Sausage & Pepper Pasta

$10.75 recipe / $1.34 serving

I caught a few minutes of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn the other night and was reminded of how much I love stories like that and The Grapes of Wrath. They really make me thankful for every little thing I have and remind me that even if I feel like times are hard, I really have it pretty damn good.

Every now and then I get an email or comment that suggests my sparing use of meat is unrealistic or unreasonable. It’s true, I often treat meat more like a garnish than the main star of the meal, but stretching a small amount of meat out over many servings is not only realistic, but it’s a reality for many people around the world (past, present, and future). We’ve all become used to half pound burgers, but for cost and health reasons, I prefer to use just a little and make it go a long way. That’s my culinary style.

This recipe is a good example of that technique. I used only half of a 19oz. package (2.5 links) of sausage for this entire pot of pasta. When sliced thin, the sausage medallions distribue well into the dish and every bowl will have at least a few pieces. Cutting back on the meat helped offset the cost of the peppers, and bulking out the dish with pasta helped keep the overall cost low and my belly full. 

Want to go heavy on sausage and light on the peppers? By all means, do. In this case the cost would have been about the same (since the peppers were a bit pricey), but I happened to prefer the peppers.

The flavor of this pasta is sweet, a little spicy, and a lot of yum. Dishes like this also freeze wonderfully, so don’t be afraid to make a big batch. You’ll be glad to have single serving portions tucked away in the freezer for those days that you don’t want to cook!

Sausage & Pepper Pasta

Sausage & Pepper Pasta

4.9 from 15 reviews
Sausage & Pepper Pasta
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Total Cost: $10.75
Cost Per Serving: $1.34
Serves: 8
  • ½ (19 oz.) package Italian sausage (hot, sweet, or mild) $1.99
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil $0.02
  • 2 medium green bell peppers $1.50
  • 1 medium red bell pepper $1.50
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper $1.50
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion $0.85
  • 2 cloves garlic $0.16
  • 1 (28 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes $1.69
  • ½ Tbsp dried basil $0.07
  • ½ Tbsp dried oregano $0.07
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper (optional) $0.03
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste) $0.05
  • ¾ lb. pasta (rigatoni or your favorite shape) $1.32
  1. Add the vegetable oil and sausage links (unsliced) to a large pot and cook over medium heat until the sausage is browned and firm enough to slice. It doesn't have to be cooked through at this point.
  2. While the sausage is cooking, thinly slice the bell peppers and onions, and mince the garlic. Once the sausage is browned, remove it from the pot and add the peppers, onions, and garlic. Let them cook while you slice the sausage into thin medallions.
  3. After the peppers and onions have softened, return the sliced sausage to the pot along with the diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Stir to combine and continue to cook over medium heat.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta for about 7 minutes, or just until tender, but still firm. Slightly undercook the pasta as it will continue to cook and soak up liquid once added to the pot with the sausage and peppers.
  5. Once the pasta is finished cooking, drain it in a colander and then add it to the pot with the sausage and peppers. Stir to combine, place a lid on top, and allow the pasta to cook in the pepper sauce for about 5 more minutes, or until it has absorbed most of the liquid in the pot. Add about a half teaspoon of salt, taste, and add more if needed.
For a thicker sauce, use your favorite marinara sauce in place of diced tomatoes. You'll need about three cups.


Sausage & Pepper Pasta

Step by Step Photos

Peppers and OnionsGreen bell peppers are usually much less expensive than other colored peppers, so I try to use more of them and less of the others. You can also jazz this up by using an Anaheim pepper (slightly spicy) in place of one of the bell peppers.

Italian SausageYou can use any type of Italian sausage you like. I used sweet, but I would have also loved hot. If using hot, you may want to skip the crushed red pepper later. I only used half of this package and froze the rest.

Cook SausageCook the sausage in a large pot with a little vegetable oil until it is browned and firm enough to slice. It doesn’t have to be cooked through at this point because it will be cooked more later. While the sausage is cooking, thinly slice the bell peppers and onion, and mince the garlic.

Slice SausagesOnce the sausage is nicely browned, remove it from the pot. Thinly slice the sausage. The thinner it is sliced, the greater number of medallions, and the more pieces you’ll have in every bowl.

Cook PeppersAfter removing the sausage from the pot, add the sliced bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Let those cook (stir occasionally) while you’re slicing the sausage.

Return Sausage to PotReturn the sausage to the pot. Stir it in and continue to let everything cook. You can begin to cook the pasta in a separate pot at this point too… Make sure to not over cook the pasta, as you’ll want it to absorb some of the liquid after it is added in with the sausage and peppers.

Tomatoes HerbsNow add the diced tomatoes, basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Stir everything to combine and keep cookin’. (you can use marinara sauce in place of the diced tomatoes if you want a thicker, richer sauce).

Cook pepper pastaLet that cook while the pasta is boiling, so that some of the liquid evaporates away (see how it’s kinda soupy at first?).

Add PastaFinally, once the pasta is mostly cooked, drain it and add it to the pot with the sausage and peppers. Stir it to combine with the sauce, place a lid on top, and let it cook for 5-7 minutes more, so that the pasta can absorb some of the liquid and flavor. Add about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt, taste, and add more if needed.

Sausage & Pepper Pasta

Now it’s ready to serve! It’s especially good with a light sprinkle of parmesan cheese. YUM!


  1. Ashley says:

    This is simple, quick, and tasty! Will make again–thank you for sharing :)

  2. I made this recipe for the first time last year and it has now become a regular in my house. My boyfriend requests it all the time!

  3. Sarah says:

    Your sparing use of meat, especially red, is wise, for good health. I was advised of that by my grandfather when I was little! I love your recipes and have tried several. And will continue to do so. Thank you.

    • Trish says:

      Please stop with the “meat’s not healthy” stuff. Your grandfather grew up in a time before meat was nationally shipped and therefore was local. Johnsonville sausages are full of corn syrup and preservatives. That–not the fact that they’re meat–is what makes them unhealthy.

  4. april says:

    Hi! Is it safe to add olives in this recipe? Will it have a different effect on the over-all taste of the dish? Thanks! Would appreciate your input.

  5. Bethany says:

    I made this last night and to be honest, I was underwhelmed. However, I ate the leftovers for lunch today and LOVED IT! Next time I will let the pasta soak in the flavor for much longer. I’ll also add more sausage and red pepper.

    • Hahah, that happens to me sometimes, too. I typically wait a day or two after making something before posting it to the blog to figure out exactly how I feel about the recipe. ;)

  6. My very picky 2, 4 and 6 year olds loved this. Making it again this week!

  7. Sandyg265 says:

    I was looking for a sausage and pepper pasta recipe since I have so many ripe peppers in my garden. I’m going to give this a try.

  8. taylor says:

    Happy to have found your website. Always on the look out for ways to stretch my cooking dollar but still enjoy my favourites. I currently live on a tropical island and the pkg of Johnsonville Sweet Sausage is the equivalent of $11.00 US. I buy frozen sweet peppers as it is much cheaper than fresh. Quite often watch Food Network but the recipes call for so many expensive ingredients ( expensive here) that I just don’t bother. Would love to see some of these tv chefs visit here and try to cook within a budget.

  9. Ours would cost more, the cheapest package of sausage is $3.99 :0(

    • Mine was about $4, too. But, I used half of the package for this recipe and froze the rest to use in another recipe at a later time. :)

  10. Beth, tried this last night, and all I can say is WOW!!!!!!
    kids are begging me to make again tonight, so here we go again, luckily I still have enough ingredients. Thanks

  11. Tracy says:

    I bought the ingredients today to make this dish….although all I needed were the sausages and tomatoes….always have everything else. Unfortunately I was unable to make it tonight but it is definitely on the menu for tomorrow. In fact, my brother-in-law said he was coming for dinner just for this dish! I married into an Italian family so pasta is a staple but the men also love meat…I can do without so this dish is perfect. It looks like a lot more meat than what is actually in there.

    I love your website! If for nothing else, the fact that you do use less meat but I don’t think any meat eater would know it! Thank you!

    • Tracy says:

      I made this for dinner the other night and it was a huge hit with the hubby! I loved it as well. I had to package some up and bring to my mom. I don’t know if she’s tried it yet. I will definitely make this again…..and again…..I still have an entire pasta pot full of it! YUM!

  12. Kathy says:

    I just wanted to say that I’m happy that I found your website. I’ve tried a couple of your recipes now and both my husband and my 2 year old daughter like what I’ve made so far. Thanks again! :)

  13. Marie says:

    I’m a bit of a meat snob. We buy hormone free, antibiotic free meat in huge batches and freeze it. If we were to use what North Americans consider a ” normal” portion of meat, it would be outrageously priced. Using your website, I feed my husband, one year old and myself for approx $60 a week.

  14. Amber Leigh says:

    I can see both sides of the meat arguement. I love eating huge servings of meat at dinner and usually stray away from veggies (just kinda how I grew up I suppose), but lately I’ve been cutting back on the meat between me and my boyfriend. Granted, when I make chicken parm we eat far too much meat to pasta, but one night out of every 10 doesn’t make costs too terrible. Especially with a meal like this. I buy a couple dozen peppers at a time when they’re on sale, slice them, and freeze them for later so I get the best prices. We also get our sausage and bacon for free from the in-laws since my father in law makes all his own and we tend to be his guinea pigs (I know I’m super lucky). So for a night where I spend pennies for pasta, I can put a full meat night (like chicken parm) on the menu.

  15. Brit says:

    Just found your blog, love it!

  16. Just made dinner for my girlfriend and myself. Kicked up the SPICE a bit with a couple jalapeno peppers and some red pepper flakes. Delicious and affordable! Thanks!

  17. WOW!! Made this tonight and everyone–including normally picky kids–loved it and went for seconds. “Awesome comfort food” and “add it to our repertoire” were their comments. Home-grown peppers decreased the cost even more. This is the first of your dishes we’ve tried, having just found your blog on Saturday. Our whole week’s menu is planned around your recipes, so I’m looking forward to what’s coming next. Thanks so much!!

  18. Bret says:

    I love how you show pictures with everything. It helps with newbies at cooking like myself.

  19. I immediately went to the store and bought all of the ingredients I was missing after reading this recipe. I can’t wait to make it! I’ve been looking for new ways to use protein besides chicken breast and ground beef.

  20. Hilary says:

    This is really really good! I was looking for a recipe to used up a bunch of orange and red sweet peppers and this worked great. My whole family (2 adults and 4 kids) ate it all up :)

  21. Crystal T. says:

    Just made this for the myself and my Keeblers (parents). Delicious. I had one pork and one chicken link sausages. Forgot to pick up onions. So, I used onion powder (do in a pinch, but wanted onions.) in the peppers. Used my homemade pizza sauce. Now, I see why you only used 3/4 of the pasta box. I used the entire box of pasta which does require more meat. Still tasty. and it freezes. \o/!

  22. Jessica D. says:

    I give this one 5 stars!

  23. Looks delicious. I always wonder about those Italian sausage links–
    am I supposed to remove that casing before proceeding?

    • Not for this recipe. For raw sausages like this (not smoked sausage) the meat is just like ground pork or beef and won’t hold together in the shape if you remove the casing. Sometimes, if you want the end product to be in small pieces, like ground beef or pork, you can remove the casing by just squeezing the contents into the skillet and browning it like you would ground beef. Since you want nice medallions for this pasta, you should cook it in the casing until it firms up and then slice it into rounds. If you try to slice it before cooking it will just squeeze out all over :)

  24. I don’t use that much meat either and I have a family of five. In fact, I was talking to a friend with 4 kids who said that she hates making tacos because it takes 2 lbs of ground beef! Huh?

    I use just 1/2 a pound and then cram in the veggies and cheese! And, that’s with my hubby and one kid eating 3 or 4 tacos! The meat is just for flavor ….

    although, I could live on your pumpkin smoothies for the rest of my life and be quite happy :D

  25. Audrey says:

    This was so good. SO GOOD. And any meal that is delicious, healthy, relatively inexpensive, AND makes leftovers for both my boyfriend and I? Winner. I found your site a while back, and it has just been a lifesaver as a poor grad student who struggles with that eternal question of “what’s for dinner”. Everything I’ve made has been awesome but this was definitely a favorite!

  26. Just made this over the weekend and it was excellent. Thank you for yet another great meal.

  27. Kristen says:

    I’m so glad you addressed this meat issue because the main reason I love your website is how you creatively integrate meat as a side time and as a complement to the main portion of the dish.

    I have no problem with people who like a lot of meat, because its yummy and I love to eat it took. It’s just not an everyday thing in my kitchen and home cooking. There was a time where I was making mostly vegetarian meals, not because I was a vegetarian, but because I don’t really enjoy cooking meat (kinda’ boring just standing there, looking at the same item) and I’m not too good at it.

    My boyfriend wouldn’t complain, but he did say he wanted more meat protein and less bean protein. I won’t say I used your website to “trick” him, but I did use it to work around the issue of not having enough meat. I didn’t start cooking meat dishes, I simply added meat to things, like your recipe here. In essence, this is vegetable pasta with sausage added to it. Not sausage pasta with a side of veggies. It was a really nice solution to the issue, which left both of us really pleased.

    One of the key points that I learned (and you spell it out here more than you have other recipes) is the way you slice the sausage in smallish pieces, that way you still have the same flavor in each bite, but you’re also getting more veggies which health wise are far more beneficial. I think that’s an important point to drive home.

  28. Val in MN says:

    I try to reduce/stretch my meat as well, but my guys fight me! Or they’ll pick out all the meat and leave me just veggies and/or pasta. But I keep trying. LOVE your recipes.

  29. I think that we, as a society, are too used to cheap meat being readily available. Given that meat makes for a pricier meal with much fewer health benefits, I am all for recipes that use sparse amounts or none at all. (Heck, that’s one of many reasons why I like your site so much!)

  30. Bailey J says:

    I made this last night and it is SO good! My boyfriend already asked that we freeze the sausage we didn’t use so we can make this recipe again in a couple of weeks.

  31. Anna says:

    Oh and I’m on a tight budget so I rarely buy meat. I’m gluten and dairy free, so the cost of many of my basic food items is pretty high, and I’d rather buy pasta than meat sometimes. I tend to cook a dish with a couple of “servings” of meat, cut it with pasta or rice or something plus lots of vegies and feast off that for a while than have steak and salad or something.

  32. Anna says:

    I find that the portion sizes of meat aren’t unreasonable at all. In general we all eat much more than we should, and I often have much more leftover than expected, no matter what recipe I use for things.
    I’ve just made this for lunch/dinner tonight even though it’s only 11:30am! I’m eating it now and it tastes amazing. I went to the markets on the weekend and came back with 4 capsicum for under $3, which is amazing in Australia, so this recipe came at a perfect time.
    I made a few slight substitutions. I used chorizo instead of italian sausage because that’s all we had at the store. I left out chili flakes because I ran out, and my dried herbs in general are pretty much gone, so I just threw in whatever I could find. I used two cans of diced tomato because the italian in me loves lots of tomatoes. I think that’s all I did. I think I used less pasta than the recipe calls for because I was too lazy to look up a conversion chart to metric and just poured pasta in. Oh and I used some tomato paste because I wanted to thicken it up a little.
    Seriously though, this tastes great! I do ballet and I’m always looking for something like this that I can eat quickly before or after a class. It’s really filling and I know I’m not going to get hungry again before my class tonight.

  33. Made this tonight. Huge thumbs up, even from my kids.

  34. As a vegetarian, I love the amount of meat you use/post about because it’s way easier to cut it out or substitute it this way!

  35. janmaus says:

    Another one who agrees with your opinions about meat! So many of us ignore the nutritional guidelines that Megan mentions–even a small steak in a restaurant is twice the recommended portion size. During my childhood, my mom, the farm wife, always planned portions of about 4 oz per person. When my dad butchered, the locker company put up most cuts of meat in 1 lb packages–perfect for our family of 4. A single chicken was expected to serve 6, or provide leftovers for a second meal. My parents weren’t stingy–most families planned similarly. Anyway, this pasta dish looks spectacular, and I’ll be making it soon!

  36. Megan says:

    I have been doing a lot of research on food, health, portions, etc. and have come to look at food in a completely new way. So personally, complaining about the amount of meat you use is silly. Literally 3 ounces is the correct portion size an adult should eat, while children generally eat less. Not mention we really should eat meat sparingly. I come across so many people who do not know how to use other forms of protein, and go straight for the beef, chicken, or pork. What about legumes? For example, my family loves white chicken and bean chili. I use 1/2 of a chicken breast and double up on the bean portions. Meat is way too expensive to be eating a whole 3 whole chicken breast!!! That is 3-6 meals for my family!!! And that is generally including leftovers! Bah! Emily, I love you website! These recipes have helped cut our budget in half by doing the little things.

  37. Cathy says:

    This looks just wonderful! I have been craving sausage with green peppers and onions, so I think this will satisfy my craving. I’m off to the store to get the ingredients. Thanks!
    P.S. I like the smaller portions of meat in your recipes : )

  38. Leigh says:

    Meat as a ‘garnish’…I like that, now to talk my husband into liking it!

  39. Audrey C says:

    Wow! I can make this using things I already have in my freezer/fridge/cupboard. I have bags of frozen peppers and onions, chicken sausage and probably a can of marinara somewhere.

  40. Sarah says:

    This looks awesome, might wait to make it when capsicums are cheaper to buy here. My fiance and I are on a very small budget atm (he just lost his job and I work part time) and I completely get the small amount of meat thing!

  41. Jason Camillo says:

    It tastes great! Just wish I was faster at cutting peppers. I felt like I was in a race against time while the sausage browned.

  42. yousuf says:

    fyi – garlic is included in the ingredients but not in the instructions. recipe looks great!

  43. Anna N. says:

    I actually love your recipes because they use so little meat! They’re functional for my life because I’m a financially strapped grad student who likes eating healthy and your food is continuously delicious, health conscious, and affordable and easy to make. Plus I think raw meat is gross to touch so I try to avoid it. I still like the taste of meat but I get most of my protein from eggs and plain yogurt.

  44. I approve of the meat-as-garnish thing 100%! There’s no need to overload with huge flats of beef or chicken every single day. And I defy the complainers to live on a seriously low food budget without cutting their meat intake at least a little. Personally, I prefer less meat and more veg and beans anyway. This pasta sounds great, & it’s also very much like a lunch I make myself all the time–usually with one sausage for 2-3 serving’s worth of pasta and veg. :)

  45. Julie C says:

    I don’t get why people complain about the lack of meat! I’m a protein fiend so I usually just up the amount of meat I’m using, the cost of the recipe usually is around the same or goes up only a tiny bit, since I plan my meals around the meats in my freezer that I buy for cheap on sale. Keep up the good work, this recipe looks right up my alley, sausage and peppers are pretty much my favorite.

    • I think it’s just that they’re not used to the concept of not eating a “full portion” of meat. I hope this sheds a little light on my reasoning :)

    • Novice dst says:

      I feel like it should be about 1 1/2. Or 2 lbs of meat.. But it was delicious I added French white wine and fennel seeds. Delicious and used fresh basil.

Speak Your Mind


Rate this recipe: