Italian Sausage Pepper and Pesto Subs

Italian Sausage Pepper and Pesto Subs
Italian Sausage Pepper and Pesto Subs

Sausage and peppers are a classic combination. More specifically, grilled Italian sausage and peppers with some onions on a sub roll epitomize this natural pairing. And for tailgate grub, it’s hard to beat a tasty sausage on a bun! We just happened to spruce it up a little bit without making it too difficult or fussy. These Italian Sausage Pepper and Pesto Subs are grilled to perfection and perfect for a bbq, tailgate, or easy weeknight dinner!

What Sausage is Best for these Subs?

The star of this recipe, of course, is the sausage, and with just enough heat to notice, the Johnsonville hot style Italian sausages are impressive. Hot Italian sausage is our choice here, but any Italian sausages work exceptionally well in these.  We are partial to Johnsonville, which are exceptional quality, easy to find in grocery stores, and incredibly tasty. And yes, we have tried their mild, sweet, parmesan, and four cheese flavors in these subs as well! So, you can’t go wrong, but we just happen to like the heat added by the spicy “hot” version of their Italian sausage as it pairs well with the sweetness of the grilled peppers and onions and flavorful pesto.

Are these subs easy to make?

YES! When it’s time to tailgate, it’s obviously important to know how complex your food is going to be to prepare. Sometimes less is more and, in this case, you’ve got some amazing food without much effort! We’ve attended and hosted enough tailgates to know that if you are running around like a line cook, you miss out on way too much fun!

Italian Sausage Pepper and Pesto Subs
Italian Sausage and Pepper Subs with Basil Pesto

Just because this is a relatively easy recipe to prepare without an exhaustive ingredient list doesn’t mean it’s just OK. Nope, these Italian Sausage Pepper and Pesto Subs are absolutely delicious and will not disappoint your guests! 

These Italian Sausage sub sandwiches with their delicious flavors are the perfect replacement for boring hot dogs at a bbq, yet, they don’t require much more effort to make!

Peppers Onions and Basil Pesto

Peppers and onions are the classic pairing for Italian sausage. The addition of the grilled red peppers and some sweet onions are the perfect balance for the sausage in a nice Italian, sub or hogie roll. The peppers and onions are cooked in a cast iron skillet directly on the grill alongside the sausages, making this recipe easy with minimal dishes to clean at the end of the night. 

Having an extra ingredient like pesto really completes this sub and enhances everything in it. Even better, you can make the pesto in advance and store in the fridge for up to a week to 10 days. Pesto is such a delicious sauce and we love having extra in the fridge for pesto pasta, as a dip, or simply to spread on toast. 

With the pesto, there’s no need to add any sauces, so if you want anything else on it, we suggest a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, some spicy red chile flakes, some additional Italian seasoning, fresh basil, or even more pesto! Our preference is usually nothing since the flavors combine perfectly as is.

We don’t like to overcomplicate these subs by adding marinara sauce or tomato sauce, or covering them in provolone cheese or fresh mozzarella cheese. You can do this if you wish, but we are big fans of these with just some homemade basil pesto.


We hope that you enjoy this recipe for Italian Sausage Pepper and Pesto Subs! If you give it a try and like it, leave us a 5 star rating and comment below, or tag us on Instagram @cooking_with_wine!

Italian Sausage Pepper and Pesto Subs
Italian Sausage Pepper and Pesto Subs

Looking for more recipes like this? Check these out:

Italian Sausage Pepper and Pesto Subs

Course: Dinner, LunchCuisine: Italian-AmericanDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time


Total time




  • 1 Package 1 Johnsonville Hot Italian Sausage (5 Links)

  • 1 large 1 sweet yellow onion

  • 2 2 red bell peppers

  • 1 Tbsp 1 olive oil

  • 2 tsp 2 kosher salt

  • 2 tsp 2 Italian seasoning

  • ½ cup classic pesto

  • 5 5 sub sandwich rolls

  • Basil Pesto Sauce
  • ¼ cup pine nuts

  • 1 large 1 garlic clove, cut in half

  • 2 2 ½ cups fresh basil leaves

  • 1/3 cup 1/3 extra virgin olive oil

  • ¼ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

  • 1 tsp 1 kosher salt

  • 1 tsp 1 lemon juice


  • Make The Basil Pesto Sauce
  • Toast the pine nuts in the oven for 5-8 minutes at 350°F on a sheet pan or until they just start to turn brown. Alternatively, you can do it in a pan on the stove for a few minutes until the pine nuts start to turn brown and become fragrant. Once toasted, add the pine nuts into the blender or food processor.
  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil and put your halved garlic clove in for 2 minutes. Remove the garlic and add it to the blender with the pine nuts. Add the basil leaves and olive oil and blend until smooth. Add the parmesan cheese, salt, and lemon juice and continue to blend. You should have a thick, smooth pesto at this point. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use or up to 10 days.
  • Make Your Subs
  • Prepare your charcoal grill for two cooking zones, if possible or, if using a gas grill, have one zone on high and one on low or indirect heat, depending on your equipment. You want one area with direct high heat and one side with low or no (indirect) heat.
  • Slice the onion and peppers into strips. Place a large cast iron skillet over high heat and add the olive oil to coat the pan. Add the onion and peppers and stir to coat. Add the salt and Italian seasoning and stir again. While the vegetables cook, place the sausages on the indirect heat side of the grill. Stir the vegetables often. You want them to soften and develop a bit of caramelization on the onions. There is no set time for the sausages, as each grilling setup is unique, but cook to an internal temperature of 160°F. Once the sausages reach temperature, remove from the grill, and let them rest for a few minutes while you prepare the sub rolls.
  • In the sub roll, add the whole sausage (or sliced sausages if you prefer) in the buns and top with peppers and onions. Add the pesto on top and serve! You can add more Italian seasoning, pesto, parmesan, fresh basil and/or red pepper flakes on top if desired. Enjoy!

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