Despite its short list of ingredients, this simple sausage and pasta dish is incredibly satisfying and full of flavor.
Italian sausage removed from the casing and sautéed combines with the sweet flavor and jammy texture of caramelized onions to coat the pasta in this dish with the perfect blend of sweetness, salt, and spice.
Tips for making this recipe
Here are a few ways to ensure this dish turns out perfectly every time.
- Use sweet, not hot, Italian sausage: You can use any type of sweet Italian sausage in this recipe (pork, turkey, or chicken), but we recommend staying away from hot as it would likely overpower the sweet flavor of the caramelized onion. If you just want a little bit of kick, you can add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, but be careful not to overdo it.
- Cut the sausage into small pieces before cooking: One of the best things about this recipe is the fact that you get a burst of flavor in every bite you take. To achieve this, you need to break up the sausage as it sautés and the smaller the bits, the better. To make this task easier, use kitchen shears to slit the casing and remove it. Most likely, the meat will still hold together well enough for you to snip it into little pieces over the pan.
- Use sweet onions: If you can, use a sweet variety of onion for this recipe. Sometimes sweet onions are quite large. If so, cut them in half vertically first, then slice and separate into “half rings.”
- Don’t rush caramelizing the onions: It’s important to take your time cooking the onions so they are truly caramelized, not simply sautéed. The flavor will be different, and they won’t have the jam-like consistency needed to coat the pasta completely.
- Choose the right cut of pasta: Pick a cut of pasta that will hold a light coating of olive oil well. Cuts with ridges and swirls are best and our favorites for this recipe are rotini (pictured) and cavatappi (corkscrews). Penne, rigatoni, and farfalle are other options.
A green salad with a simple vinaigrette is really all you need to round out this meal. The acidity of the dressing balances the richness of the sausage and the sweetness of the caramelized onions. If you’d like a glass of wine, Pinot Grigio is the way to go.
More pasta and sausage recipes
Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Sausage
- 3/4 lb sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casing
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 10 ounces spiral-cut pasta, rotini, fusilli
- 2 to 3 large onions, 2 lbs total, peeled and thinly sliced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of sugar
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and sauté until nicely browned, 6 to 8 minutes.
- Use a wooden spoon to crumble the sausage into very small pieces as it cooks, then transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Drain off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan, return it to the stove over medium-low heat and stir in the butter until melted.
- Separate the onion slices into rings and add them to the pan. Cover and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Put a large pot of salted water on for the pasta.
- Remove the cover from the onions, raise the heat to medium and season them lightly with salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar.
- Continue cooking the onions for approximately 20 minutes longer, stirring frequently and loosening any browned bits that may accumulate on the bottom of the pan.
- If you find the onions are sticking to the pan, add a tablespoon or two of water to keep them moist.
- The onions are done when they’ve turned a rich, golden color and have a marmalade-like consistency.
- Reduce the heat to low, add the reserved sausage, combine well, and set aside to keep warm.
- Cook and drain the pasta according to package directions.
- Add the caramelized onion and sausage mixture along with 1 or 2 additional tablespoons of olive oil and combine well.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
- Plate individual servings and serve immediately.