SausageI have been making this dish since college days and the first version of it came to me from a penne all’arrabbiata recipe, which translates as “enraged penne.”  The sauce can be hot to very hot, depending upon the amount of dried red pepper that you decide to use.  The dash of vodka and heavy cream enhances the flavor and color.  This dish only takes about 20 minutes.

But the real revelation to this dish came to me tonight, after reading my favorite magazine, Garden & Gun, which is a Southern Living type of magazine only more hip, with shooting and lots of Southern recipes, mostly pork.  Only there was no pork this week.  So left feeling hungry, I headed off to the kitchen.

I grabbed some Tender Belly Franks and they say they call them “franks because of the extra effort we put into them. They are uncured and 100% Berkshire pork from the hind leg, coarse-ground like wonderful Old World sausage. They are applewood-smoked and have a subtly sweet and delightfully salty taste. The snap our frank makes when you bite into it is exactly what you would expect….Perfection.”  But, these delightful little sausages look like small kilbsa sausages, but they have a taste that is out of this world.  There were barely enough left to make the pasta, as my girls started eating the tasty bits of sausage as fast as I could fry them up.

I now prefer to use my Quick Chunky Tomato Sauce instead of the store-bought sauce, but I wanted to give you the original recipe for my friends and family who complain that all of my cooking is becoming too time consuming.  The Quick Sauce only takes 20 minutes and I think it is worth the tiny extra effort, as the water has to boil and then the pasta cook, so it really takes no extra time, but here is the easy version:


  • 1 lb.Tender Belly Franks cut into 1/4″ slices
  • 1 quart store-bought marinara sauce, kicked up with 1 T. red pepper flakes, 1 T. freshly crushed garlic, 1 t. salt, 1 t. pepper, 1 T. fresh herbs or Italian SeasoningSausage
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream (or 2% milk, if you haven’t the cream)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 pound penne
  • Freshly chopped parsley and Parmesan to serve


In a nonstick skillet or cast iron skillet, fry the sausages in a few dashes of olive oil until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes.  Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel to remove the oil.

In a separate pan, simmer the tomato sauce with the spices and bring to a simmer in a heavy large skillet over low heat.  Add vodka and cook while pasta water is boiling until the mixture reduces by 1/4, stirring often, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a third deep pan, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente, tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta.

Stir the cream into the tomato and vodka sauce. Simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Stir in the Parmesan cheese until melted and well blended.  Transfer the drained pasta to the pan with the sauce, and add the sausages, tossing to coat.  Serve with more Parmesan and chopped parsley on top.