But every once in a while, I'll eat something I make and I'll say, "Man - I'm a good cook." It doesn't happen often, but when it does I find the emotion deeply satisfying. It is as if I am experiencing the food first hand, as if I didn't cook it and I get to appreciate all the levels of flavors and ingredients that have gone into the dish. It's not often that it happens, but when it does it's pretty exciting to me. This is one of those dishes that pleasantly surprised me into saying to myself, "You did a great job with this one."
I essentially cleaned out my refrigerator today - which was my goal. I had a few things that I wanted to use up - some Italian link sausages, some cream, some basil, and an open bottle of red wine that was no longer really fit for consumption. I thought of my original Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce and adding sausages just seemed like a good idea. It was far yummier than I had expected and easy to throw together. I served it with some spinach sauteed in garlic (my go to vegetable dish).
Pasta with Sausage, Cream and Your Choice of Alcohol
One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with their liquid (or a can of crushed tomatoes)
1 pound penne (or your choice of pasta - not the long kind)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
10 cloves garlic, peeled, and sliced thinly
1/2 lb sausage
Crushed hot red pepper (omit if you have kids eating it)
1/4 cup vodka (or your choice of alcohol - today I used red wine)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped basil
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing if you like
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.
Puree the canned tomatoes. A handblender works well, as does a food processor or a regular blender. Do not over puree and make "airy" as it will turn the tomatoes pink.
Stir the penne into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 8 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic and onion to the hot oil. Cook, shaking the skillet, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 1 minute. Add sausages and cook until sausages are fully cooked. Lower the work bowl with the tomatoes close to the skillet and carefully — they will splatter — slide the tomatoes into the pan. Bring to a boil, season lightly with salt and generously with crushed red pepper, and boil 2 minutes. Pour in the vodka (or your alcohol), lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and simmer until the pasta is ready.
Just before the pasta is done, pour in the cream. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water with a large wire skimmer and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. If not, drain the pasta, return it to the pot, and pour in the sauce. Bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt and red pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the basil over the pasta and boil until the sauce is reduced enough to cling to the pasta.
Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheese over the pasta, and toss to mix. Serve immediately, passing additional cheese if you like.Printable Recipe