Make-ahead pasta sauce can make mealtimes a breeze, especially when the sauce is freezer friendly like this Sausage and Pepper Pasta Sauce. Big chunks of Italian sausage, sweet bell peppers, and a great tasting marinara – the perfect sauce for any pasta!
As you know, Dear Reader, I love make-ahead meals. It makes my life so much easier and eliminates weeknight dinner stress. Obviously, this particular sauce doesn’t help my family much, because of the three of us in our household, I’m the only one that eats meat. But, this sauce needed to be made and posted to my blog. I have made this sauce a million times and even though I primarily cook for two vegetarians, sometimes, I just gotta cook with meat!
This recipe makes a lot of sauce, so be prepared to either feed a large group of people, or be prepared to portion the sauce and freeze it. Sausage and Pepper Pasta Sauce lends itself so well to being frozen and then re-heated. I gave a huge container of this sauce to my friend, Margaret. She has a family of six, including herself, and none of them are vegetarians, so I knew this sauce would not go to waste.
When cooking with sausages of any kind, but mostly Italian sausages, I tend to go for a spicier or hotter version. Not overly spicy, but enough to provide a little heat to the dish without preventing me from enjoying it. If I have to cool it down with dairy, I’m not interested. But in most cases, I’ll remove the casing before cooking. I have had sauces such as this one before where the casing is still on the sausage, and that’s fine if that’s your thing, but the sausage will stay in tact if the casing is left on.
Even though I aim for larger chunks of sausage meat in my Sausage and Pepper Pasta Sauce, I still like to have smaller bits and pieces floating around the sauce as well. This helps to thicken the sauce, give it more body, and is a great way to spread a little sausage meat a long way.
Whenever I make large batches of sauce, I take the time to fully cook the sauce, and allow it to simmer for as long as it takes to get to the consistency I’m looking for, before allowing it to cool. I know of some home cooks who make sauce, but stop the cooking process early and will finish cooking the sauce when they are ready to use it. That just slows down the ease of making a great weeknight dinner in less time.
Besides, there’s nothing better than pasta sauce that has been cooked for long periods of time. The only thing that happens is that the flavour is intensified. Remember that, Dear Reader – slow is always better when making tomato-based sauces!
You will note in the ingredients list that I used both red and green bell peppers. You can use whatever you have on hand. At the end of it all, there’s really no difference when the peppers are simmered together with the tomatoes, the sausage, and the herbs. I have, in the past, used roasted red peppers in this sauce and it was absolutely delicious! If you do so, keep in mind that the roasted red peppers will add a smokey flavour to the sauce. (Ain’t nothing wrong with that!)
When freezing this sauce, I like to make sure the sauce is completely cooled. The best way to do this is to just turn off the heat, remove the lid, and let the pot of sauce just sit at room temperature for at least ninety minutes. Then, stir well to ensure the chunks of meat and tomatoes have not settled at the bottom of the pot.
Portion as you wish. I like to portion two ladles of sauce per person. So, in my family, that would be three people, so six ladles of sauce. (That would be if John.e and McKenna ate meat!) Two ladles, which is about a cup and a half, is the perfect portion size and will guarantee a good amount for two to three cups of cooked pasta.
To reheat, allow the frozen sauce to sit at room temperature for an hour or so and then slowly simmer in a covered sauce pan. Or, what I would do, take the sauce out of the freezer before heading to work and place it in the refrigerator. When you get home from work, toss the sauce in a sauce pan and simmer with a lid on. If you feel the sauce is too thick, and this can happen, because moisture can escape during the freezing process, just add a few tablespoons of water to loosen everything up. This will create some steam and get the sauce back to where it should be – hot, spicy, and delicious!!
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Sausage and Pepper Pasta Sauce
- 2 pounds Italian sausage, casings removed, roughly crumbled
- 2 large red bell peppers, chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 can crushed tomatoes, 28 ounces
- 1 can tomato sauce, 15 ounces
- 1 can tomato paste, 5 ounces
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes, optional
- 2 whole bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped (plus more for garnish)
In a large sauce pot or Dutch oven, over medium heat, add the crumbled sausage and cook for 20 minutes, stirring often. Break apart the larger pieces as the sausage cooks, but not too small - a chunkier, meatier consistency is what we are going to achieve.
Add the garlic, onion, and the red and green bell peppers; stir into the sausage. Continue to cook for 10 more minutes.
Add all other ingredients except the parsley. Stir well to combine and lower the heat to a low simmer. Place a lid on the pot and allow the sauce to simmer for 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
Turn off the heat, stir in the parsley, and place the lid back on the pot. Let the sauce sit for 5 minutes before serving with your favourite cooked pasta.
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