I’m excited to share this simply sweet Italian sausage pasta recipe. In the Frittata kitchen, it is not uncommon for a new Frittata recipe to be the result of some ad-libbing. I hate to waste food, so I try very hard to buy groceries for specific meals vs. just buying an ingredient and hoping it will go with something I already have on hand. But it happens. Just like it does in your fridge.
Frequently, I find items in my crisper drawer that I bought with good intentions, but have forgotten about. Sweet Italian Sausage Pasta with Peppers and Shaved Brussel Sprouts was born last night when I found some farmer’s market Brussels sprouts staring at me from the bottom of the crisper drawer.
Sweet or Hot Italian Sausage
When I make Italian sausage and pepper pasta, I use Johnsonville Italian Sausages. I’ve tried dozens of other options including the Italian sausages that get made fresh in the meat department at the store. But I’ve yet to find an Italian sausage that I like as much as Johnsonville.
Depending on my mood, I use either their Sweet Italian sausage or Hot Italian Sausage, usually sweet. You can’t buy these at Whole Foods, but most other grocery stores carry them. To see where you can buy Johnsonville’s Italian sausages, click on either image below to jump to their site. I don’t get paid to promote Johnsonville.
Seal Your Sweet Italian Sausage Deal
Get a pot of water on to boil for the pasta while you are prepping the rest of the ingredients. Once your veggies are prepped, heat a cast-iron grill over med-high heat. Wait for it to get hot, then put the sweet Italian sausages in and sear for about 3 minutes until they are charred on the outside. Turn the heat to med-low and cover with either a lid or tinfoil to let them cook through. Give them a poke with your finger. Italian sausages feel mostly firm and bounce back from the touch when they are fully cooked.
Remove the Italian sausages from the pan and set them aside, but cover them with foil to keep warm. Turn the heat up to medium. Add a little olive oil, let it get hot, and add sliced onions and bell pepper of your choice. I like to use a mixture of red and orange bell peppers, but today I only had orange. Season well with salt and pepper.
Don’t mess with it for a few minutes. If you let the hot pan do its job, those onions will caramelize. Keep them covered with the foil so they stay warm.
Shred the Heads
I used my sharpened chef’s knife to shave some Brussels sprouts. You don’t need a food processor. Trim off their nubs and then slice them as thin as possible. Voila! You now have shredded Brussels sprouts. Alternatively, you can find pre-shaved packaged Brussels sprouts at the grocery, but they fly off the shelves. Make your own if you can’t find pre-packaged.
It was my first run at this addition to my sweet Italian sausage pasta, so I only shaved 3 large sprouts. I added them to the pan and seasoned them lightly with salt and pepper. They wilt and start to char after about 2 minutes. If you want to, put the Italian sausages back in the grill pan for a minute to reheat.
Italian Sausage Pasta Finishing Touches
Cut the Italian sausages into bite-sized slices. When the pasta is done, drain it and toss with the sausage, onion, peppers, and Brussel sprouts. Add 3-4 tablespoons (almost a 1/4 cup) of very good olive oil and a large handful of fresh sliced basil. Toss again. It is important that you bend down and put your nose over the bowl as the olive oil and heat that fresh basil. Breathe it in.
Do not use cheap olive oil. Do not skip the basil.
For me, it’s all about the olive oil. When you use quality olive oil to finish an entrée, you don’t need anything else.
Assess Your Oil
Don’t know whether you have good olive oil or not? Can’t remember when you bought the olive oil in your pantry? That probably isn’t what you want to pour over your dinner. I have store-bought olive oils that I use for cooking, and much higher quality olive oils that I use for finishing. If you want to learn more about what good olive oil is, read my olive oil series, Losing Your Virginity: Part I and Losing Your Virginity: Part 2.
Here’s the finished Sweet Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta with Shredded Brussels Sprouts on the first attempt. I had crumbled some goat cheese on top at the last minute but it isn’t necessary.
I liked the addition of the shredded Brussesl sprouts but decided I hadn’t used enough.
I made the sweet Italian sausage pasta recipe again the next night and used more Brussels sprouts. A lot more. It was still good, but I think I overdid it and I lost some of the essence of the onions and pepper.
On a third try, I settled on 8 shredded sprouts (about 1 cup).
I chose to use rotini for this dish because it is what I had in the pantry. If you don’t have rotini, I’d suggest using farfalle, or bow-tie pasta, for Sweet Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta with Shaved Brussel Sprouts.
- Cast-iron grill pan
- 8 oz rotini or farfalle (bow-tie) pasta
- 2 links sweet Italian sausage
- 6 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 medium bell peppers, ideally one red and one orange, sliced
- 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
- 8 Brussel sprouts, shaved (about 1 cup)
- salt and pepper
- 1 handful fresh Basil, sliced
- Put a pot of water on the stove to boil for the pasta. Prep your veggies.
- Heat a cast-iron grill pan over med-high heat. Once hot, add the sausages. Sear for about 3 minutes until charred on all sides. Reduce heat to med-low and cover pan with either a lid or foil. Cook for about 6 minutes. Poke the sausages with your finger. If they feel mostly firm and bounce back easily, they are cooked through. Remove the sausages from the pan and set aside but keep covered with foil so they stay warm.
- Increase the grill pan heat to medium. Wait 1 minute then add 2 tbsp olive oil. Let it heat for 1 minute, then add onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Don't move the onions and peppers around too often. Let the pan do its job and let the onions caramelize. Add the Brussel sprouts for the last 2 minutes. Season lightly again with salt and pepper. Remove grill pan from heat.
- Once pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the pot. Slice your sausages into bite sized pieces and add to the pasta. Add onion/pepper mix. Toss well. Drizzle in 3-4 tbsps good quality finishing olive oil and a handful of freshly sliced basil. Toss again. Dividie between 2 bowls and serve.