Spicy Vodka Bucatini with Sausage
I’ve never met a spicy pasta dish I didn’t like but in terms of favorites, this one takes the cake. Inspired by my all-time favorite pasta dish at Jon & Vinny’s, the vodka sauce is easy to make and 100% better than anything you can buy in a jar. Pair it with a bottle of a light pinot noir and that’s the kind of Friday evening I always want to have.
- 1/2 lb italian sausage
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 6-oz can tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons vodka
- 1 cup half and half (don’t sub for milk)
- 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes*
- Fine sea salt
- 1 pound bucatini
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Grated parmesan
- Handful of fresh basil leaves
*Note: if you have a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle, I highly rec grinding the red pepper flakes before adding them to the sauce in the recipe. They incorporate into the sauce much more evenly and give you a more consistent spice with each bite.
- Add 1 tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage from the casing, crumble, and add sausage to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up with a wooden spoon, until the sausage is browned, approx 6-8 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the sausage from the pan onto a plate and set aside.
- Return the saucepan to the stove, letting the pan cool for a few minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally until softened and translucent, approx 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.
- Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the paste is a dark brick red color, approx. 4-5 minutes. Add the vodka and whisk constantly until most of the liquid is evaporated, approx 2 minutes.
- Whisk in the cream and red pepper flakes until everything is well incorporated. Season with salt to taste (I normally start with 1/2 tsp). Remove from heat, add the sausage back into the sauce, and cover the sauce with a lid to keep warm.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to package directions until al dente. Drain, and reserve 1 cup pasta water.
- Add the pasta into the skillet with the sauce, along with the butter and 1/2 cup pasta water. Turn the heat back onto low, and cook, stirring constantly, until the butter has melted and the sauce turns glossy and coats the noodles. Add the remaining 1/2 cup pasta water if needed – I normally do – the pasta sauce will congeal a bit once you serve it and it starts to cool, so I always err on the side of having the pasta sauce be a bit thinner while it’s still in the pan.
- Chiffonade the basil (aka roll up the leaves and thinly slice).
- Divide pasta among bowls, then top with basil chiffonade and grated parmesan. Top with more red pepper flakes if desired. Serve immediately.