Savory, sweet, and spicy – and quick enough for weeknight dinner
Sweet grapes paired with savory sausage? Yup, it’s a classic.
This Italian dish is most often served as a simple sauté flavored with balsamic vinegar and sometimes garlic. But we like to combine it with pasta for an easy main course.
With a glass of wine, of course. Because grapes.
Looking for easy? This is your dish: Just sauté slices of Italian sausage in a frying pan, then set them aside. Brown some onions and garlic, add grapes and some wine, then braise for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta. When that’s ready, return the sausage to the frying pan, add the cooked pasta, mix together – and voilà.
We like to use a pasta shape that catches the sauce. So we often use conchiglie (shells), which are about the same size as the grapes and sausage slices. But farfalle also work well. Or you could use a tubular shape like penne or rigatoni.
This recipe takes about 25 minutes to make and serves two. You can easily double it.
- 4 to 6 ounces of dried pasta (see recipe headnote for suggested shape)
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 links of Italian sausage, about 8 ounces total (sweet or hot sausage – your preference)
- extra virgin olive oil as needed (2 to 3 tablespoons total)
- ~2 cups of seedless grapes (green or red, your choice)
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more to taste; optional)
- ½ cup red or white wine (may substitute dry vermouth, chicken stock, or water)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or more to taste)
- ~1 tablespoon kosher salt for the pasta water (see Notes)
- a big handful of fresh basil (or more to taste)
- ~½ ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish (optional)
- Measure out the pasta. Set aside.
- Peel the onion, cut it in half, then cut it into thin slices. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and slice it thinly or mince it finely. Set aside.
- Cut the Italian sausage into slices about ½ inch thick. Place a large frying pan over medium stovetop heat. When the pan is hot, add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add the sausage slices. Sauté until the sausage slices are brown on each side and thoroughly cooked (5 to 7 minutes total). Remove the cooked sausage slices with a slotted spoon and drain them on a paper towel.
- Place a cooking pot filled with water (use one large enough to hold the pasta) on high stovetop heat.
- Add more olive oil to the frying pan if needed (see Notes), then add the onion slices. Sauté until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the chopped garlic and cook for one minute. Then add the grapes and red pepper flakes (if using). Sauté for one minute, then add the wine and balsamic vinegar. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then simmer the mixture for 10 minutes (add spoonfuls of water from the pasta cooking pot if the liquid in the frying pan evaporates).
- When the pasta water boils, add enough salt to season the water, then add the pasta. Cook until al dente (usually 7 minutes or so; follow the package directions if in doubt). When the pasta is done, scoop out about a cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta into a colander.
- Meanwhile, wash the basil and cut it into thin strips. Grate the cheese (if using).
- Add the cooked sausage slices back to the frying pan. Add the pasta and stir to combine. If necessary, add a bit of the reserved pasta water to form a sauce.
- Stir in the chopped basil. Immediately dish up and serve, adding a garnish of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano if desired.
- Green or red grapes? Green ones seem to be more common in this dish, but we prefer red. Use whichever you fancy.
- No fresh basil on hand? You could substitute fresh spinach. Or a another dark green like escarole. Or maybe broccoli rabe. If you’re not using basil, we suggest adding about two handfuls of greens.
- And if you’re using any green other than spinach, you’ll probably want to cook it for a bit. So add it to the dish shortly after you add the grapes (Step 6).
- We like to use spicy Italian sausage in this dish. Plus red pepper flakes. But follow your own taste.
- We make this dish with sausage links, not bulk sausage. But we suppose you could use bulk sausage if you prefer.
- We suggest using about 8 ounces of sausage for this dish. But adjust the quantity if you prefer more or less.
- Grapes pair beautifully with fennel. So if your sausage contains fennel, all the better. Or you could add a teaspoon or two of fennel seeds to this dish as you make it – add them in Step 6, when you add the red pepper flakes.
- Both sausage and cheese (if using) are pretty salty. So we rarely add extra salt to this dish. We just salt the pasta water to season it.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If you’re using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
- So how much salt should you use to season the pasta water? We typically use about 2 quarts of water when cooking the pasta for this dish, and find that about 1 tablespoon of kosher salt works pretty well. But adjust to your taste.
- Use as much olive oil as your judgment suggests. The olive oil helps form a sauce for the dish, so use good quality.
- BTW, the sausage and balsamic vinegar will color the oil and other liquid in this dish a light brown. When you add the pasta to the frying pan, it typically takes on the attractive hue of the sauce.
- We generally use about 2 ounces of pasta per serving for this dish. But use as much as you prefer.
- We use regular semolina pasta, but you could substitute whole wheat or gluten-free if you prefer.
- We always weigh pasta rather than trying to measure it by volume. It’s just easier. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you might want to put one on your wish list.
“Yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I never sausage a dish.”
“It’s a winner,” I said. “Or is that a wiener?”
“Too bad it doesn’t have a name,” said Mrs K R. “Like maybe Alexander the Grape.”
“Or Abraham Link-on,” I said.
“Though it might be more fitting to call this Pasta Disappear-o,” said Mrs K R. “My plate is empty already.”
Cheesy come, cheesy go.
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I can totally imagine how delicious the grapes would be in this dish. And love a tasty quick midweek meal.
Hi Evelyne, the grapes are great in this. And they combine most excellently with the sausage. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Grapes in pasta....what a pleasant surprise! Love Italian sausages...this is a great meal for any day, John.
Hi Angie, they work wonderfully well. :-) Thanks for the comment.
It looks delicious and yes, grapes with sausage, about any kind, is delicious. Good dish! Just wish I liked fresh basil!
Hi Pam, grapes and sausage are awesome together! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi R, yup! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love grapes in a pasta salad that I make so I was so happy to see another way to put the two ingredients together! yum!
Grapes with spinach is a new combination to me, though I can see how it might work with the sausage.
be well... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Hi Ashley, I like the idea of grapes in a pasta salad. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mae, you're right about it being the sausage that tie the grapes and greens together. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Sausage and grapes with pasta? Never thought of it but sounds good together. I like this kind of simple pasta that is filling and delicious.
I love this combination of sweet, savory and spicy. Great dish, I will have to give it a try
Hi Holly, it's a fun pairing, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dahn, it's a great combo of flavors. :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a delicious meal! Never thought of adding grapes with sausage. Sounds like a great combination!
Hi Laura, it's really good! Definitely worth a try. :-) Thanks for the comment.
The flavours here would be popping, literally! I love the combo of sweet and savoury which works all of the time
Hi Raymund, it's really a wonderful dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
It looks super tasty!
Hi Pam, it is, it is. :-) Thanks for the comment.
A totally new idea for me . . . and new ideas always attract ! Have never used grapes in a pasta dish and do not remember any sausage getting close to the pan either . . . so must try ! The shells look fine . . . for me perchance white grapes and white wine with tons of homegrown basil I could not live without . . .
Hi Eha, I'll bet you'll have fun experimenting with this one -- you can take this basic recipe so many different directions. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I'm sitting here here some wonderful sweet grapes thinking about how good they would be in this dish. What a unique dish. Have never heard of combining grapes and Italian sausage. This is going on my easy meal dish to be made soon! Thanks for making my life easier and tastier with dishes like this.
Hi MJ, isn't this a neat dish? Really easy and really, really tasty. Winner. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I would have never thought of adding grapes to a dish with Italian sausage, but it sounds delicious. I am going to have to give this one a try. I am sure I will love it.
Hi Dawn, it's a neat combo -- bet you'll enjoy it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yum, very creative idea! Looks so beautiful!
Sweet, sour and spicy! You have our attention. In addition, you know how sometimes you have those little bits and bobs of grapes left that no one seems to eat. Great way to use those up.
Looks like a perfect winter meal. And it’s gorgeous too. One of the restaurants we used to love (unfortunately now closed for good), used to serve an awesome burrata dish with broiled grapes, OMG it was good. Adding pasta and sausages to make a meal sounds incredible!
Hi Natalia, nice looking, good tasting. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bobbi, hadn't thought about it, but this is a great way to use those loose grapes that always seem to accumulate! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Eva, we can turn any set of ingredients into a pasta dish! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Grapes in savory dishes are always lovely, so this is a must make. A perfect week night dinner. Thanks for the inspiration...
Hi Ron, grapes are a great ingredient, aren't they? And they pair so well with sausage! Thanks for the comment.
This sounds like such an odd combination that I absolutely have to try it!
Hi Anne, you do have to try it! Bet you'll like it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is wonderful! And though I nearly always use penne, I'll definitely go with the shells on this one. (And, yes, I weigh my pasta, too.)
Hi Jean, shells just look nice in this dish! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yummo! What a great combination. A little sweet, a little savory. And all is good!
Hi Abbe, yup, with this dish all is definitely good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
You constantly surprise with such lovely twists on staple dishes. Who ever thought to put sausages with grapes? Rounded off with pasta this is perfect :D
Hi Merryn, this is such a terrific tasting dish. And a bit different, as you suggest. :-) Thanks for the comment.
this looks like a colourful and tasty dish KR. love the idea of grapes with sausage.
Hi Sherry, it's really tasty! And we love grapes in savory dishes. :-) Thanks for the comment.
So many interesting flavors in the pasta, like the sweet, and savory combination. Comforting dinner recipe, I surely want to try using grapes in my pasta next time, thanks for a great recipe!
Hi PB, it's a fun dish, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
This recipe sounds amazing! I have never thought to add grapes to pasta, but I can't wait to try it!
Hi CD, bet you'll like it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is fabulous. If there’s Italian sausage and Parmesan in a pasta, I’ll immediately love it. Grapes are definitely a new concept to me. Very interesting.
Hi Mimi, grapes and Italian sausage are just made for each other. Doesn't seem like they should be, I know, but they are. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Sausage and grapes is a favorite of mine. But I’ve never thought of putting it over pasta… I have to try this during the week, as we have all the ingredients in the house. Have a great weekend!
Hi David, this is good with polenta, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've done many a tray bake with sausage and grapes, but I never thought to put them together with pasta. Genius idea! Especially because it makes it heartier.
Hi Carolyn, when we first made this it was a tray bake, but it wasn't that great tossed with pasta -- needed more of a sauce. So we switched to a frying pan on the stovetop so we could make a bit of a pan sauce as we cooked the sausage and grapes. Much better! :-) Thanks for the comment.
My daughter made this for dinner yesterday. I don't eat sausage so for me she added soy nuggets. It was delicious! My first time eating grapes in pasta. Thanks so much for this awesome recipe.
Hi Balvinder, glad you liked it! Soy nuggets are a terrific idea. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Amazing idea of adding grapes in pasta. The plate looks amazing. Loved all the different colors in it. I am gonna try it. I like reading the fun conversation between you and Mrs Riffs.
Hi Rahul, isn't this a nice dish? SO much flavor! :-) Thanks for the comment.
I like cooking with grapes and haven't done it in way too long. Such a fun unexpected ingredient to find a this sausage pasta. I love it! :-) ~Valentina
Hi Valentina, grapes are an interesting ingredient, aren't they? We've been playing with them a lot in our cooking lately, although this is our favorite savory recipe for them. Thanks for the comment.
Definitely an intriguing recipe---I bet the sweet grapes add a beautiful flavor to this pasta! Just like adding wine in a very raw form :)
Hi R, it is! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Liz, the grapes are neat in this dish. And yeah, the raw version of wine! :-) Thanks for the comment.
OMG I love cooking sauce with Italian sausage like tomate sauce mostly It's my all time favourite! :) I love te addition of grape, it's unusual bt I won't mind trying :)
Hi FT, we love Italian sausage in a rich tomato sauce too -- SO flavorful. :-) And grapes with sausage is also wonderful. Thanks for the comment.
I love all of the fun flavors and textures you've combined in this dish. It really creates a fabulous, heart warming Fall feast!
Hi Heidi, good stuff, huh? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Such a beautiful and tasty dish, I just bought some hot Italian sausages today and I think this recipe will fit perfectly.
Hi Amira, bet you'll like this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Grapes in pasta? hmmm never tried that combo. Should try just to see how it tastes :)
Hi Nammi, it's really a great combo! Sounds a bit odd, but it works. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This looks so good, and the grapes really make it unique. Can't wait to give it a try! (PS yes, I'm back after a 3-year hiatus! Happy to see you and Mrs. KR are still bantering!)
Hi Beth, Mrs KR and I will always banter, whether on the blog or in real life. :-) Really glad to see you blogging again! And thanks for the comment.
OMG, this pasta with Italian sausage and fresh grapes sound amazing...I love the combination of flavors and textures...thanks for the recipe John!
Hi Juliana, it's really a great combo of flavors. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I believe I saw a similar recipe in a Giuliani Bugiali cookbook I used to have but never tried it. Now I'm thinking I should...my husband loves anything with hot Italian sausage in it.
Hi Karen, Bugiali is a good author -- I'd like to see that recipe! Bet his is excellent. Although this one is pretty darn good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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