Pepperonata with Penne and Sausage

This recipe comes from one of my absolute favorite cookbooks, Desperation Dinners by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. These ladies can cook well and FAST.

Every recipe can be completed from start to finish in 20 minutes flat.  A few of the recipes in this book can even be ready quicker than that on an especially desperate night! I’ve tried a number of them and they are true to their word.

The ingredients call for four links of sweet or hot Italian sausage or Italian-style turkey sausage links. Personally, my husband will eat anything with kielbasa in it (he’s Polish, after all), so that is what I use.

Either way, the sauce is a delicious and well-seasoned complement to the meat and bell peppers and the  pasta makes it a hearty dish that’s company-worthy. Plus it smells wonderful!

Pepperonata with Penne and Sausage

  • 2 C (8 ounces) penne (spaghetti or linguine also works well)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 4 links Italian sausage (3/4 to 1 pound total), sweet or hot (I use kielbasa)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 of EACH green, red and yellow bell pepper, cut in strips
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced or whole tomatoes, UNdrained
  • 2 T light or dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 T balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Already-grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Fresh flat leaf or dried parsley (optional)

Place the penne in 2 1/2 quarts of boiling unsalted water and cook until tender, 11 to 13 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in an extra-deep 12-inch nonstick skillet with a lid. (If, like me, you don’t have a lid for your skillet, just cover your pan with a piece of foil).

Pierce the sausages several times with a fork and add them to the skillet. (Or, if you are using kielbasa, just slice into circles on a diagonal). Let brown, turning the links occasionally while peeling and thinly slicing the onion. Add the onion to the pan as you slice, separating it into rings.

Seed the peppers and cut into long strips about 1/2 inch wide. Add them to the skillet, stir, cover the skillet and raise the heat to high. Keeping the skillet covered as much as possible, add the tomatoes with their juice, the brown sugar, vinegar, bay leaves and basil. Stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Lower the heat to medium-high and boil until the sausage is no longer pink in the middle and the vegetables are tender but not mushy, about seven minutes, uncovering to stir occasionally.

Drain the penne and place some on each serving plate. Season the sausage mixture with salt and black pepper and top each pasta portion with some of the sauce, making sure to remove and discard the bay leaves. Garnish with Parmesan cheese (if using). Serves four.


  • One of the tricks to this method of quick-cooking, the authors suggest, is to start boiling the water as soon as you walk in the door from work. That way, after you take off your coat and flip through the mail, the water will be already be boiling by the time you start cooking.
  • If you don’t have three different colors of peppers (as I didn’t in the above picture), it’s still really good with all one color.
  • I buy my bell peppers and already-shredded Parmesan cheese at Aldi. In my opinion, they are good quality, but a lot less expensive than what you find in regular grocery stores.
  • Buy the bay leaves in bulk at your local health food store. Or, check out the spice aisle at World Market to save money.
  • For a different flavor variation, I’ve also tried it with chicken sausage, spinach and Asiago cheese, instead of the Italian-sausage or kielbasa, and Parmesan. Yum!
Published in: on April 12, 2011 at 9:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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