Sausage and peppers is the quintessential Italian-American festival food. Found at street fairs across the New York metro area, this beloved dish is comprised of just a few ingredients: Italian sausage, red and green bell peppers, sliced onions, and copious amounts of olive oil. Served by itself, or on a hero/sub roll, this is the real deal New York-style recipe for sausage and peppers.
Summer is coming to an end here in New York, but that ushers in festival season.
On any given weekend, you can find festivals, such as San Gennaro, that crank out endless amounts of street food.
Zeppole or sfinci, pizza, calzones, and cannoli are all great, but there is one street festival food that reigns supreme: the sausage and peppers hero.
And this my friends, is the best version.
I've made sausage and peppers hundreds of times in my life, and have eaten even more, and my recipe below is reflective of all that research.
This is the tried and true sausage and peppers recipe that rivals that of any street fair!
Side dishes for sausage and peppers
You may be wondering, what to serve with sausage and peppers?
If you're having it in hero form, it is pretty much a meal unto itself.
But if you're serving this as an entree and not a sandwich, you may want to add a side dish.
Some of my favorite sides to serve:
- Pasta with simple marinara sauce
- Broccoli rabe sauteed with garlic and oil
- Garlicky Italian broccoli
- Escarole and beans with garlic and oil
Serving a crowd
One of my favorite times to serve sausage and peppers is when I need to serve a crowd.
Holidays, family gatherings, the Superbowl - really any time I want to make something ahead that can be kept warm on Sterno racks.
Some other Sterno-friendly recipes for gatherings include:
- Chicken Francese - Egg battered pan-seared cutlets with lemon, butter, and white wine sauce.
- Chicken Marsala - Egg battered chicken in a mushroom marsala wine sauce.
- Baked ziti - The ultimate pasta dish to feed a hungry crowd.
- Chicken pizzaiola - Similar to sausage and peppers, but with chicken and peppers in a pizza sauce.
- Eggplant rollatini - Breaded then fried eggplant wrapped around creamy ricotta.
What type of sausage?
Most of the time when you order a sausage and pepper hero, it will be served with either sweet fennel or hot (spicy) sausage.
My favorite type of sausage to use for sausage and peppers is sweet since hot peppers can be added afterward. More info about the peppers can be found below.
Use any type of Italian sausage you like. If you have access to a good pork store they'll often have many varieties to choose from.
If you plan to use chicken or turkey-based sausage, you may need to use more olive oil as turkey and chicken are less fatty and tend to be on the drier side.
Either way, be sure to use the best quality sausage you can find.
Since the ingredients in this recipe are very few, it's important you get the best quality possible.
Whole Foods (national store) and Uncle Giuseppe's (Long Island Italian supermarket) have great Italian sausage selections.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Place sausage links in a baking dish. Poke a couple of holes in each link and roast in the oven at 400f until mostly cooked through (about 20 minutes).
- Slice 3 bell peppers into strips as shown. You can use any color pepper you'd like.
- Slice the onions so they're similar in size to the pepper strips.
- Heat a large stainless steel pan to medium-low heat for 3 minutes. While the pan is heating up, pat dry the sausages of any excess moisture. Add a ¼ cup of olive oil to the pan and place the sausages into the pan.
- Cook the sausage links on all sides until well browned (about 10-15 minutes total).
- Remove the sausage links and set aside. You can lightly tent the sausage links with foil to keep warm. Add the remaining ½ cup olive oil to the pan and all the peppers and onions. Mix the peppers and onions around so that they are coated with the sausage fat and olive oil.
- After a couple of minutes of cooking add 3 ounces of water to the pan.
- Cover the pan so that the peppers and onions can cook quicker. I don't have a lid for my 14" fry pan so foil works great in a pinch.
- After 10 minutes remove the cover and the peppers and onions will be much softer. Add the salt, pepper, and oregano. Continue cooking for a few more minutes to allow any excess water to evaporate.
- Once most of the water has evaporated and the peppers and onions are very soft, return the sausage links back to the pan and mix together. You should have plenty of oil, but if you need a bit more, add it now. Sausage and peppers should have plenty of oil! Serve as is with Italian bread to mop up the oil and peppers and onions. Or, make a sausage and peppers hero which is never a bad idea!
Sausage and peppers are such a great base for additional ingredients.
When I want to change up my sausage and peppers game, I'll add some more peppers. Spicy peppers, that is.
They also happen to be the perfect addition to sausage and peppers.
If you like it even spicier, you can add Calabrian chili paste.
I also love adding roasted potatoes, or sun dried tomatoes to sausage and peppers.
But perhaps my favorite addition is adding melted mozzarella to a sausage and peppers hero. So darn good!
More great sausage recipes
If you like Italian sausage as much as I do, you'll want to try these other recipes.
- Sausage and peppers rigatoni - All of the goodness of the classic along with a garlicky tomato sauce, Pecorino, and rigatoni.
- Sausage meatballs - Italian sausage, garlic, Pecorino Romano cheese, parsley, and breadcrumbs.
- Italian sausage and potatoes - Crispy potatoes, sausage, sliced onion, and olive oil.
- Orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe - Sweet fennel sausage, garlicky broccoli rabe, and spicy cherry peppers tossed with orecchiette.
- Chicken Scarpariello - Chicken, sliced sausage, potatoes, and peppers in a tangy vinegar sauce.
- Spicy sausage potato and kale soup - Spicy sausage, potatoes, cannellini beans, and kale.
- Italian sausage pasta - Pappardelle with fennel sausage in a garlicky tomato cream sauce.
If you’ve enjoyed this sausage and peppers rigatoni recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.
- 8 large mild Italian sausage links about 2 pounds
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 3 large bell peppers sliced, red and green
- 3 large onions sliced
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- Poke a couple of holes in each sausage link and in a baking dish roast in oven at 400f until mostly cooked through (about 20 minutes).
- Dry off sausage to remove any moisture. Heat a stainless steel pan to medium-low and once hot add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sausage and cook until the links are well browned on all sides (about 10-15 minutes total).
- Remove sausage from pan and set aside tented with foil to keep warm. Add the remaining olive oil to the pan. Then add the peppers and onions. Cook for a few minutes coating well with the olive oil and sausage drippings. Add 3 ounces of water to the pan and cover.
- Remove the lid after about 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Continue cooking to evaporate any excess water. When the water evaporates and the peppers and onions are soft, add in the sausage links.
- Cook for a few more minutes and taste test. Make any final adjustments to salt/pepper/oregano if required. Serve the sausage and peppers with Italian bread or on top of a hero/sub roll. Enjoy!
- Salt levels really need to be adjusted based on the sausage brand used. Sodium content can vary widely.
- The sausage quality makes all the difference. Use the absolute best sausage you can find!
- Sausage and peppers should be very oily from both the sausage fat and the added olive oil. Don't be shy with olive oil!
- Seeded Italian bread or hero rolls is the bread most often served with sausage and peppers.
- Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be reheated on the stovetop over medium-low heat until warm.
- Dried oregano is pure Italian-American and is frequently used in many dishes like sausage and peppers. Use as much or as little as you like.