Each bite is a savory explosion of Italian sausage meat, perfectly cooked pasta, crunchy bell peppers, and all complemented by a rich and velvety tomato sauce that's both tangy and comforting. Perfect for a quick lunch or a satisfying dinner, it's a dish that's sure to become everyone’s favorite.
Easy pasta dish - everything is cooked in one skillet and with simple ingredients.
- About this Spicy Italian Sausage Pasta
- 🥘 Instructions
- Which Type Of Sausage Will Work In This Recipe?
- How To Tell Shrimp is Ready?
- What Type Of Shrimp To Buy?
- How To Defrost Shrimp?
- Storage Instructions
- 👪Serving Suggestions
- Make It Healthy
- ⏲️ Recommended Equipment
- 🤷Frequently Asked Questions
- Easy Pasta Recipes
- 💬 Comments
About this Spicy Italian Sausage Pasta
Pasta recipes are the easiest and make a good quick dinner that everyone will enjoy. Add extra veggies for fiber and top it up with cheese for kids.
I like to use large shrimp (you can go jumbo shrimp but medium to large is enough) and breakfast sausage or smoked sausage. Ground pork sausage or unseasoned ground meat will certainly work here as well.
We love pairing this recipe with crusty bread or Caesar Salad for a complete meal. But any roasted vegetables or simple green salad is more than enough for this quite fulfilling one-pot pasta.
- Sausage - I’ve used hot Italian sausage and removed the sausage meat from the casings. Or you can cut the sausage into medium-thin slices. Very simple, and any smoked sausage will work too, obviously. Just make sure it is not overly spicy as it will just make things a lot harder with the additional seasonings we have here.
- Pasta - fusilli, rotini, rigatoni, bowtie, and penne are my go-to pasta choices. These soak up the sauce well and are not as messy when eating fettuccine pasta, linguine, or spaghetti.
- Aromatics - brown or yellow onion and garlic are a must-have in any pasta dish. You can definitely substitute these with ground garlic and onion powder but the taste is simply not the same when used fresh. Fresh aromatics give a little extra flavor, intensify other ingredient tastes, and combined with shrimp is simply divine.
- Shrimp - You’ll need about 9-10 oz of medium, large or extra large shrimp, about 40-60 or 26-30 count (deveined shrimp) for this recipe, frozen and thawed. I prefer removing the tails if shrimp is served in a dish with sauce.
- Cajun - make your own homemade cajun seasoning blend (very easy!) or opt for store-bought, such as McCormick’s. If you want it to be a little healthier, use low-sodium or no salt cajun seasoning instead.
- Tomato-Cream sauce - I like to use cream cheese for added thick texture and creaminess it gives to the dish. Heavy cream can be used instead as well, add to taste. Bring the cheese to room temperature before adding it to hot pasta, it will blend better.
- Fire-roasted tomatoes - will add lots of flavor but regular crushed tomatoes are fine too. If you like the sauce a bit smoother, use a good quality brand of tomato sauce or homemade Marinara instead. Simple small diced tomatoes, and RoTel tomatoes are other options to use here.
- Bell peppers - we like to cut these thick and cook them until just softened, with a nice crunch to them. Alternatively, plenty of other veggies will work: fresh spinach (chopped or baby spinach), mushrooms, broccoli, peas, asparagus, kale, bean sprouts, corn.
For the full list of ingredients, please scroll down to where you'll find the recipe card.
✅ NOTE FROM ME This pasta is a mix of Italian and Southern flavors. But feel free to substitute Italian herbs or Cajun. Popular Cajun substitutions: cayenne pepper, chipotle powder, smoked paprika, creole seasoning, and chili powder. Add to taste or instead of heat substitute cajun with simple paprika so the whole family can enjoy.
Season shrimp with half Italian seasoning and half cajun. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and toss shrimp until it's coated. Let marinate for 30 minutes.
In a large skillet or cast-iron pan add a little cooking oil over medium-high heat. Cook the seasoned shrimp for just a couple of minutes until it is no longer gray. This will happen very fast. Set aside.
In the same skillet, over medium heat, saute onion and bell peppers until softened but not completely. It should remain crunchy.
Add in garlic and saute for 30 seconds more.
Season with leftover Italian herbs and cajun. Don't add salt or black pepper just yet.
Squeeze the sausage meat out of the skins into the same skillet and cook for a couple of minutes until browned.
Add the dry pasta, crushed tomatoes, broth, and thyme stalks.
Close the lid and simmer on medium for 13-15 minutes until the pasta is cooked through.
Return the cooked shrimp, add cream cheese, and mix until all combined. If needed, add more broth to ''thin'' the sauce.
Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.
Serve with freshly grated parmesan, red pepper flakes (optional), or other fresh herbs (thyme or rosemary).
We also like to squeeze fresh lemon juice for serving.
Which Type Of Sausage Will Work In This Recipe?
I prefer raw sausage that is not precooked before. Or you can also use ground sausage meat or simple ground beef, pork or leaner turkey or chicken.
- Mild, Hot, or Sweet Italian sausage
- Andouille sausage
- Pork sausage
- Beef or Chicken sausage
- Polish sausage Kielbasa
For a leaner version opt for lean ground turkey, chicken and season it well.
How To Tell Shrimp is Ready?
How long does it take to cook shrimp? It will depend on size, but for a medium, to jumbo shrimp, it generally takes about 1 minute per side (top and bottom).
Watch for the following signs that will tell you shrimp is cooked through:
- Shrimp is cooked through once its flesh is no longer gray or translucent. Cooked shrimp will usually turn opaque, with hints of red/orange/pink colors.
- Some of the shrimp may start to curl up when cooked. But you should not wait until it’s curled up too much, it will be overcooked by then. Some chefs make a thin cut on the back of the shrimp that makes it curl up.
- Cook shrimp the right way - if you want juicy shrimp, don't overcook it. It will literally take you just 1 minute or less per side (top and bottom).
- Cajun - feel free to adjust the amount if feels too spicy or simply don’t add a lot in the beginning. But I found the ratio in this recipe works great and I’d say it's rather mildly spicy, (even kids can eat it) for adults, I always add a small bowl of extra spices on the side. I specifically choose cajun as my main spice here, as in my opinion, it works very well with sausage and shrimp recipes.
- Make it healthier by using low-sodium or salt-free Cajun seasoning and sausages. A variety of brands add a different amount of salt to their seasonings and this is the reason I often like to use low-sodium or o-salt blends to control the sodium intake.
- Flavor - well seasoned, salty, and spicy from cajun and Italian sausage. Don’t add too much salt and pepper during cooking if any. The seasoning will depend greatly on which sausage is used as it already comes with plenty of seasonings. Add seasoning at the end if needed.
- Don't overcook the pasta - the thing with cooking pasta in the sauce is that if pasta is overcooked it will become very large, wide, and soft. It will absorb all the liquid that it can and you'll end up with a dry pasta dish. Ideally, you want to cook the pasta al dente in the sauce as it will continue to ''cook'' even once removed from heat.
- This dish is best eaten right away. The method where you cook pasta right in the skillet is easy and quick. However, the pasta will continue to cook in the sauce even after removing it from the heat.
- And these kinds of pasta dishes are not the best in terms of texture after refrigerating and reheating. Pasta absorbs the liquid while it stands in the fridge. If you reheat leftovers, you’ll need to add more broth, tomato sauce, or milk to your pasta to return the sauce-y texture.
- To keep things simple, I haven't added tomato paste like I usually do with tomato-based sauces. This pasta is kinda in the middle of tomato sauce and creamy sauce.
- Swap regular onion for red onion, the combination of tomatoes and onions simply works. And red onions give the right amount of kick to the whole thing, as well as help to balance off the acidity from tomatoes.
✅ EXPERT TIP A quick, note, just like with Salmon recipes, if possible go for wild-caught shrimp over farmed shrimp. As the ocean is the natural environment for shrimp, wild-caught shrimp will typically taste better thanks to their natural diet.
What Type Of Shrimp To Buy?
- Wild-Caught Shrimp - if possible go for wild-caught shrimp over farmed shrimp. As the ocean is the natural environment for shrimp, wild-caught shrimp will typically taste better thanks to their natural diet.
- Raw and frozen - opt for raw frozen shrimp as in most cases the shrimp you see behind the counter in the stores was initially frozen and then defrosted for the display.
- Deveined shrimp - less prep, and as a bonus, defrosting time cut in half. However, shrimp in shells is often more economical and many prefer cooking the shrimp this way and then peeling it later.
- Cooking shrimp in shells adds more flavor to the dish as well. But my simple tip is just to cook the shrimp with tails on, almost the same good.
How To Defrost Shrimp?
- Cold water method (quick and is my go to method) - place the frozen shrimp in a bowl, cover with cold water, and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Change up the water every 15 minutes until shrimp is thawed.
- Place the frozen shrimp in a bowl and defrost overnight in the fridge. No water is needed.
Once defrosted, consume right away and keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
- 🍱To Store. Store the shrimp cajun pasta in an airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
- 🥶To Freeze. You can freeze the pasta dish but pasta doesn’t freeze well as well as the shrimp. Once thawed, the shrimp may become overly soft, rubbery, and mushy. The sauce will separate and even with an added extra cream or broth, it won't be as fresh like on day 1.
- 🔥To Reheat From Frozen. If you still need to freeze it, divide the pasta between freezer-friendly zip-lock bags or containers and freeze it for up to 2-3 months. Let defrost overnight in the fridge and reheat on the stove adding more broth, water, or milk. When reheating don’t overcook it and don’t go more than the low heat setting.
- 🔥To Reheat Leftovers. Reheat on the stove or microwave adding some more broth or water as the pasta will absorb all of it while it sits. Reheat on lower heat until the sauce warmed through and starts to simmer.
What to serve with spicy sausage pasta?
This is a rich and fulfilling pasta dinner on its own. I'd stick to the bread only but if you need some side dish ideas, try these simple recipes:
Vegetables: Asparagus, Cauliflower, Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, Eggplant, Cajun Corn on the cob.
Make It Healthy
- Make it less spicy - Instead of store-bought pre-made cajun seasoning make your own homemade cajun seasoning and add less cayenne pepper where most of the heat comes from in this spice.
- This creamy pasta dish is made without heavy cream and with cream cheese instead. To make it more healthy use low-fat cream cheese, ricotta, sour cream or half and half.
- More veggies - Don't limit yourself to only bell peppers and increase the veggie intake by adding baby spinach (can go in frozen or fresh), broccoli florets (I prefer to blanch it) or chopped asparagus (blanched or fresh).
- Low sodium - use low sodium or no salt cajun seasoning, use low sodium, low fat, and less spicy sausages or omit this completely and use chicken instead. Always check for the ingredient list so that there are no names you can't pronounce.
- Make it light - Use ground chicken, ground turkey or chicken breast instead of shrimp and/or sausage.
- For a low-carb meal, cook the sausage, shrimp, and vegetables, but swap the pasta for cooked quinoa instead.
- Make it dairy free - if you go for no dairy option, great cream cheese substitutions would be coconut milk, or cream or soy-based cooking creams. Parmesan cheese is optional but you can totally make it without cheese or use vegan cream cheese or vegan parmesan instead.
- Pescatarian pasta - omit the sausage and broth, use seafood broth instead.
- I like to use penne pasta, fusilli, shells, or rigatoni pasta here but you could use spaghetti or fettuccine noodles instead. With long noodles, you'll have to use fewer noodles as these will soak up more sauce than small pasta. Or just make a double batch of sauce!
- For vegetarian cajun pasta omit the shrimp and sausage and use tempeh, mushrooms, and more vegetables. You can also use meaty white beans as well. I'd add these towards the end of cooking so they don't become mushy and overly soft.
- What Can I use besides shrimp? I also love to make the same pasta just with the sausages on their own or make a popular variation of Cajun Chicken Pasta. In fact, many prefer a cajun shrimp and chicken pasta all in one recipe.
🤷Frequently Asked Questions
You can use milk or evaporated milk instead of cream cheese in this shrimp pasta recipe. Or creme fraiche. However, it will not thicken the sauce like cream cheese or heavy cream.
The main difference between Italian sausage and regular sausage is the seasonings. A particular spice that makes an Italian sausage so different is the addition of fennel or fennel seeds.
Most of the sausages found are made with pork meat and pork fat. The addition of pork fat creates juicy and delicious sausages. However, there are many tasty sausages that combine multiple types of meat and still taste delicious. Choose sausage with higher pork/pork fat content.
For best results, I recommend sauteing or lightly searing the shrimp. It only takes a minute or so to sear it on both sides and the texture is tender and juicy. For any other method shrimp will
Sure, we need to rinse the shrimp under cold water to clean it and remove any loose shell bits or dirt.
There are plenty of ways to cook raw shrimp including sauteing, poaching, grilling, and steaming. Essentially for juicy and tender shrimp, you’ll need only a few seconds to be cooked through.
For me, the easiest and the best method is to sear it in the skillet with some oil and butter (pre-seasoned). Once the shrimp has changed color and is no longer gray, it means it’s ready.
It should depend on the dish and for who and for what occasion you are serving it. For pasta, I prefer cooking the shrimp without tails, the flavor is great and minus the mess after. For appetizers, definitely with tails on.
However, it's true that cooking shrimp with tails on is considered to add more flavor to the overall dish.
I hope you make this sausage pasta recipe! Happy cooking,
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Creamy Tomato Shrimp and Sausage Pasta Recipe With Peppers
- 10 ounce shrimp fresh or frozen see notes
- 14 ounce Italian sausage or breakfast sausage raw or smoked I used 2 large
- 2 ½ cup uncooked pasta I used larger fusilli
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 large onion diced, about ¾ cup
- 1 teaspoon garlic cloves crushed or minced
- 1 large red or green bell pepper sliced medium thick
- 1 can 15 oz fire-roasted tomatoes or diced tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasonings
- 1 ½ teaspoon cajun seasoning
- 1 pinch salt
- black peppee to taste
- 3 ¼ cup beef broth or veggie or chicken broth
- 3-4 fresh thyme stalks
- 4 tablespoons cream cheese for a touch of creamy texture but you can add a whole 8 oz pack here too for extra creamy flavor Note: the pasta will become less spicy due to this
- grated Parmesan cheese
- red pepper flakes
- fresh parsley
- Season shrimp with half Italian seasoning and half cajun. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and toss shrimp until it's coated. Let marinate for 30 minutes.
- In a large skillet or cast-iron pan add a little cooking oil over medium-high heat. Cook the seasoned shrimp for just a couple of minutes until it is no longer gray. This will happen very fast. Set aside.
- In the same skillet, over medium heat, saute onion and bell peppers until softened but not completely. It should remain crunchy. Add in garlic and saute for 30 seconds more. Season with leftover Italian herbs and cajun. Don't add salt or black pepper just yet.
- Squeeze the sausage meat out of the skins into the same skillet and cook for a couple of minutes until browned.
- Add the dry pasta, crushed tomatoes, broth, and thyme stalks. Close the lid and simmer on medium for 13-15 minutes until the pasta is cooked through.
- Return the cooked shrimp, add cream cheese and mix until all combined. If needed, add more broth to ''thin'' the sauce. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.
- Serve with freshly grated parmesan, red pepper flakes (optional), or other fresh herbs (thyme or rosemary). We also like to squeeze fresh lemon juice for serving.
- Which type of sausage will work in this recipe? I prefer raw sausage that is not precooked before. Or you can also use ground sausage meat or simple ground beef, pork or leaner turkey, or chicken. You can either slice the sausage or remove the casings and cook until browned. Hot or Mild Italian sausage, or Pork breakfast sausage, chicken sausage, or Bratwurst, Kielbasa, or Andouille sausage.
- Shrimp: Raw and frozen - opt for raw frozen shrimp as in most cases the shrimp you see behind the counter in the stores was initially frozen and then defrosted for the display. Thaw it before use.
- What size shrimp to use? You’ll need about 9-10 oz of medium, large or extra large shrimp, about 40-60 or 26-30 count (deveined shrimp). I prefer removing the tails if shrimp is served in a dish with sauce.
- How long does it take to cook shrimp? It will depend on size, but for a medium, to jumbo shrimp, it generally takes about 1 minute per side (top and bottom).
- Using Gluten-free pasta - If using gluten-free pasta, depending on the brand, you may need to cook it a bit longer until it's soft but not too soft as the pasta continues to cook in the sauce even more. Some corn pasta types needs double the time of cooking to soften.