« Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Sausages with Rigatoni and Vodka Sauce

  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pound Italian sausage (removed from casing and crumbled) or use Sundried Tomato Chicken Sausages from Sams Club (these are excellent) - approx. 6 links
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (add an extra pinch or two if you want a good sting)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • (1) 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes or your favorite jar of marinara sauce (24-26 oz)
  • 1/3 cup of vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream at room temperature
  • 2-4 Tbsp. of fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • Sprig fresh basil, for garnish
  • Fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish

Measure and set aside your cream.

NOTE: IF using the sun-dried tomato chicken sausages, sear in skillet before you move forward to the below steps. Coating sausages with olive oil and browning them will further develop the flavor of the sausages.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Once pasta is done, drain in a colander and return to the saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. If using Italian sausage, cook until browned and all pink has disappeared.

Add the onions, bell pepper, salt, italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the vodka (remove pan from stove before adding) and cook until the sauce reduces by half, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust flavors accordingly. Stir in cream and cook until the sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Stir in basil and turn off the heat. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the cheese over the pasta.

Toss the sauce with the pasta to coat evenly and transfer to a pasta bowl for serving. Top with remaining cheese, fresh black pepper and a sprig of basil. Serve immediately.

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