You always hear about Italian cooking being simple with fresh, local ingredients. This Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Bell Peppers reflects exactly that. It is also the perfect dish for a hearty meal. You have your carbs, veggies, and protein all in one bite.
This pasta dish is one of my favorite Italian recipes because it tastes like something you would eat inside an Italain grandma’s home. It is very simple and straightforward, yet full of flavor. The Italian sausage brings out some mild heat, you can taste the love put into the vegetables, and the orecchiette pasta just brings it all together.
For a pasta dish that has no heavy cream or tomato sauce, Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Bell Peppers is still quite creamy. The aromatic liquids from the vegetables combined with the starchiness from the pasta water, butter, and parmesan cheese, helps naturally thicken the sauce.
This just goes back to Italian cuisine being cooked at home. It is simple, but absolutely delicious!
What is Orecchiette Pasta?
What I love about pasta is that each type has a purpose. Certain kinds of pasta are best used for a ragu or a thick sauce, whereas other pasta works better with a thinner sauce. Orecchiette pasta is one of the few kinds of pasta that can work for both a slightly thicker sauce or a thinner juicy sauce.
Orecchiette translates to “little ears” in Italian because the pasta is shaped like an ear. The indention inside the pasta that resembles an ear, is the perfect vessel to capture a thick or thin sauce. Additionally, orecchiette pasta is often paired well with sausage – especially ground sausage. The orecchiette pasta just scoops up the ground sausage in its ear vessel beautifully.
Orecchiette Pasta in Italy
A lot of my recipes are derived from Italy because I was fortunate to live with three different families over the course of two months. During this time, I was able to live out my ultimate dream – to work and live in Italy amongst the locals to truly taste Italian cuisine.
When we lived with our friends, Sabina and Toti, from Agropoli, Italy (just south of the Amalfi Coast), they always created simple entrees that tasted so complex. Moreover, what I loved about Sabina’s cooking is that she always cooked from her heart and full of joy.
I remember one evening, Sabina telling us that she didn’t know what to cook for dinner, so she was just going to make something up. She ended up making this beautiful Orecchiette Pasta with Bell Peppers and Sausage and it tasted amazing. Needless to say, this recipe is inspired by Sabina and our countless dinners cooking simple Italian cuisine in her home.
List of Ingredients for Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Bell Peppers
Here is a list of ingredients you need to make the Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Bell Peppers.
- Orecchiette pasta
- Red, orange, and yellow bell peppers
- Mild (or spicy) Italian ground sausage
- Fresh spinach
- Diced can tomato
- Fresh parmesan cheese
- Unsalted butter
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
How to Make Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Bell Peppers
Making Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Bell Peppers is very EASY! The “hardest” part of this recipe is the prep work for the bell peppers.
First, you want to bring a pot of water with salt to a boil. Once the water has come to a boil, add the orecchiette pasta and cook (as directed) for 11 minutes.
Meanwhile, begin your prep work by slicing the bell peppers lengthwise and then cutting it at a diagonal to make 1 – 1 1/2 long pieces. Remove any long stems from the spinach and grate the parmesan cheese.
When the orecchiette pasta has finished cooking, reserve 1 cup of the pasta water and set aside. Then drain the pasta and set it aside too.
Heat a large sauté pan with olive oil. Cook the ground sausage until almost all of the meat has browned, about 5 minutes. Then add the sliced bell peppers, cover with a lid and cook until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, about another 5 minutes. Make sure you remove the lid and stir the sausage and bell peppers together to prevent them from overcooking.
Add the diced can tomatoes and spinach leaves to the sauté pan. Once the spinach has wilted, season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the orecchiette pasta to the sauté pan and toss all of the ingredients together.
Then add the unsalted butter and grated parmesan cheese and toss together. At this time, you can pour a little of the pasta water as needed, about 1/2 cup. The thinner you want the sauce, the more pasta water you want to add.
Serve your Orecchiette Pasta with Sausage and Bell Peppers with more grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!
More Italian Recipes
- Easy and Delicious Spaghetti Carbonara
- Authentic Seafood Risotto from Southern Italy
- Mediterranean Couscous Salad with Vegetables – A Healthy Vegetarian Recipe
- Italian Style Grilled Zucchini – Recipe from Tuscany
- Roasted Cherry Tomato & Rosemary Focaccia – an Authentic Italian Recipe
- Torta Tenerina – The Ultimate Italian Flourless Chocolate Cake
- The Best Italian Hot Chocolate Recipe
- Cold Brew Coffee Granita – The Perfect Frozen Dessert
- 1 lb. orecchiette pasta
- 1 lb. mild (or spicy) Italian ground sausage
- 2 red bell peppers
- 1 orange bell pepper
- 1 yellow bell pepper
- 5 cups of fresh spinach
- 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated (plus more for serving)
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Bring a pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil and cook the orecchiette pasta as directed (about 11 minutes). Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and set aside.
- While the pasta is cooking, begin prepping the vegetables and cheese - slice the bell peppers lengthwise and then cut them at a diagonal to make 1 - 1 1/2 in. pieces. Cut the stems of the fresh spinach leaves. Drain the can of diced tomatoes. Grate the parmesan cheese.
- Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the mild Italian ground sausage. Cook the sausage until it is almost browned (about 5 minutes). Add the bell peppers, cover, and cook for 5 minutes or until they begin to soften. Stir the ingredients frequently.
- Add the diced tomatoes and spinach leaves. Cook until the spinach leaves are wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss the pasta, butter, and grated parmesan cheese into the sauté pan. Add the 1/2 cup of pasta water or more as needed. The more liquid you add, the thinner the sauce will be.
- Serve with grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!
If you want a spicy kick, add some crushed red pepper flakes or use spicy Italian ground sausage.
If you want a healthier meal, use chicken or turkery sausage and add Italian seasoning to taste.
You can also make this pasta dish in a frying pan.
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