Caramelized Onion, Apple, and Sausage Pasta

published Sep 8, 2021
Caramelized Onion, Apple, and Sausage Pasta Recipe

A savory one-pot pasta with caramelized onions, apples, and Italian sausage.


Prep30 minutes

Cook1 hour

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pasta in pot with spoon and cheese on top
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

As summer winds down and we begin transitioning into fall, my cravings slowly shift from fresh, cold veggie dishes to heartier fare like stews, braises, and pastas. But this year, instead of kicking things off with a traditional Bolognese, I’m taking inspiration from my favorite fall fruit: apples!

In this hearty pasta dish, crisp fall apples cook down alongside onions to create a savory-sweet sauce that clings to the curved noodles. Combine the sauce with cooked sausage, dried and fresh herbs, and plenty of cheese for the ultimate introduction to fall.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Ben Weiner

Caramelized Apples Are the Secret to This Sauce

I bet you’ve caramelized onions, but have you caramelized apples? They’re a brilliant and surprising way to add richness and flavor to your fall cooking. Here, diced onions and apples are cooked in butter until they transform into a deeply golden, sticky sauce you’ll want to eat straight from the pot. I like to use sweet-tart apples to give the pasta an acidic bite that brightens it up. Honeycrisp and Granny Smith both work perfectly.

3 Tips for Making This Pasta

Before you head into the kitchen to make this dish, keep these tips in mind.

  1. Undercook your pasta. The boiled pasta gets finished in the sauce, so you want to cook it a few minutes shy of al dente. This will ensure the pasta comes out nice and chewy while also giving it time to absorb some of the flavorful sauce.
  2. Adjust the spiciness to your liking. Using spicy Italian sausage? You may need to go lighter on the red pepper flakes.
  3. Don’t skip the parsley. The parseley garnish isn’t just for looks! Its freshness helps brighten up the sauce. Chopped chives or basil are great choices, too.

Caramelized Onion, Apple, and Sausage Pasta Recipe

A savory one-pot pasta with caramelized onions, apples, and Italian sausage.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 1 hour

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 4

    medium yellow onions (about 1 3/4 pounds total)

  • 2

    medium Granny Smith or Honeycrisp apples (about 1 pound total)

  • 4 cloves


  • 1 bunch

    fresh parsley

  • 4 ounces

    Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 12 ounces

    uncooked sweet or spicy Italian bulk sausage

  • 4 tablespoons

    (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried thyme

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt, plus more for the pasta water

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 pound

    dried orecchiette pasta

  • 1 cup

    dry white wine


  1. Dice 4 medium yellow onions (about 4 1/2 cups). Peel, core, and finely dice 2 medium apples (about 3 cups). Mince or grate 4 garlic cloves (about 1 tablespoon). Finely chop the leaves from 1 bunch fresh parsley until you have 1/2 cup. Finely grate 4 ounces Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup).

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot such as a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Remove the casings from 12 ounces uncooked Italian sausage if needed, then add the sausage to the pot. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until well-browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a bowl.

  3. Add 4 tablespoons unsalted butter to the pot. When melted, add the onions, apples, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring often to prevent the bottom from burning, until the onions are dark brown and the apples are very soft, 25 to 30 minutes. The onions should be the color of light mahogany wood. If the bottom of the pot starts to burn before the onions have fully caramelized, add 2 tablespoons of water to the pot, stir to help dissolve any burnt bits, and continue cooking. (Feel free to do this several times during cooking.)

  4. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add 1 pound dried orecchiette pasta and cook 2 minutes less than al dente, about 8 minutes or according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta and set aside.

  5. When the onions are ready, add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, 1 minute. Add 1 cup dry white wine, scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, and cook until the wine is completely evaporated, 4 to 7 minutes.

  6. Add the pasta and 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Cook until the water is completely absorbed by the pasta, 1 to 3 minutes. The pasta should look very glossy and saucy. If it looks dry, add more pasta water a tablespoon at a time as needed (you might not use all the remaining pasta water).

  7. Remove the pot from the heat. Return the cooked sausage and any accumulated juices, half the parsley, and half the Parmesan to the pot and stir to combine. Serve immediately, garnishing each portion with the remaining parsley and Parmesan.

Recipe Notes

Pasta: Any small pasta shape such as rotini, rigatoni, or farfalle can be used in place of the orecchiette.

Substitutions: Unsalted chicken or vegetable broth can be subsituted for the white wine.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.