Here’s a delicious twist to your standard pasta salad. For this recipe I’ve created a sausage pasta salad that is mouthwatering. This easy recipe is not only flexible with the type of sausage you can use (I love using chicken sausage), but it takes less than 30 minutes to make.
Sausage Pasta Salad
The reason this recipe can be made so quickly is that you can prep all the other ingredients while the pasta is cooking. That includes preparing the sausage. Between the water coming to a boil and the pasta cooking, you have about 20 minutes to get everything else together.
This pasta salad with sausage is perfect for a hearty lunch or light dinner. In fact, my husband mentioned to me when he tried it for the first time, that it would be a good dish for a picnic. And he’s 100% right.
This pasta salad does not use any milk or dairy products. It only uses extra virgin olive oil, and as crazy as it may sound, I don’t use any vinegar. I tried it with some balsamic vinegar and it was completely unnecessary and in fact, took away from the overall flavor of the dish – which is the sausage.
So, no special Italian dressing is needed – just rely on the flavors from the ingredients and the olive oil.
I wasn’t exaggerating when I said this recipe is flexible. The main ingredient that gives the most flavor to the dish is the sausage, and that’s where the most options lie. Keep reading. I’ll explain.
This salad uses basic ingredients that are readily available in any supermarket. I’ve got a bit to say about some of them in the list. Let’s get started.
For this recipe all you need is some short pasta such as farfalle, penne, spirals, or other similar pasta. I don’t use long pasta with this salad.
Like many of my easy Italian recipes, you know that I’m all about simplicity. So, although you can buy raw Italian sausage and cook it separately, I decided to use pre-cooked sweet Italian chicken sausage from Aldi. They don’t always have it, but any similar sausage would go well.
This is meant to be an Italian pasta salad with sausage, but if you want to use another type of sausage don’t deviate too much from a regular sausage flavor. I don’t like pork-based sausage, so I always eat chicken sausage. You can even try some vegetarian brands as well – go figure!
Regardless, try to look for sausage that is close to a sweet Italian sausage blend if you don’t want straight sausage.
Oh how I love olives, and green olives are no exception. They make the perfect complement to the sausage. I used regular pitted green olives from a jar. You can use Spanish olives – the pimentos are fine to leave in; they are just red peppers.
Any type of tomato will do – cherry, grape, Campari, or anything you grow in your garden. And don’t worry about the fresh tomato juices – use them in the salad to add to the overall flavor.
The red onion adds a nice refreshing flavor that balances out the sausage. If you don’t have any red onion and are planning on making this dish, go ahead and use regular yellow onion. It should still be okay.
What kind of pasta salad would this be without garlic? All you need is one garlic clove.
Extra virgin olive oil
Use a good quality extra virgin olive oil. We don’t use much in the recipe, so you want to make sure that what you’re using actually has a good flavor, especially if you’ve cooked your own Italian sausage which is probably a little greasy.
And that’s it – basic ingredients that are all easy to find and when you follow my steps below, you’ll be amazed at how impressive this pasta salad is.
How to Make My Italian Pasta Salad with Sausage
In a nutshell, you cook the pasta, cook the sausage (if it’s pre-cooked you only need to heat it), prep the ingredients and mix everything together after the pasta has cooled. I’ve stepped out the process for making this pasta salad with the sausage and other ingredients for you below.
Cook the pasta
The first step is to cook the pasta according to the package instructions. I like using penne rigate in my pasta salads. Bring the water to a boil, then add ¾ lb, approximately 4 cups of dry pasta, to the water. Boil it for about 7 or 8 minutes until it’s done enough for you.
Reserve some of the pasta water in a cup just in case you need it if the pasta is too dry.
Drain and rinse with cold water and set aside.
Cook or reheat the sausage
Estimate 1 sausage link per person. If you’re using uncooked sausage links, then cook them according to the instructions on the package. Make sure they have reached an internal temperature of 160F.
If you’re using pre-cooked sausage links, then all you need to do is place them in a frying pan with some water to cover them about ¼ of the way. Over medium heat, heat the links until they are warmed all the way through.
As you’ll see in my image below, I cooked them until the water evaporated, then reduced the heat to low and let them brown just a little – but not burn.
Once the sausage is done, slice them at a diagonal about ¼ in thick and place in a large serving bowl.
Dice the onion
Finely dice ¼ cup of red onion. If the onion pieces are too large, they will be overpowering. I do not recommend slicing the onion; you want to dice it.
Add it to the serving bowl.
Chop the green olives
You’ll only need ¼ cup of chopped olives. You can either slice or quarter the olives. Whatever method you choose, use the same method, if possible, for your tomatoes below.
Slice the tomatoes
You’ll want about ½ cup of chopped tomatoes. If using grape or cherry tomatoes, slice them about ¼ in thick or quarter them. If you’re using larger tomatoes, then dice them into ½ in pieces. You can add the tomato juice to the salad since we aren’t using a heavy dressing.
Add to the serving bowl.
Finely dice the garlic
Only 1 garlic clove is needed. The garlic should be used as a subtle backdrop to the dish. So, in this recipe I suggest finely dicing the garlic so the flavor is spread throughout, but where not one single bite will receive an overpowering dose of garlic-mania. Add the garlic to the serving bowl.
Add the olive oil and mix together
The final step is to add no more than 2 Tablespoons of olive oil. Then mix all the ingredients together making sure to evenly coat the pasta and other ingredients with the oil.
Top with some Romano or other Italian cheese and serve. You’ll love it! The cheese is optional, and I can eat it with or without, but some people may really like the additional salty cheese.
Questions You May Have
Although this sausage pasta salad recipe is fairly basic, here are some questions you might have that I can help you with.
Can this pasta salad with sausage be made in advance?
I do not recommend making this pasta in advance. The pasta will become hard and more starchy. However, if you’re using a very thin pasta you may be fine. My penne is thicker so it is best eaten the day of and not after being stored in the refrigerator.
How to store leftovers?
You can store this pasta salad for up to 3 days in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. I do not recommend trying to freeze it. For an in-depth explanation along with tips check out my post, how long does pasta salad last in the fridge.
How to reheat cold pasta salad?
In my experience, cold pasta salads never taste as good once they are in the refrigerator unless the pasta was originally over cooked. I used a penne and that is a little thick so it tends to be too firm even if brought to room temperature.
The good news is that this pasta salad tastes great warm too! So I reheat mine on the stove with about two Tablespoons of water. Once the pasta is warmed and tender, it’s ready.
Can the sausage be omitted?
If you prefer to omit the sausage, that’s fine, but the sausage adds a lot of flavor. If you want a meatless pasta salad, check out my other pasta salad recipes, such as Italian pasta salad with kalamata olives and Italian pasta salad with tuna.
Can this salad be left outside for a picnic or get together?
Yes, since the meat is cooked and there are no dairy products used, you can leave this salad out for your get-togethers and parties. This pasta is best served cold, so you don’t have to worry about it cooling and not tasting good. It will taste delicious!
Can you substitute the sausage for other meats in the pasta salad?
Yes, I use chicken sausage and I love the flavor. The images you see on this page show chicken sausage in my pasta salad.
Variations for this Sausage Pasta Salad Recipe
Here is a list of some other ingredients you can try adding, to build out your salad further or to replace some of the ingredients listed. However, I can’t guarantee the outcome, as I only make mine as listed in this recipe.
- Roasted red pepper
- Black olives
- Finely sliced fennel
- Sun dried tomatoes
- Small mozzarella balls
What Goes with a Pasta Salad with Sausage?
If you’re using this recipe for pasta salad with sausage as a main dish, then I recommend these side dishes:
Add some crunchy veggies to your meal with easy fried zucchini rounds.
Add some extra fiber with a complementary cannellini bean salad.
Serve your sausage and pasta salad with a healthy Italian green salad that will help lighten the meal.
If you like these types of recipes, then don’t miss out on other Italian recipes and kitchen tips we’d love to send you! Enjoy the recipe below.
I hope you enjoy my sausage pasta salad recipe. Not only is it easy to make, but it’s really easy to consume! Let me know if you like it and if you made any changes to make it your own, I’d love to hear it!
Sausage Pasta Salad
- 4 cups short pasta This is approx. 3/4 lb
- 4-6 sausage links Approx. 1 medium sausage per person. Adjust quantity accordingly.
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 1/4 cup chopped green olives Use pitted olives from a jar. Spanish olives are fine.
- 1/2 cup sliced cherry tomatoes or chopped regular tomatoes
- finely diced clove of garlic
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- dash of salt and pepper to taste optional
- grated Romano cheese optional
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Stir so they don't stick together.
- Meanwhile, prepare the diced onions, diced garlic, chopped olives, chopped/sliced tomatoes, and olive oil and add to a large serving bowl.
- In a frying pan, cook the sausage according to the package instructions. Make sure the internal temp. is at least 160F. If using pre-cooked sausage then heat it in some water in the frying pan and let it brown just a little over low heat.
- When the pasta is ready, reserve some of the pasta water just in case you need it if the pasta salad is a little dry.
- Drain and rinse the pasta with cold water to prevent further cooking.
- Add the pasta to the large bowl and mix thoroughly so the flavors all mingle together.
- Top with some Romano or other Italian cheese, serve and enjoy!
- Store in air tight container in the refrigerator until ready, or cover and leave out if serving quickly.
- The amount and quantity of ingredients are my own so please feel free to adjust quantities to suit your tastes and preferences. For example, you may want more or less sausage, or less onion. Be creative!
- This salad doesn’t need a lot of olive oil, you can always add more but you can’t subtract!
- Depending on what kind of sausage you like to use, you will need to make sure you follow the cooking instructions on the package. I used pre-cooked chicken sausage. What you want is an Italian sausage flavor as the other ingredients will compliment it well.
- Read my post for additional recipe variation ideas if you haven’t already!
- Let me know how you enjoy your pasta salad with sausage!