This is my answer to “I want spaghetti and meatballs for dinner but don’t want to spend much time in the kitchen”. And yes, I am fully aware that sliced sausage links are not “meatballs”. But for those occasions when all I want is Italian comfort food, and my energy level is somewhere in the minus zero zone, sliced Italian sausage links are close enough for me! (Plus Mr. C loves Italian sausage!) And when the sausage is simmered for a short time in this quick and easy marinara sauce, what could be simpler or tastier? Add a lovely Caesar salad, a hunk of chewy bread, and a bottle of your favorite red wine, and life is good. (OK, if you’re really tired you can skip the salad part. Just don’t forget the wine!)

So if you too ever have the urge for good old fashioned spaghetti and your energy level is down a pint or two, give this recipe a try. I also recommend that while you are slaving away in the kitchen, that you taste test the wine you plan to serve with dinner. If a nice glass of good red wine doesn’t renew your flagging energy level, I’d say skip the whole thing and just head straight for bed. (And yes, I speak from experience.)

  • 1 pkg. spicy or mild Italian sausage links
  • 3 T. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 c. water
  • ½ c. chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (28-oz.) can chopped or diced tomatoes (Italian tomatoes preferably)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  •  ½ c. loosely packed fresh basil chiffonade*
  •  1-2 T. butter, optional
  • spaghetti cooked al dente
  • grated Parmesan cheese

Place the sausages along with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the water in a medium covered fry pan. Cover the pan and steam/fry the sausages until they are nicely browned. Remove from heat and set aside.


Meanwhile, in a large covered sauce pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Stir to combine ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 30 minutes. (Take the lid off part way if the sauce is too thin.) About half way into the cooking process, cut each cooked sausage diagonally into 4 equal size pieces and add to the sauce. When the sauce is done, remove from heat, remove bay leaf, add basil, and adjust seasoning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf the sauce tastes acidic, add butter 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavor. Serve over cooked pasta and pass grated Parmesan. (Don’t forget the wine!)

*Chiffonade (pronounced “shif-oh-nod”) is a knife technique used for cutting herbs and leaf vegetables such as lettuce into thin strips or ribbons. To chiffonade leaves of basil, stack the basil leaves and roll them into a tube. Then carefully cut across the ends of the tube with your knife to produce fine strips.