Rigatoni. Winter Roots Alla Vodka. Sausage.
While “Alla Vodka'' is commonly accepted as an Italian-American classic now because it is no longer commonly found on menus in Italy, it actually can trace its history back to a restaurant in Bologna, Italy in the ‘70s. On our farm in Vermont, we reimagined and fell back in love with this sauce because of winter root vegetables, such as turnips. Vodka sauce is a great place for “hidden” veggies and our version highlights the flavors of Bologna through Vermont’s winter pantry. When we can’t be in Bologna, Italy for winter, we love to transport ourselves there by cooking this dish using our fresh pasta.
Ready to serve in: 45 minutes - 1 hour Active time: 30-40 minutes Serves: 4 Adults
1 Package of Trenchers Farmhouse Fresh Rigatoni Pasta
¾ pound of sweet Italian style sausage
2 ea Nutmeg, freshly grated (or 2.5 tsp ground)
1 tbsp Black Pepper
3 large white Turnips, about 1 pound, about 2.5 cups grated
1 medium Yellow Onion, finely minced or grated, about 1 cup
3 cloves Garlic, finely minced or grated
½ cup Vodka, Tito’s is preferred
4 tbsp Butter
1 ¼ cup Cream
2-3 sprigs, Sage, finely chopped
3-4 sprigs, Parsley, finely chopped
2 sprigs, Oregano, finely chopped
Balsamic Vinegar, to taste
Salt, to taste
Prep the ingredients: Grate the turnips (no need to peel them if they are white salad style turnips, if bigger yellow turnips peel first), and finely dice or grate the onions and garlic. Set aside separately. Remove the sausage from the casing if necessary and crumble into fine pieces.
Make the Sauce: Using a cast iron or tall-sided sauté pan, add 2 tsp vegetable oil of choice and heat over medium-high. Add the finely crumbled sausage, stir occasionally and cook until golden, about 2-4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Turn the heat down to medium and add the butter. Cook, stirring occasionally until the butter turns dark golden brown, about 3 minutes.
Add the grated turnips, finely diced onions and grated garlic. Add 1 ½ tsp of kosher salt and sauté until soft, stirring occasionally. Allow this mixture to sauté over medium heat until tender and lightly golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Add 2 cups of water and cook on medium-low heat (the mixture should be at a gentle simmer) until entirely evaporated, about 25-30 minutes. The turnip, onion and garlic mixture should be soft and tender. If it is not, add another ½ cup of water and cook until the mixture is reduced until dry, about another 10 minutes.
Carefully add the vodka (we recommend turning off the heat when adding the vodka then turning it back on once all is added). Allow to cook until the alcohol has burned off, about 2-3 minutes. The best way to check is to sniff the mixture and if it burns your nose, it still has alcohol in it and you should keep cooking the sauce.
Add 1 cup of the cream, browned sausage, grated nutmeg and reduce by half. Add the final ¼ cup of cream and about 1-2 tsp of balsamic vinegar to taste.
Bring it all Together: Add cooked rigatoni or pasta of choice as well as ½ cup of pasta water. Cook together with sauce until the mixture coats the pasta and thickens slightly, about 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped herbs, taste and season with additional salt and balsamic if necessary.