My two favorite cuisines have to be Italian and Mexican. Luckily, I married a man who agrees with me. We quite happily eat both types with regularity and make the occasional recipe that doesn’t involve either pasta or salsa. Needless to say, you will likely never see me declare that I’m going on a low-carb diet or have decided to go gluten-free unless I am being forced. (Although we do try to eat these items in moderation as much as possible.)
Interestingly, I have not always had a love affair with Italian food (my love for Mexican likely began before I was born). I used to hate spaghetti and lasagna. Basically, if my mom announced we would be eating pasta that evening, I grimaced. It wasn’t until I went to college that I discovered that some pasta was good, meat dishes like chicken parmigiana were amazing, and found out I did like spaghetti. I just preferred it made my way.
A few years later, after college and graduate school, I briefly worked for Macy’s in Paramus, New Jersey. Our store actually had a restaurant in it. My favorite dish there was one for penne alla vodka with sun-dried tomatoes. Awesome! I had never had it before and was desperate to find a way to make it myself. I searched and searched for a recipe. I tried a few variations and finally came up with one I loved, despite not having sun-dried tomatoes.
When I first made it for my husband, he liked it but I could tell he wasn’t as enthralled with it as I was and moved it into his “better-for-Lent” category. The next time I made it, I added some Italian sausage, and my husband fell in love with this dish.
To begin, I usually brown about 1 pound of Italian sausage then put it to the side. (This time, I used some left over browned Italian sausage links that I had cut into pieces.)
Over medium heat, I sauteed 4 minced cloves of garlic and 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper flakes in about 2 Tbsp olive oil until the garlic just starts to get brown. (You can adjust the pepper flakes to your preference.) Then, I added a large can of crushed tomatoes and brought them to a boil. I added the sausage to the tomatoes and let them simmer for at least 15 minutes, uncovered.
As the sauce cooked, I boiled 1 lb penne in a large pot until it was al dente. I drained it and returned it to the hot pot.
By this time, the sauce was almost ready. I poured 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 2 Tbsp vodka into the tomato sauce, stirring well as I did so. I allowed the sauce to come to a boil and let the sauce heat through (and the alcohol to burn off) for about two minutes.
Next, I poured the sauce on the drained pasta, added 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley, and stirred. Then, I served to my happy husband and my girls who love pasta as much as their parents.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 large can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
- 1/2 - 1 lb Italian sausage (in links cut up or in bulk)
- 1/2 C. heavy cream
- 1/4 C. freshly chopped parsley
- Brown the sausage and put to the side.
- Saute garlic and pepper flakes in olive oil over medium heat until lightly golden brown.
- Add tomatoes.
- Once the sauce comes to a boil, lower the heat then simmer for at least 15 minutes.
- In another pot, boil penne until al dente. Drain and place back in hot pot.
- When the sauce is done, add vodka and heavy cream. Bring to a boil and heat through.
- Add sauce and parsley to the penne.
- Stir through and serve.
- You can add or subtract the amount of red pepper flakes depending on how spicy you prefer your sauce.