the same pot, saute the onion, peppers and fennel in a bit of olive oil on one side of the pot and the sliced sausage links on the other side. Stir them occasionally but allow them to be in contact with the pot for awhile so they get a nice caramel brown color. Season the veggies with salt and pepper.
Step 3 - Add the garlic, brown sugar and herbs and give it a good stir. Add the canned tomato and stir to combine. Simmer on low heat for about an hour.
Step 4 - When ready to eat, cook pasta and serve with the sauce and Parmesan cheese.
How to Slice Fennel
Wash the fennel. Slice off the green stalks but don't discard. I've often seen them discarded, but they are completely edible. Slice the bottom end off the white bulb, the dirty spot where the roots have been cut off. Next, quarter the fennel bulb, making 2 perpendicular cuts from the top straight through to the root part. From there you can see the small core near the base in all 4 of your wedges, cut it out and discard. Now take your 4 quarters and slice them stalk end to root end. You can also slice up most or all of those green stalky tops and use them too. The fennel fronds can be chopped along with it, used as a garnish, or discarded. Slice your peppers and onions to be similar in size, like half moons.
Substitutions and Picky Eaters
I prefer the big slices of veggies in this sauce. Paired with the large chunks of Italian Sausage, it's just so hearty and rustic. However, it does leave a lot for the kids to pick out! So you have some options here. All those sliced veggies can be chopped smaller so they blend in. They could even be pulsed in a food processor to "hide" them. The canned tomatoes can also be left as chunky or smooth as you like. You can use whole peeled or crushed or anything in between, they can also be chopped or pulsed in a food processor. The Italian Sausage links could also be substituted with bulk Italian Sausage. Just brown it in the pot about halfway before adding the veggies. And of course, this dish could be left completely vegetarian. If you like sauce with hidden veggies, check out my Italian Sausage Bolognese!
To Store - Store sauce in the fridge for up to 5 days. Eat leftovers within 2 or 3 days if it is combined with the pasta. Microwave or reheat on the stovetop.
To Freeze - Sauce can be frozen for up to 5 months, cool completely in the fridge first. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating. This recipe feeds about 5 to 6 people, but if you want to stretch it to feed more, or just make extra sauce for the freezer, you can simply add an extra large can of crushed tomato. Frozen sauce is great for another pasta night, or can be used as a sauce for Homemade Pizza or quick Flatbread Pizzas for lunch! The large chunks of sausage can get pulled out, sliced up and added as a pizza topping!
More Favorite Homemade Pastas!
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Sausage, Peppers and Onions Pasta
- 3 to 4 links Italian sausage or could use ½ to 1 pound of bulk ground sausage
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ onion sliced
- 1 bell pepper, any color sliced
- 1 fennel bulb quartered, core removed, and sliced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 grinds fresh black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning (or fresh herbs if you have them, parsley, oregano, thyme, basil)
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 28oz cans tomato (either whole peeled chopped or broken up, or crushed or a combination)
- 1 pound penne, rigatoni, ziti or any hearty short pasta
- Parmesan cheese for serving
- In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, simmer the sausage links in enough water just to cover them until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice your veggies. Remove sausage to a plate with tongs, drain water, and slice the sausage into large chunks.
- In the same pot (now empty) over medium heat, add the oil and saute the onion, peppers, fennel and sausage pieces (keep the veggies to one side and sausage to the other). Season with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally, but not too often so the sausage and veggies can caramelize, about 20 minutes.
- Add garlic, brown sugar and herbs and stir well to combine. Add canned tomatoes.
- Simmer the sauce on low for about 1 hour (longer is fine too), stirring occasionally.
- When ready, cook pasta following package instructions, top with the sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.