This pasta rocks. I'm being quite serious. You need to try this stuff. I even diverged from the recipe, making it a bit less fattening, and it was still magical. Here, I'll break it down for you.
Chicken Sausage Rigatoni in a Spicy Vodka Sauce...well, the name alone pretty much sells it, right? This one comes from The Food Network's Sunny Anderson, and after eating this meal I have to say I'm liking her more and more. I caught her making this pasta one afternoon, and decided that it was going straight to the top of my must-make list. I was drooling in the general direction of the television. It was bad.
It's a pretty straighforward dish. Boil up some water for pasta, and then get started on your sauce. Brown some chicken sausage in a pan, add veggies, then throw in seasonings and tomatoes, and simmer. Then, you finish the sauce with some vodka and some cream, and then you add some cheese and parsley before tossing the whole shebang with rigatoni. However, what seems like such a simple dish is nothing short of spectacular in flavor.
I think the secret is this: along with your veggies, you add in one jalapeno pepper, and then you toss in some hot paprika along with the seasonings. These are such simple additions, but they contribute so much to the overall taste of the dish. There's a great blast of heat from the pepper, and the paprika lends a new depth to the tomato sauce that I absolutely loved. I think I want to add paprika to all my tomato-based sauces now! It was that good.
I made this a touch healthier by omitting the butter Sunny used in combination with olive oil to brown her meat, and by using a lot less cream than she did. I read some reviews of the dish where the authors used only 1/4 cup and it still turned out fine. So, I added just 1/4 cup of half-and-half to mine, and I thought it was fantastic. It didn't turn the sauce into a cream sauce at all, but it did give it some lightness that cut the acidity nicely. Oh, and I cut way back on the cheese, too. I didn't miss it, either. And yes, there was booze in it, but it wasn't that much, so I'd like to believe that this was still healthier than it could have been! It was so savory and satisfying, and I can hardly wait to make it again.
Chicken Sausage Rigatoni in a Spicy Vodka Sauce
from Sunny Anderson via Food Network
makes 4-6 servings
1 Tbsp. butter (I omitted)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup roughly chopped onion
1 jalapeno, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup roughly chopped green pepper
1 tsp. Hungarian hot paprika
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with basil (I used crushed)
1/3 cup vodka
1 cup heavy cream (I used 1/4 cup half-and-half, and it was still creamy enough for us)
1 lb. rigatoni
1 cup grated Asiago cheese
3 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley leaves (I omitted)
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. In a large saute pan, over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil. Add chicken sausage and brown, 3 to 4 minutes, breaking up large chunks with a wooden spoon. Add onions, jalapeno, and garlic, and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add green pepper, paprika, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper, to taste, and cook 3 minutes more.
2. Generously salt pasta water and add the rigatoni. Cook until al dente, about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, add tomatoes to the sauce and bring to a simmer, for about 10 minutes. Add vodka and cream and cook a few minutes more. Toss in cheese and chopped parsley.
3. To serve, drain the pasta well and add to the sauce. Mix until pasta is nicely coated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.