Main Course, Pasta, Pork

Simple Italian Suasage Ragu with Rigatoni

2 Comments 13 January 2012

This isn’t going to knock your socks off, probably, but it’s one of our favorite dishes to make at Casa de FFA, and I even came up with it all by myself. Before you clap or oooh and aaahh, it’s just canned tomatoes, a little bit of canned spaghetti sauce, some sliced onions, Italian sausage, a little sweetener to take the edge off the tomato acidity and pasta. That’s it. I do feel, however, that maybe this recipe deserves a little love for it’s simplicity alone. Out of that simplicity comes a wonderful flavor that is rustic and powerfully tasty. Not to mention it’s very do-able on a work night.

Italian Sausage Ragu with Rigatoni

This is, admittedly, a guy’s meal, and I made it with my hubby in mind, but everyone else I’ve made it for has enjoyed it as well.

Well, except that kid of mine. OH, KID. It’s not chicken nuggets, so…yeah.

Italian Sausage Ragu with Rigatoni 14

The sausage is removed from the casings and flattened a little in the pan to maximize on browning surface area. The better it’s browned, the more flavor gets left in the pan for the rest of the dish.

Italian Sausage Ragu with Rigatoni 13

Thin-sliced onions get slung about in the sausage leavings. See, you immediately use that great flavor that was left behind and onions are a perfect tool to sponge it all up.

To the onions you add the diced tomatoes and spaghetti sauce. It should be pretty darn saucy at this point, but it’ll cook down and reduce.

Throw in some of those Splenda packets to help soften the acidity of the canned tomatoes. It will be noticeably sweet at first, but that too will reduce as the sauce cooks and other flavors meld in.

Italian Sausage Ragu with Rigatoni

The sauce has been cooking for about 40 minutes and has reduced by about a third to a half. It has thickened and is no longer runny. It’s ready to meet some pasta!

Italian Sausage Ragu with Rigatoni 9

Yo, pasta – you ready?

Italian Sausage Ragu with Rigatoni 1

This has become one of those dishes that I usually have all the ingredients on hand for. It’s packing the flavor, it’s inexpensive, it makes a lot – hello, work lunches – and it’s obviously filling. It brings hubby to the kitchen every single time, sniffing and complimenting before the onions have barely begun cooking. It’s a keeper.

Simple Italian Sausage Ragu with Rigatoni

from Full Fork Ahead

Prep Time: 10 minutes    Cook Time: About an hour    Level: Easy    Serves: 4-6

  • 1 package Johnsonville Sweet Italian sausage, or your favorite Italian sausage
  • 2 medium sweet or yellow onions, sliced into thin, long slivers
  • 2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano, 1 can drained halfway (such as Hunts or Del Monte varieties)
  • 2 cups favorite spaghetti sauce
  • 1 pound rigatoni, or any pasta with lines
  • 3-4 individual packets Splenda
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh basil for garnish (optional)
  • grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat a large, heavy-bottom skillet or saute pan on medium-high heat. Remove sausages from casings. Using a spatula, mash each sausage into the pan till they’re about half an inch thick. Cook about 5 minutes on each side, or until each side is browned with a good, crisp crust starting to form. It will still need to cook more and will later in the sauce. Remove the sausage to a platter, cool and tear or chop into bite-sized pieces. Reserve.

Turn heat down to medium-low. (If you have to at this point, remove the pan from the hot burner for a couple of minutes to help it cool down a little, as it possibly will be very hot.) If necessary remove fat from the pan till only about a tablespoon is left, making sure to leave any browned bits from the sausage on the bottom. Add in the sliced onions, and stir to incorporate with the browned bits. You’ll probably start to see the browned bits coming up from the pan and the onions will take on some brown color. Stir the onions occasionally to prevent them from burning, for about ten minutes. They should just be starting to get soft with a slight crunch left.

Add in the canned tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and chopped sausage. Bring the temperature up slightly to medium (or higher if necessary) and bring the sauce to a simmer. Once simmering, lower temperature to medium-low again to maintain the simmer and cook for about 40 minutes with the pan lid slightly off to let moisture escape. Stir occasionally.

Prepare your pasta while sauce cooks, preferably so that it cooks and is ready close to the end of the sauce cooking time. Salt the boiling water prior to adding in the pasta. Drain and set aside.

The sauce should reduce by a third to half, with most if not all of the runnier juices from the canned tomatoes having evaporated. Either serve sauce and pasta separately or combine to serve it family style. Garnish with torn basil leaves and the Parmesan cheese.


Yes, sauteed mushrooms, slightly browned and yummy, would probably be just great in this. I knew you were wondering, you see. I would take the onions out after sauteing and then saute the mushrooms on their own, in order not to crowd everything. Otherwise, if the mushrooms don’t have enough room, they might just steam in their own juices as opposed to browning. I don’t usually have fresh mushrooms just laying around, but I do have all the other ingredients normally.

On the pasta, as we all know, the ones with lines tend to enable the sauce to stick to them better. Since this sauce cooks off a lot, that’s pretty important to me. You can also use pasta that has little “inlets” for sauce to tuck into, like penne, fusilli (spirals) or shells or gemelli or rotini (also a spiral) or orecchiette (kind of bowl-shaped and small) and so on. We totes take our pasta seriously, can you tell?

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- who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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Your Comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Simply Tia says:

    This dish looks beautiful. I love the amazing shots you got. They are so very inviting. I bet this is so tasty!

    Have a great weekend.

    • KMont says:

      Tia, I totally missed your comment somehow, so sorry. Thanks for dropping by! And thank you, glad you like the photos. 🙂

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