Orecchiette Vodka With Spicy Italian Sausage

Welcome to March!

Big yikes for you if you believe in time as an institution–it’s already the 3rd month of 2022 but I digress.

Now, this recipe, a freakin’ good one, is like perfect in every possible way. It's rich, creamy, salty, the whole shabang. Not only is it really easy and sort of impossible to screw it up, there’s little clean up and maybe takes 40ish minutes to make. A great weeknight meal if you work from home. In all seriousness, the best way to consume this dish is to curl up on your surface of choice and put on Weeds (the UK version)–ok? We're talkin' MAXIMUM comfort.

When you think of pasta do you also think of sausage? Maybe? I don’t…typically. But this recipe is changing that for me. This dish has everything you could possibly want in a meal so save up those calories, skip breakfast, eat a rice cake, whatever..cause you’ll want em’ for this if you enjoy: a tomato element (non negotiable), rich creaminess that may or may not trigger your IBS, and subtle spiciness (can be cranked the f*** up if you enjoy pain). End result? An unmatched combination of texture and flavor.

Pro tip: double the recipe if you’re sharing this with someone and/or you plan on smoking a lil because you WILL want more…and I am definitely speaking from experience. I can and will eat a pound of pasta by myself with very little shame.

Disclaimer: you’re gonna need some equipment, but don’t get crazy. A frying pan, a 6qt pot, a cutting board (counter tops are fine if you’ve got no morals), a chef’s knife or anything that can cut an onion, and a microplane/box grater, and some measuring cups (eyeball if you like a challenge), and a rubber spat.

Once you start, there’s no slowing down and I promise it really is so much easier when your prep work is done.

If you make this (like you won't) let us know! 😛 #yeschefstudioeats

Prep time:
15 minutes
Cook time:
25 minutes

kosher salt

12 oz. spicy italian sausage

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for plating

1 medium onion

5 garlic cloves

5 oz. parmesan cheese, plus more for topping

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

14.5 oz. tube double-concentrated tomato paste

½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

2 oz. vodka

¾ cup heavy cream

1lb. orecchiette


Mise en place:

  • Peel and dice entire onion into quarter-inch sized pieces.
  • Firmly smash 5 garlic cloves with the flat side of chef’s knife and remove peel (not chopped. not minced. SMASHED). 
  • Grate 5 oz. of Parmesan cheese with grating instrument of choice.
  • Measure our heavy cream and vodka into separate measuring cups.
  • Remove sausages for their casing and thinly slice. 
  • Fill your pot 3-quarters full with water and place over medium high heat.

Heat 2 tbsp of evoo in a large frying pan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Once heated, add sausage in a thin layer, giving each piece room to breathe. Add a sprinkle of salt and a few cracks of black pepper over top. Cook on each side until browned all the way through–no need to baby it. 5-7ish minutes total.


Once sausage is cooked through, transfer to a bowl lined with paper towel (to absorb that extra oil). Using the same pan, add remaining 2 tbsp of evoo to residual meat oil. Continue heating over medium heat until hot n’ ready.


Add onion and garlic with another generous sprinkle of S+P. Toss to ensure onion and garlic are evenly coated in oil. Let sizzle for 5ish minutes, stirring continuously until onion is translucent in color with slightly browned edges and garlic is golden and fragrant.


Squeeze entire tube of tomato paste into pan and stir until onions and garlic are evenly coated. Toss in your red pepper flakes. Cook until paste is deep red in color, stirring often to avoid burning. 5ish minutes. Add another sprinkle of S+P.


Add 2 oz. of vodka to tomato mixture, scraping the bottom of the pan with your cooking utensil to deglaze. Reduce heat to low and let simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and you’re left with a sauce-like consistency.


Once pasta water is boiling, pour in a generous handful of kosher salt. Stir to dissolve. Add pasta. Set timer for the shorter amount of time noted on the box. Stir occasionally throughout. Once pasta is al dente, remove from heat.


With a heat-proof (preferably) measuring cup, scoop up about ½ cup of pasta water. Add heavy cream to pasta water to temper it. Add water/cream mixture to vodka sauce, stirring continuously until incorporated. Remove from heat.


Using the same measuring cup, scoop 1 cup of pasta water and set it aside. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer pasta from pot to pan with any water that is clinging to the pasta.


Add ½ cup of reserved pasta water to the pan with pasta and vodka sauce. Add ½ the grated parmesan cheese and stir to incorporate and melt cheese evenly.


Add remaining ½ cup pasta water and cheese and stir to form a smooth, glossy sauce that coats each piece of pasta.


Add in your cooked sausage and stir until distributed.


Scoop into your vessel of choice, top with parmesan cheese, Maldon sea salt and black pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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