Vodka Sauce with Sausage

Hearty Vodka Sauce

peel-tomato-skinA few months ago, we were traveling and came upon a restaurant that was filled with families, but mysteriously had no kiddie menu. The prices weren’t cheap, and I wasn’t going to order the Tiny Kitchen Assistant an entire adult meal at nearly $20 a pop considering that we had no means of storing or reheating leftovers. We needed to find an entree that appealed to both of us.

Enter vodka sauce with sausage.

From the description, I had assumed that the pasta was served with regular old vodka sauce and some sort of sausage rounds. To my surprise, the sausage was ground and intermixed into the sauce giving it a hearty flavor throughout.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that The Assistant ate more than half of my entree. Needless to say, making a homemade version became a top priority. Making a version that could simmer in the slow cooker all day was a secondary priority. I scored on both counts.

I used the last of the garden tomatoes in this recipe. Instead of blanching to remove the skins, I realized that I could halve the soft tomatoes, allow them to steam in the pan, and their skins would peel right off. Genius, I am.

Vodka Sauce

Serves 4
Prep time 30 minutes
Cook time 8 hours
Total time 8 hours, 30 minutes
Allergy Milk
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Serve Hot
Region Italian
This is loosely based on a delicious vodka sauce that we had while on a weekend getaway. The addition of the sausage gave it a depth and texture that you don't normally find in vodka sauces.


  • .5lb Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 6 Garden tomatoes (or as many as you have available)
  • 1 can Tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 Onion, diced
  • .5 cup Vodka
  • .5 cup Heavy cream (you can also substitute whole milk yogurt, strangely enough)
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Italian spices of your choosing


Step 1
In a large skillet, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces. Next to that, put the halved tomatoes face down. They will steam inside their skins; you will be able to peel the skins off easily with tongs. Smash the tomatoes into the sausage. Transfer to slow cooker.
Step 2
Saute the onions in the remaining fat from the sausage. You don't need to fully cook them, just allow them to absorb the flavors from the pan. Transfer to slow cooker.
Step 3
Add vodka to the pan and boil until reduced by half. In a wide skillet, this should only take 3-4 minutes. Add to slow cooker.
Step 4
Add the large can of crushed tomatoes to the mixture in the slow cooker. Mix together to combine. Cook on low for 8-10 hours.
Step 5
Approximately 15 minutes before serving, add cream or yogurt. Check for flavor. Add salt, pepper and spices as necessary. Note: I usually season earlier in the process, but since the sausage is loaded with spices to begin with, I've found that it needs little more than subtle correction at the end.
Step 6
Serve over pasta.


MidWeeknight-All“Mmmm. This is yummy. Put it on the blog with a big thumbs up.”

It takes about 30 minutes to do the stovetop cooking before firing up the slow cooker. This could easily be done the night before and refrigerated if (like me) you don’t have 30 minutes to cook before heading out the door in the morning.


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