I came up with the idea for sausage sugo pizza while gabbing with my girlfriend on the phone. She gave me a really good constraint and challenged me! She called me to talk about a menu and plan for having her boyfriend to dinner. Jenna wanted Bobby to “put a ring on it” and doesn’t understand why he hasn’t done so yet. She thinks that she needs to have him over for dinner and show her homey side. They go out all the time, and Jenna is kind of a party girl. I thought it was a good idea until she told me her menu idea, which included a main course of endive salad. “Girl, no man is inspired to ask your hand in marriage by an endive salad,” I said. “That might be good for women’s book club, but not moving a man to action! Do you want him to marry you or run away?”  See, I understand the man’s stomach. They love comfort food (and especially what their Mom made for them growing up – if you’ve made friendly with his Mom, this information is valuable).

easy cocktail recipes

Campari cocktail while brainstorming

When I was dating my husband, I innocently invited him for dinner one night. Honestly, I had no marriage intentions in mind. I made a main course of lamb chops in rosemary, garlic and white wine with Italian rosemary roasted potatoes and broccoli. I had no idea that he would be so moved by the little potatoes and that broccoli was his favorite vegetable. It is true that Italian roasted potatoes are amazing, but since I had grown up with them, I just thought everyone ate them. He later told me he would have asked me to marry him that night. So, ladies, let me help you find your way to a man’s heart through his stomach.

Back to my friend, Jenna. I told her to grab a glass of wine or a cocktail (I was already enjoying a Campari) and we would brainstorm. I came up with the following recipe for wine-braised sausage sugo pizza. I had to do some work in my test kitchen on the pizza recipe because I liked the idea but had not made it before. Now, I will not make anything else if sausage is going on the pizza. When you braise the sausage in wine, add roasted peppers and tomatoes, and make that your pizza sauce base, you won’t believe how amazingly creamy the pizza will turn out. It is actually luscious. You can top it with just cheese or your favorite toppings. I like some black olives and fresno pepper, but it’s versatile to your taste. You can also make extra sausage sugo and save it for pasta on another day.  Now, you don’t want to get too full, so I suggest making petite or small-plate pizzas. You need to be able to dance after dinner 🙂

pizza constrained gourmet

Pizza without a wood-fired oven at home

Whether you have your sites on a man or woman, this menu works either way. Hugs and kisses!

Wine-braised Sausage Sugo Pizza

Serves 2 people


  • 2 balls of pizza dough (small, no more than 1/2 pound each)
  • 2 Italian sausages
  • 2 very large red or yellow peppers
  • 1 pound of fresh tomatoes or 1 can of Italian plum tomatoes
  • 1 ball of mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon pepperoncini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • Additional toppings as desired – olives, onion, mushrooms, sliced garlic


Sauce: Cut tomatoes in half and remove core and seed clumps – discard. Place tomatoes cut side down on a sheet pan. Broil for 4-5 minutes or until skin is slightly blackened. Remove from broiler and let cool. The skins will be easy to remove in one stroke. Discard skins [If using canned tomatoes, remove core and skins.] Set the sauce pot on the stove on medium heat. Add olive oil, garlic, and pepperoncini. Once the garlic is yellow, add tomatoes and crush with your hand or use a potato masher. Let simmer about 10-15 minutes. The tomatoes should cook down by one-third. If needed, add a tablespoon of tomato paste. Add dried basil and oregano.

Peppers: Cut peppers, removing seeds and core. Place skin side up on a sheet pan. Broil until skins are blackened and remove from broiler. Let it cool by placing it on a plate with a plastic wrap cover. After 10 minutes, remove the plastic; the skins should be easy to remove from the peppers. After removing the skins, dice and set aside.

Sausage: Place a saute pan on medium heat. Hold the sausage and cut a line down the casing. Remove the sausage and break it up in the saute pan. Add wine and let bubble away once cooked and just starting to brown. At this time, add peppers and tomato sauce (about 1 cup). (Some judgment is required on the amount of tomato sauce. You don’t want too much; just a nice coating of tomato over the peppers and sausage.)

Assembly: Turn on the oven to 525 degrees or as high as your oven will go. Ensure that your racks are such that you can switch the pizzas halfway during cooking.  Roll out the dough to the desired size. The dough should be thin and about the size of a plate. Place on a sheet pan with a small amount of cornmeal strewn along the bottom. This will ensure that the pizza will not stick. Once both pizza doughs have been prepped, you can place the sausage sugo on the dough. Add other optional toppings that you desire, such as thinly sliced onion or olives. Top with mozzarella. Be conservative with the cheese. Don’t put too much because you don’t want to cover up the taste of your sauce with too much cheese. Place in oven for 7 minutes and rotate, cooking another 7 minutes. Each pizza should be brown and bubbly. Let cool for 5 minutes or as long as you can stand to wait!