This easy Italian sausage pasta sauce is delicious over pasta, but you can also use it to top cheese-stuffed shells, layer it in a lasagna, and more.
A versatile sauce for pasta, you could even use it as a pizza sauce. And since Italian sausage is so flavorful, there is no need to add a ton of extra ingredients.
Everyone needs a great pasta sauce made with pantry staples, so keep this in your back pocket for whenever you’re feeling Peckish!
Another great option with Italian Sausage is my Five Cheese Hot Italian Sausage Lasagna.
For ease of browsing, check out all my Pasta Recipes in one place. Thanks for stopping by!
Why Make a Sauce with Italian Sausage?
Many slow-cooked Italian pasta sauces start with ground beef or pork, and then you add seasoning to them.
Italian sausage already packs a ton of bold flavor. A quick look at the ingredient list of a recipe for hot Italian sausage includes:
- pork shoulder
- kosher salt
- toasted fennel seed
- black pepper
- cayenne pepper
- smoked paprika
- crushed red pepper flakes
- red wine
As you can see, that’s a ton of flavor. So by starting with sausage rather than with ground pork, you get a head start on flavor and a short-cut ingredient list.
Sweet! (Or hot, depending on your favorite style of Italian sausage!)
Versatile Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce
This sauce is versatile.
- You can use it as a “straight up” pasta sauce. (I recommend using hearty pasta shapes such as penne or rigatoni since the sauce is so hearty.)
- You can mix it with the pasta in a casserole dish, top it with cheese, and bake it.
- You can use it for the meaty-saucy layer in a lasagna recipe, including this cauliflower noodle lasagna.
- You can stuff it into shells or pour it over cheese-stuffed shells before baking.
- You could even add stock and creamy cannellini beans and maybe some torn kale to make your own Italian-inspired soup!
As the name implies, it is very easy to make, and you probably have everything you need without having to make a special shopping trip.
I find sauces like this really comforting. The cream cheese lends a comforting richness that reminds me of being a kid, yet the flavors are bold and sparkling. I like the juxtaposition, and I think you will, too.
If you prefer, you could also use heavy cream or milk in place of the cream cheese.
Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce Q & A
No. Breakfast sausage has a different flavor profile and will not work in this recipe. If you do choose to use breakfast sausage, know that it will taste different than the recipe as written. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it will be very different, mainly because breakfast sausage features a lot of sage.
Italian sausage is traditionally made with pork.
Technically you could, but you’d end up having to make your Italian sausage from scratch, which defeats the short cut of using sausage in the first place. If you do want a sub for the pork, you could use a mixture of ground turkey and ground beef along with the spices listed above. Or you could try to find a brand of Italian chicken sausage or Italian beef sausage and use that instead.
Make It a Meal: What To Serve with Your Pasta
As much as I like to sit down and eat a vat of pasta by itself, I know I should really be serving some side dishes to balance out the carbs. Here are some side dishes that would go beautifully with this easy Italian sausage pasta sauce, no matter how you end up using it:
- Summer Salad with Roasted Apple Vinaigrette
- Roasted Brussels Spouts and Cauliflower
- Veggie Cakes
- Fresh Pink Grapefruit and Fennel Salad
- Mediterranean Cucumber Salad
- Braised Baby Artichokes
Rolls to Serve with Your Pasta
And if you simply can’t get enough carbs and love a good, soft bread to go along with your pasta, might I suggest this roasted pumpkin herb focaccia, these garlic chive pull apart dinner rolls, or perhaps some soft, buttery pumpkin dinner rolls?
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How to Make This Sauce, Step by Step
As I said, this is a super easy sauce that requires a short ingredient list and short cooking time. Thanks, Italian sausage, for bringing so much flavor to the party.
Here’s how to make this sauce happen:
- Start by cooking the sausage in a cast iron pan, breaking it up as it cooks.
- Add the vegetables and let them cook in the fat the sausage releases.
- Add vinegar and reduce until it has all evaporated.
- Add the tomatoes and simmer, breaking up the tomatoes a bit as they cook.
- Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Melt the cream cheese in at the end of cooking.
- From there, you know what to do! Anything from simply spooning some over toasted or grilled Italian bread as an appetizer to mixing it up with cooked pasta and beyond.
Easy Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce
This simple sauce comes together in about 40 minutes. It makes enough for a crowd or for a couple of folks to have enough for a few meals each.
- 1 pound bulk Italian sausage or link Italian sausage removed from the casings
- 1 medium onion, , diced (I used a sweet onion. Use what you have)
- 1 bell pepper, , diced
- 2 cloves garlic, , minced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, , to taste
- 2 28 oz cans whole peeled tomatoes, (San Marzano are ideal, but I didn't have any and nothing bad happened)
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, , crushed lightly in your palm
- 3 oz softened cream cheese, , optional but comforting (You could also finish it with creme fraiche, a splash or two of heavy cream or half & half)
- Place the sausage in a large, heavy skillet (I used my 12" Lodge) or a Dutch oven over medium heat.
- Break up the sausage as it begins to cook.
- Once it has released some of its fat, add the onion, bell pepper and garlic along with about 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and several grinds of fresh black pepper.
- Let sizzle along over medium heat until the vegetables have softened and the sausage is cooked through, well crumbled and is starting to brown, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the vinegar, stir for a moment and cook another minute or so until dry.
- Pour in the two cans of tomatoes with all their juices as well as the Italian seasoning and another 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and some more grindings of black pepper.
- Simmer for about twenty minutes, breaking up the whole tomatoes into pieces.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.
- Over low heat, stir in the softened cream cheese (if using) until it has all melted and is evenly distributed throughout the sauce.
- Cook a pound of pasta until just shy of al dente (a large, hearty shape such as rigatoni would work well with this rustic sauce).
- Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/3 cup of the starchy water.
- Add about three cups of the sauce to the pot along with the drained pasta and reserved water.
- Cook over high heat, stirring constantly. Be a bit careful about this so you don't break up the pasta.
- After about 2 minutes, the watery sauce will have thickened up and will coat the pasta nicely.
- Serve the pasta on plates or in shallow bowls, ladling over just a bit extra of the remaining sauce if you'd like.
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Nutrition InformationYield 8
Amount Per Serving Calories 281Total Fat 20gSaturated Fat 7.5gCholesterol 60mgSodium 762mgCarbohydrates 10.6gFiber 2.1gSugar 6gProtein 13.8g
And there you have it. Simple. Hearty. Filling. I hope that this wonderful sauce takes you through Winter’s last hurrah and sees you through to spring!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read. I hope you have a lovely day.
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What Others Are Saying...
Kelly Williams says
Sounds perfectly delicious! 😀
Jennifer Field says
Thanks Kelly! Really good and very easy. Kind of perfect! =) I’m sure that you will get all kinds of creative with it! Enjoy!
You are brilliant! I would not have thought to use cream cheese for a flavor perk. I loved your candor about nothing going wrong from not using San Marzano tomatoes. Have a splendid time in LA,and through the rest of your week. Lastly, thank you so much for the savory dish shout out. 🙂
Jennifer Field says
How’m I supposed to read your French Onion Soup post and NOT share it, Brooks?! It was a lovely, lovely post! Having a ball so far. When we get home, it’s off to the Outer Banks. Busy Vacation week!
Betty Ann @Mango_Queen says
Awwwwww Thank you so much for the kind mention and link to my blog post. So sweet of you. I saw this Easy Italian Sausage Pasta earlier and I made a mental note to get some sausages tomorrow at the market. Love the addition of red wine vinegar. Must make this soon. Have a great weekend and thanks for being the bestest friend ever, Jenni!
Jennifer Field says
I was looking for warming and comforting and your arroz con pollo certainly fit the bill, BA! =) See you soon–we need to discuss your hangout!
Chris @ The Café Sucré Farine says
Have fun Jenni, I love your yummy pasta sauce. This is the kind of meal I could eat every day!
Jennifer Field says
Me, too, Chris! I really wasn’t going to post it, but then I ate some for breakfast yesterday morning and thought, “Dang, this really is delicious! And so easy–I must share with my friends!” Or something like that! =)
Jenni, I know you’re travelling/vacationing, but I just wanted to mention that I just nominated you for Saveur’s 2014 best blog awards, in the baking/sweets category. And to remind you to please tell your readers to vote for you SOONER THAN one day before the voting closes — which you did with the Kitchn awards voting, causing me to miss out on casting my vote for you because I didn’t read the post til a day too late!
(But I was happy to see that you still came in 5th overall in the Kitchn awards in a HUGE field of bloggers, so that’s something.)
Jennifer Field says
I really appreciate the nomination–I’m just seeing this now! I asked all my fans to vote as soon as voting opened. Voting was open for 4 days. Sorry you missed the window, but I can’t thank you enough for the support!
I’m italian and this recipe sounds terrible, BUT this could mean it’s perfect for english/american taste 😉
Jennifer Field says
Thanks for adding to the conversation, Paola. I am well aware that this is by no means a traditional Italian dish. It was just something quick, simple and yes, delicious, that I whipped up for dinner one night.
This is the perfect Sunday Supper – I’d enjoy it, even if some folks wouldn’t.
Jennifer Field says
=) Guess it takes all kinds, Denise! More for us. lol
I love the idea of cream cheese in this sauce. I know my teens are going to love it.
OMG this is my kind of meal! Just give me a hunk of bread and a vat of this sauce and I’m a happy camper!