Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

A classic pasta recipe with spicy Italian sausage, bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, garlic and herbs. Soul food.

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I never intended to write a post about last night’s dinner, fettuccine with Italian sausage and peppers, because I made it with a jar of spaghetti sauce. I didn’t think a “semi-homemade” recipe merited a blog post. How Sandra Lee! Did you know she lives with NY Governor Andrew Cuomo? I bet he’s had this dish a hundred times.

But then I thought, why not? It’s a quick and easy recipe that’s really delicious. It doesn’t even look or taste like a processed meal. Maybe some of my friends would appreciate adding this to their repertoire.

My next nagging thought: isn’t this one of those dishes, like hamburgers, that everyone already knows how to make? No, I shouldn’t assume everyone knows how to make this. Heck, a lot of people probably wouldn’t even think about making it. Sure, if you’ve spent a lot of time around an Italian-American family or kitchen, you’re used to seeing this pasta. But I doubt everyone thinks about this dish when they see sausage and peppers on sale.

My cooking inspiration was the Italian sausage on sale at Lowes Food this weekend. Hot or mild, the meat man asked. Hot, please. I picked up a few bell peppers and then scored a package of sliced Portobello mushrooms for 79 cents – one of those deeply discounted items I love so much. Whenever I buy these crazily discounted foods, I come home so happy, bragging to Jim about each of my finds. “Do you know what a deal that is?!?” I’m not sure he’s even listening anymore, but I can’t help myself and will continue to share my enthusiasm with him. Ha, sorry honey!

If you use mild Italian sausage instead of hot, taste the sauce toward the end and see if it needs any additional heat. If it does, add a little crushed red pepper flakes. I used 1-1/2 jars of spaghetti sauce because I wanted enough sauce for a pound of pasta. I like a saucy sauce. Plus there’s enough for dipping your garlic bread. Yes, buy or make some garlic bread. And red wine.

Pasta with Italian Sausage and Peppers recipe | Grabbing the Gusto

Pasta with Italian Sausage and Peppers | Grabbing the Gusto

Pasta with Italian Sausage and Peppers

You’ll need a large pot with lid and a large deep pan.

  • 1 pound of pasta – fettuccine, linguine, penne – it’s your choice
  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • Hot or mild Italian sausage, sliced into ½” pieces
  • 2 green bell peppers (or 1 green and 1 red), sliced into thick strips
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Mushrooms, sliced – use as many white, cremini or Portobello as you wish
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 to 6 cups marinara sauce (or 1 to 1-1/2 jars of spaghetti sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil, or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • Ground black pepper
  • Optional – crushed red pepper flakes
  • Fresh Italian parsley
  • Parmesan cheese

Put a large pot of water on the stove, cover it and bring it to a boil over high heat. When boiling, add salt and the pasta. Give it a good stir and cook according to pasta package directions for al dente.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a large deep pan on medium heat. Don’t use too much oil, maybe a teaspoon will do it, because the sausage will give off a lot of grease. Cook sausage, stirring so all sides cook, until it’s browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add peppers, onion and mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring every now and then, until softened, about 5 minutes. Make some room in the middle of the pan, and add the garlic to the bottom. Cook about a minute or until just starting to golden.

Stir in the spaghetti sauce. Add oregano, basil and black pepper. Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer very very lightly. The sauce is already cooked so you only need to heat it up, but a little extra time at really low heat will help the flavors meld. Be careful not to burn the sauce by using too much heat. Stir and taste. If you want more heat, add a little crushed red pepper flakes. Season with anything else it needs – additional salt, pepper, basil or oregano.

Meanwhile, drain the pasta when it’s cooked to al dente. When the sauce is ready, add the pasta and parsley to the pan and mix it all up. I let it sit a bit more (maybe a minute or two) so the pasta absorbs the sauce flavors. Hopefully you’ll have enough sauce to coat the pasta. If not, quickly add more sauce from the jar, stir it in and taste again for seasoning.

Serve the pasta with parmesan cheese. Have your garlic bread and red wine ready too.

This recipe makes enough for two big eaters with plenty of leftovers for breakfast or lunch the next day. Breakfast of champions!

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