This quick, homemade Italian sausage ragù is a comfort food classic! Made with sweet Italian pork sausage and fresh herbs, you’ll love it with mezze rigatoni or fresh homemade pasta for a perfect pasta dinner.
Sausage Ragù or “sausage sauce” as my family calls it, is a rich and hearty pasta sauce made from whole-peeled San Marzano canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, olive oil, rosemary and crumbled sweet Italian sausage- I like fennel and parsley.
The term “ragù” simply means “meat sauce” in Italian. However, unlike my Ragù Bolognese (the much-loved, slow-cooked northern Italian meat sauce with ground beef and pork) this ragù recipe is defined by Italian sausage instead. It also takes less time to cook, about 40 minutes or so, which is mostly hands-off simmering. Serve with dried rigatoni as pictured here, or give fresh homemade pasta a try. It’s excellent paired with fresh homemade gnocchi, lasagna noodles and homemade ravioli too!
Ingredients You Will Need:
- Olive oil
- Fennel seeds
- Sweet Italian pork sausage
- Canned whole-peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano)
- Fresh basil
How To Make Sausage Ragù (At A Glance)
Sauté chopped onions, rosemary and fennel seeds until soft and golden, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and stir until fragrant. Crumble in the Italian sausage and sauté gently, until it loses its pink color (and most of the liquid is evaporated). Add the tomatoes and simmer until thick and delicious, about 30 minutes.
Note: There are many versions of sausage ragù all across Italy, depending on the region. Some recipes add chopped carrots and celery to the onion base. Other recipes swap regular Italian pork sausage for hot and spicy sausage with red pepper flakes. There’s also a curious version that contains no tomatoes at all… Experiment and see what you like. That’s the best part!
- Use a large 12-inch skillet (instead of a high-sided pot). The increased surface will reduce the sauce faster.
- Don’t overcook the sausage. Sauté gently and it won’t taste like diced rubber bands.
- Add a splash of milk to tenderize the meat. This tip is used in my Ragù Bolognese recipe; it works in the same fashion here. The texture will melt in your mouth.
- Use frozen sauce as a base. When I have frozen pomodoro sauce or my Sicilian-style tomato sauce on hand, I simmer it with the sausage instead of using canned tomatoes. Try this tip just once and you’ll feel quite smug during a busy week.
- Make it ahead. My sausage ragù can be chilled in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or stored in the freezer for 3 months.
Choosing Canned Tomatoes
Aside from the sausage, the tomatoes are a key ingredient. There are so many brands on the market, it’s hard to navigate which ones are best. To start, choose quality, whole-peeled San Marzano canned tomatoes in puree, for best texture and flavor. San Marzano tomatoes are rich, dense and sweet. The puree adds thickness to the sauce.
Regarding brands, each one is different so expect variation in flavor and price. This is why it’s crucial to taste your sauce while it cooks, adjusting with salt and sometimes sugar, if needed, to balance out the acidity. I typically use Cento canned tomatoes which I buy in bulk from Costco. However, other notable brands include Mutti, La Valle and Jovial (the latter brand comes in glass jars, not tin cans, and you can taste the difference). The above tomato can is from Trader Joe’s.
I’m lucky to live near several Italian butchers, where good-quality homemade sausage is plentiful. I always buy sweet Italian pork sausage with fennel and parsley. You can easily find this variety in the grocery store too. You can also buy sweet Italian sausage plain with no added ingredients.
I’ve also experimented with chicken sausage, which is not quite as flavorful for ragù (in my opinion) but still very good.
Italian Sausage Ragù Pairs Well With:
- Fresh Homemade Pasta
- Perfect Pappardelle Pasta
- Fresh Spinach Pasta Dough
- Fresh Homemade Gnocchi
- Fresh Homemade Ravioli
- Fresh Homemade Lasagna Noodles
More Pasta Sauce Recipes To Try!
- Ragù Bolognese Sauce
- Aglio e Olio (Garlic and Oil)
- 20-Minute Arrabbiata Sauce
- Quick Sicilian-Style Tomato Sauce
- Easy Golden Butter & Sage Pasta Sauce
- Authentic Pomodoro Sauce (Fresh or Canned)
- Classic Italian Basil Pesto (Pesto alla Genovese)
- Easy Pesto alla Trapanese (Sicilian Pesto)
Homemade Italian Sausage Ragù
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 40
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: Serves 4
- Category: Pasta Sauce
- Method: Stove-Top
- Cuisine: Italian
This homemade Italian sausage ragù is a quick, comfort food classic! Made with sweet Italian pork sausage and fresh herbs, you’ll love it with mezze rigatoni, fresh homemade pasta, or even polenta for a perfect pasta dinner!
For the Pasta
- 1 lb. mezzi rigatoni (or fresh homemade pasta or pappardelle)
For the Sausage Ragù
- 1 lb. sweet Italian pork sausage (see note)
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 Rosemary sprig
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- (1x) 28 oz. can of whole-peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano OR (1x) Authentic Pomodoro Sauce or (1x) Sicilian Tomato Sauce as the base sauce
- 1 bunch of fresh basil
- Fine sea salt
- Black pepper
- Parmesan cheese
Notes & Tips
- If your Italian pork sausage contains fennel, omit the fennel seeds in the recipe
- Tomato puree or passata can be used in lieu of canned tomatoes. The texture will be smoother.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions, reserving a mug of cooking water before draining. Save it to loosen the sauce, if needed.
- In a large 12-inch skillet, warm the olive oil over medium-low heat.
- Add the sliced garlic, rosemary, and fennel seeds. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Squeeze the sausage meat from its casing and add it to the pan.
- Gently brown the meat, using a wooden spoon to break it up as you go. Lower the heat if necessary so that the meat stays tender and does not become rubbery. It will finish cooking in the sauce.
- Add the tomatoes and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the tomatoes have broken down, about 30-40 minutes. Be sure to add a splash of water to your empty can of tomatoes, swirl it around, and add it back to the sauce.
- Remove the rosemary sprig and skim any oil from the top with a spoon.
- Sprinkle the sugar over the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Adjust taste to your liking.
- Stack about 10 basil leaves on top a of each other and roll them up. Thinly slice into ribbons and add to the sauce.
- Combine the pasta and sauce, adding some of the starchy cooking liquid if needed.
- Serve with parmesan cheese and extra basil leaves.
Keywords: pasta, rigatoni, sausage, sauce, ragù, Italian, easy, recipe, quick, homemade
You mention adding a splash of milk but don’t include it in the recipe. Would you add it after the sausage browns and before adding the tomatoes, letting it cook and evaporate as in a bolognese, or add it with the tomatoes, or at some other point?
Emilie Raffa says
Hi David! Yes, add it after the sausage browns (before the tomatoes) and let it cook and evaporate, as per the Bolognese sauce recipe :)
Made this tonight for dinner and it was a hit! Are you coming out with a cookbook? Love your sourdough book too!
Emilie Raffa says
Hi Jim! Excellent, so great to hear! As for a book… working on it ;) Any recipes yo’d like to see?
My former father in law, who was Sicilian, would add whole milk or light cream to his ragu also. I think it was something his mother did when they lived in Sicily.
Emilie Raffa says
It’s the best trick. And it really works!
I love the details that encompass all of your recipes. The recipes are easy to follow and the photographs make cooking all the more pleasurable! Can you tell I am a big fan! This pasta dish looks amazing and I cannot wait to make it! Very cozy!!!
Emilie Raffa says
Thank you so much! That is so kind of you to say ;)