Sweet n Spicy Tomato Sausage Ragù

Sweet n Spicy Tomato Sausage Ragu comes together with casual cooking techniques in about an hour, though it tastes like it’s been simmering all day. It's tomato-y, savory, luscious, and hearty, with a subtle sweetness from fennel and basil. Serves 6.



  • 1 lb dried pasta, something short with nooks and crannies for cradling the sauce
  • 2 tablespoons + 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 lb fresh Italian sausage, half spicy and half mild. Use bulk ground or fresh links and remove from casing
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, diced
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano tomatoes
  • 4 large sprigs of basil, plus another large handful or so
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Flaky salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and more fresh basil for serving

The Riffs, Subs + Swaps!


Crisp the sausage + cook the aromatics

  1. In a heavy bottomed dutch oven or large pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground sausage, break up with a wooden spoon, and cook until lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally to break up into small pieces. Once golden brown, remove sausage from pan and set aside - you'll add it back to the pan to cook down with the tomatoes later.
  2. Add few glugs of olive oil to pan if needed, add onions, and season generously with kosher salt. Stir to combine. 
  3. Saute the onions for several minutes until onions are *very* soft and luscious, stirring ococasionally to lift up the caramelized brown bits in the pan to develop color.
  4. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add tomato paste and give everything a big stir to combine the mixture. Cook for 2 minutes or so, until the whole mixture starts to caramelize and turns a bricky red color. Season generously with salt.

Cook tomatoes down + finish the sauce

  1. Add can of tomatoes to pan. Add 1/4 cup water to can and swirl it around to release any stuck crushed tomatoes, and add to pan.
  2. Add 1/3 cup olive oil, and 4 sprigs fresh basil to pan. Season generously with kosher salt and stir. Keep on medium to low heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the sausage back into the pan and cover with lid. Continue cooking on medium to low heat for another 25 minutes, stirring occasionally, being sure to break up any larger pieces of sausage, then putting the lid back on. 
  4. While the sauce is cooking down, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.
  5. When the sausage has been cooking down with tomatoes for 25 minutes, remove lid, add a handful of basil sprigs, and simmer on low heat, uncovered, for another 7-10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Cook the pasta + serve

  1. Cook the pasta just shy of al dente, it'll finish cooking in the sauce. 
  2. Once cooked, reserve a cup of the starchy pasta cooking water and set aside - you’ll use some of it to loosen up the sauce. 
  3. Transfer cooked pasta to sauce over low heat and fold to combine. Add 1/4 cup of pasta water, butter, and continue folding to incorporate. Taste and adjust for seasoning. If it needs extra oomph, add a few pinches of kosher salt. If it needs more richness, throw in another knob of butter. If it needs more sauciness, add a splash of pasta water.
  4. Divide into bowls and top with lots of fresh basil, flaky salt, and freshly cracked black pepper. It's pretty rich as is, so I don't think grated parmesan is totally necessary, but feel free to add it, it'll be delicious either way.