Italian Sausage and Pepper Pasta

This Sausage Peppers Pasta is so packed with creamy (lightened up!), cheesy, sweet and spicy flavor fireworks, you’ll never want to put your fork down!  Readers call it, “delicious,” “definitely a keeper,” and “Oh wow! so good.” This craveable comfort food is on your table in 30 minutes with TONS of variations  included!

How to Make Sausage and Peppers Pasta Video

showing how to make sausage pepper pasta in a skillet with Italian sausage and bell peppers


Why You’ll Love this Sausage and Peppers Recipe

  • Sausage and bell peppers are a match made in heaven!  My husband enjoyed Sausage Peppers Pasta in Italy years ago and we have been making it ever since. The sweetness of the tender-crisp bell peppers cuts through the rich Italian sausage and cheesy sauce for the mouthwatering balance of sweet, savory and spicy.
  • The velvety sauce is downright swoon worthy. It’s silky and creamy without being heavy, punctuated by garlic, onions, fire roasted tomatoes, Italian seasonings, buttery Gouda, and nutty Parmesan.  You will be licking your plate!
  • The sauce is indulgently creamy without all the heavy cream.  Instead, the sauce is roux based made with chicken broth and lighter half and half or you can even substitute the half and half with milk whisked with cornstarch and it will still be fabulous. 
  • This speedy recipe can be on your table in 30 minutes!  Although this Italian Sausage Pasta screams of an indulgent, restaurant worthy dish, it is the epitome of decadent dinner made easy. Just brown the sausage, followed by the onions, peppers, garlic and flour then dump in
    the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer – that’s it!
  • You can completely make it your own!  Swap the Italian sausage for turkey sausage or sliced sausage, the bell peppers for any vegetables and the cheeses for your favorites.  Make it cheesier, creamier, spicier, etc.   
sausage pepper pasta with Italian sausage being served with Parmesan
ingredient icon

Sausage and Pepper Pasta Ingredients

Creamy, cheesy, and expertly seasoned, this Italian Sausage Peppers Pasta is perfect for easy weeknight cooking! Three kinds of bell peppers and a yellow onion balance out the slightly spicy Italian sausage, while a combination of half and half and shredded Gouda add irresistible creaminess. Here’s what you’ll need to make this sausage pasta recipe (full measurements in the recipe card at the bottom of the post): 

  • Pasta: I recommend using a short and sturdy pasta, such as rotini, cavatappi, or penne. You want something that can holds its own against the rich and creamy sauce. 
  • Italian sausage: I prefer hot Italian Sausage. It will not make your pasta spicy, just flavorful. Italian sausage comes seasoned with Italian seasonings, primarily fennel.  Fennel is crucial for authentic Italian flavor so if you swap the sausage for beef or turkey, make sure you add some fennel, Italian seasonings and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Onion: One yellow onion will do the trick.
  • Bell peppers: I used three different colors of bell peppers (red, orange and yellow), but you may use just one color if that’s what you have on hand.  I don’t recommend using green because it is earthy and grassy instead of sweet.
  • Garlic: I use 4-6 cloves of garlic and it is divine but feel free to use less if you prefer.
  • Flour: This is the thickening agent in the béchamel sauce that creates the roux.
  • Chicken broth: This is more flavorful than just milk or half and half. Make sure you use low sodium broth so we can control the salt.
  • Half and half: This adds body and richness to the sauce but doesn’t have nearly as many calories as heavy cream. You may also create your own with equal parts milk and heavy cream.
  • Chicken bouillon: Choose from bouillon powder, bouillon cubes, or better than bouillon. Add the bouillon to the sauce without dissolving in liquid first. If using cubes, you will need 1 which you crush up and then add directly to the sauce.
  • Canned fire roasted tomatoes: These tomatoes are NOT spicy – the fire simply means they have been roasted which gives them a complex smokiness and removes the acidic bite. Fire roasted tomatoes are located next to the regular diced tomatoes – just make sure you get the ones without any added seasonings. 
  • Seasonings: In addition to garlic, this sausage pasta is seasoned with dried basil, dried parsley, dried oregano, dried thyme, and optional red pepper flakes. You can add more or less of any of the seasonings to suit your tastes.
  • Gouda cheese:  Gouda tastes similar to cheddar but is milder, slightly sweet, nutty, and buttery and doesn’t overpower the dish. Equally important, Gouda melts 1000X better than cheddar so it allows you to enhance the flavor while melting gorgeously.  Young Gouda will be more mild and sweet and more mature Gouda will be stronger and nuttier, so pay attention and make sure you choose the right one for you.
  • Parmesan cheese:  This is a fantastic salty, nutty companion to the Gouda.  For best results, use ONLY freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  It is much more flavorful and melts into silky oblivion unlike powdered or pre-shredded cheese.
up close of sausage peppers pasta recipe with Italian sausage showing how creamy it is

How to Make Sausage and Peppers Pasta

This Sausage Peppers Pasta is sassy, saucy, cheesy, creamy addictive comfort food you will CRAVE!  Here’s an overview of how the pasta is made (full recipe in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

  • Step 1: Cook the pasta. Follow the instructions on the packaging and cook the pasta until al dente. Be sure to heavily salt the water after it starts to boil. 
  • Step 2: Brown the sausage. While the pasta cooks, brown the Italian sausage in a large pan over medium-high heat. 
showing how to make Sausage Peppers Pasta recipe by browning Italian sausage in a skillet
  • Step 3: Sauté the bell peppers and onion. Once the sausage is done, remove it from the skillet, then sauté the bell peppers and onions until the onions are mostly softened. Next, add the garlic and optional red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds.
showing how to make Sausage Peppers Pasta recipe by sautéing bell peppers until crisp tender
  • Step 4: Make the sauce. Add the flour and cook it for about 1 minute to cook off the raw flour taste. Then, stir in the broth, half and half, diced tomatoes and herbs. Simmer until thickened. 
a collage of showing how to make Sausage Peppers Pasta recipe by cooking flour then adding the chicken broth, half and half, Italian seasonings and tomatoes
  • Step 5: Stir in the cheese and pasta. Turn down the heat, then stir in the shredded cheeses one at a time until melted. Once your sauce is silky smooth, add the cooked and drained pasta to the pan and stir to evenly coat. 
a collage showing how to make Sausage Peppers Pasta recipe by adding Parmesan cheese and simmering until the sauce is thickened

How to Thin the Sauce

The sauce can become too thick if it’s simmered at too high of heat or for too long. But don’t worry, it’s SO easy to fix! Simply stir in a little reserved pasta water or chicken broth after you combine the pasta with the sauce until it reaches desired consistency.  For extra indulgence, you can even thin the sauce with additional half and half.

How to Thicken the Sauce

The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. If it’s not as thick as you would like, then simmer longer. Or you can thicken it with cornstarch: whisk ½ tablespoon cornstarch with 3 tablespoons chicken broth with a fork until smooth then whisk it back into the sauce.  Simmer until thickened. 

Italian Sausage and Peppers Recipe Substitutions

Feel free to make ingredient substitutions based on dietary needs or preferences such as:

  • Italian sausage: Regular Italian sausage (instead of hot), pork sausage or chicken sausage may be used along with additional seasonings. 
  • Half and half: You may swap the half and half with 1 cup milk mixed with 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch.
  • All-purpose flour: A gluten-free all-purpose flour like this one will also work. 
  • Fire roasted tomatoes: If you can’t find fire roasted diced tomatoes, then use traditional diced tomatoes.
  • Herbs: Feel free to mix and match the dried herbs with fresh herbs to suit what you have on hand. If using fresh herbs, you’ll have to use 3X the amount of dried. 
  • Gouda: A mild cheddar cheese may be substituted.
  • Onion: For lazy days, you can substitute the fresh onion with 1 ½ teaspoons of onion powder.
  • Garlic: You may use 1 teaspoon of garlic powder instead.
showing how to make Italian sausage pepper pasta recipe by combining pasta, sausage, peppers and sauce in a skillet

Sausage and Peppers Recipe Variations

This sausage pasta recipe can be mixed up countless ways such as swapping the pasta, cheeses or veggies. Here are a few ideas:

  • Use a different protein. I recommend hot Italian sausage because it is mega flavorful but you can certainly swap it out. For a lighter version, try using hot ground Italian turkey sausage. You can also use plain lean ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey, sliced sausage etc. Just be aware that you will be losing some flavor if you omit the Italian sausage because it is seasoned with Italian seasonings.  I recommend adding some Italian seasonings, ground fennel (about ¼ teaspoon) and a pinch of red pepper flakes if you use a different protein. Be ready to season to taste when the pasta is done.
  • Add veggies.  This fast-cooking Sausage Peppers Pasta is amendable to whatever vegetables you have on hand.  In addition to the onions and bell peppers, you can add mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, spinach, etc.   
  • Make it spicy. The hot Italian sausage is flavorful but does not make this Italian Sausage Pasta overly spicy. If you really want to kick it up, then add red pepper flakes directly to the sauce or to individual servings.
  • Swap cheese: Mix up the flavor profile by using a different melting cheese in place of the Gouda such as mozzarella, Monterrey, smoked cheddar, Muenster, Fontina or Colby Jack, Gruyere, etc. Be aware that the cheese you use will have a big impact on the flavor.
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes: Instead of canned tomatoes or in addition to, add sun-dried tomatoes.  Purchase the sun-dried tomatoes in a jar packed in oil, not water, located near the olives or pickles at your grocery store. Rinse about ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, pat dry, chop and sauté with the garlic.
  • Make it gluten-free: Use gluten free flour in the sauce (this one is my fav, awesome for cakes too!) and serve this sausage pasta recipe over gluten-free pasta (Tinkyada is a great brand), sweet potato noodles, zoodles or spaghetti squash. 
  • Make it vegetarian:  Omit the sausage and use a vegan sausage alternative or extra vegetables along with addition Italian seasonings and red pepper flakes.  Swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth and omit the chicken bouillon and salt to taste.
serving sausage pasta with Italian sausage showing how creamy it is

Tips for Pasta with Italian Sausage

  • Don’t chop the bell peppers too small. Aim for about 1/2-inch squared bell peppers so they don’t become too soft while they cook with the onions.
  • Salt the pasta water.  You should always salt your pasta water – it is the one chance you have for the flavor to penetrate the pasta and enhance the subtle pasta flavor – you can taste the difference.  Use 1 tablespoon salt for 6 quarts of water (when cooking 1-pound of pasta).
  • Cook pasta at a rolling boil. Pasta should be cooked uncovered at a rolling boil, otherwise it can become chewy or gummy. This is the reason I don’t recommend cooking pastas in the slow cooker. Also be sure to stir the pasta a few times so it doesn’t stick together.
  • Don’t overcook the pasta!  I recommend testing your pasta about 2 minutes before the box recommends – pasta should be al dente – meaning it should still be a little firm in the center (i.e. have a “bite” to it). 
  • Scrape up the golden bits. After you cook the sausage, there will be golden bits on the bottom of the pan – these are flavor gold!  Make sure to scrape up the bits while you sauté the bell peppers and onion.
  • Use freshly grated Parmesan and freshly shredded Gouda. Freshly grated/shredded cheeses are more flavorful, creamier and melts more easily than pre-shredded cheeses which are coated with anti-clumping chemicals which inhibits their melting ability.
  • Cook the cheese until it melts. Continue to cook the sauce after you add the cheeses for a couple of minutes on LOW heat until the cheeses are completely melted. If you see specks of texture after a couple minutes, it’s likely just the garlic, the cheeses should all be silky smooth by this point, if not, cook on.  
  • Combine in a large pot. If you don’t own/cook the pasta sauce in a very large saucepan or braiser (pictured), you may need to combine the pasta and sauce in a larger Dutch oven or pot like the one you used to cook the pasta in.
  • Adjust to taste. Make this Sausage Pepper Pasta recipe your own! You may want extra salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, or a splash of pasta water to thin out the sauce, etc. 
Italian sausage pasta with peppers in a creamy sauce served in a bowl with Parmesan
picking up Italian sausage pasta with peppers with a fork showing how creamy it is

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top view of sausage pepper pasta with Italian sausage in a skillet with cheesy cream sauce

Pasta with Italian Sausage and Peppers

This Sausage Peppers Pasta is so packed with creamy, cheesy, sweet and spicy flavor fireworks, you’ll never want to put your fork down!  It features juicy Italian sausage, sweet bell peppers, fire roasted tomatoes, and aromatic garlic and onions in a luxuriously béchamel sauce spiked with Gouda and Parmesan.  This sausage pasta recipe is also extremely versatile and can be made with turkey sausage, any of your favorite vegetables or cheeses.  Your family will love this easy, indulgent pasta dinner with a side of Caesar Salad and Buttery Breadsticks for the ultimate 5 star dine-in experience.
Servings: 6 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

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  • 1 pound penne, cavatappi or rotini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage or hot turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, 1/2-inch chop
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, 1/2-inch chop
  • 1 orange bell pepper, 1/2-inch chop
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional for spicy)
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 15 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes with juices
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (granulated, cube or base)
  • 1 tsp EACH dried oregano, dried parsley
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried thyme, salt, pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup half and half (or milk whisked with 1 ½ tsps cornstarch)


  • 6 ounces (1 ½ packed cups) freshly grated mild Gouda (may sub cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  • Cook pasta al dente according to package directions in salted water. Remove 1 cup pasta water before draining. Toss drained pasta with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent it from sticking together; set aside. Meanwhile:
  • Heat oil in a large saucepan/braiser over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook while crumbling until sausage is completely cooked through; remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
  • Add a drizzle of oil to the drippings if it seems dry. Add the bell peppers and onions and cook until the onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and optional red pepper flakes and saute for 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the flour and cook while stirring for 1 minute (it will be thick).
  • Reduce heat to low, then add the sausage back to the skillet, followed by the fire roasted tomatoes, chicken bouillon, all seasoniongs, chicken broth, half and half. Stir the ingredients together while scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.
  • Bring the sauce to a vigorous simmer then reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring often, about 5-10 minutes.
  • Once thickened, reduce heat to low and stir in Gouda until melted followed by Parmesan cheese until melted. Stir in pasta until well coated. Add additional reserved pasta water a little at a time if needed to thin to desired consistency.
  • Taste and season with additional salt, pepper and/or red pepper flakes to taste. Garnish individual servings with additional Parmesan if desired.



  • Bell peppers:  You may use all of one color (red, yellow orange, NOT green).  Take care not to chop the bell peppers too small so they don’t become too soft while they cook with the onions. 
  • Sausage substitute: I recommend hot Italian sausage because it is mega flavorful but you can certainly swap it out for lean ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey, sliced sausage etc. Be prepared to season the dish with additional Italian seasonings, ground fennel (about ¼ teaspoon) and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
  • Swap cheese: Mix up the flavor profile by using a different melting cheese in place of the Gouda such as mozzarella, Monterrey, smoked cheddar, Muenster, Fontina or Colby Jack, Gruyere, etc. Be aware that the cheese you use will have a big impact on the flavor.
  • Gluten free: Use gluten free flour in the sauce (this one is my fav, awesome for cakes too!) and serve this sausage pasta recipe over gluten-free pasta (Tinkyada is a great brand), sweet potato noodles, zoodles or spaghetti squash. 
  • Bakes Sausage Pasta: This is an especially great option for meal prepping.   Transfer the assembled pasta to a 9×13 baking dish and evenly top pasta with 1 cup (or more) extra Gouda cheese, cover and refrigerate. Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the dish is heated through.

How to Store and Reheat

  • Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
  • To reheat: Microwave for 1 minute, stir, then continue to heat at 20-second intervals until warmed through.  For larger portions, reheat pasta gently on the stove. You may need to add a splash of half and half or broth to thin the sauce as it will have thickened in the refrigerator.

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  1. Brenda says

    This was delicious, made the recipe as written and it was just enough spice for me to handle . Definitely a keeper . The only thing is the prep time is longer then the 10 min it says, I am a really good cook to . I have noticed the prep time is longer on a few of these recipes .

    • Jen says

      Thanks Brenda, I’m so pleased it was a winner! I may divide the prep and cook time differently, considering prep just slicing the onions/peppers etc. and the cook time over the stove.

  2. Cris says

    Oh wow! This was so good. When I was getting ready to save the recipe I noted the URL Carlsbadvravings and thought NO WONDER everything I’ve made from here is delish. I made one small change to the recipe because I love the flavors together. I added a small diced zucchini to the peppers and onions. Everything else I followed to a T. I didn’t need to add any reserved pasta water. It was perfect.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your kind comment Cris, I’m so pleased you’re enjoying my recipes!

  3. courtney fondren says

    This was really, really good. I didn’t add the red pepper flakes just because my sausage was spicy, and it was still packed with plenty of heat. Be sure to use the grated parmesan so that it melts evenly (I knew I had some at home, so I didn’t buy any, but it wasn’t grated so I had some really cheesy bites).

    • Jen says

      Thanks Courtney I’m so pleased you enjoyed it!

  4. Cookie says

    Once again another excellent recipe from Carlsbad Cravings! Rich, delicious and yummy…got immediate approval from my husband. The recipe makes a HUGE batch – should have invited guests for dinner. Every recipe I’ve tried from you has been tasty w layers of flavor and never disappoints. Thank you!

    • Jen says

      Thanks for making my day Cookie! I’m thrilled you and your husband are loving my recipes!

  5. Emily says

    Delicious and easy. My sauce was a little runny. Next time I think I will do less liquid more cheese.

    • Jen says

      Thanks Emily! If you simmer the sauce for longer it will thicken up.

  6. Shelby says

    Can I do this with almond milk and no cheese!?

    • Jen says

      Absolutely It will be a little thinner without cheese, so you may wish to reduce the broth by 1/4 cup to start.

  7. Debi says

    This is delicious! I’m adding this to my rotation. I only had sweet Italian sausage but it was balanced out by the pepper flakes. Made some garlic bread to go with it. Thank you for the recipe!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much, Debi, I am so happy this is being added to your rotation! Garlic bread on the side sounds delicious!! Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  8. Allyssa says

    I have a bunch of fresh tomatoes from the garden, could I use those instead? How would it adjust cooking time?

    • Jen says

      Yum! Yes you can, it shouldn’t affect the cooking time significantly. If you want the same flavor as the canned fire roasted tomatoes, you can roast them in an oven or on the grill before adding them!

  9. Brooke says

    Delicious! Made exactly per the recipe. Thanks!

    • Jen says

      I’m so glad you loved it! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment!

  10. Barbara Belotti Cioschi says

    I made this tonight for dinner and it was delicious. I added some mushrooms. I served it over penne pasta.

    • Jen says

      I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed it!

  11. Aiesha says

    Would heavy cream work instead of the half n half? And if so would I still add the cornstarch?

    • Jen says

      Yes it will absolutely work and yes, omit the cornstarch. Enjoy!

  12. Susanne Mcclure says

    Delicious!!! Will definitely be making this again. Anywhere I can find the calorie count on two cups ? Thank you

    • Jen says

      I’m so happy to hear that it will be a repeat! I don’t have the calorie count, sorry for the inconvenience!