Fettuccine with vodka cream sauce, roasted red peppers, and andouille sausage

Tomato cream sauce is a comfort food of fairly high regard in my world. It's one of the more indulgent things in life, and that's certainly part of why it's so good, but it's also that it's a comforting, nostalgic dish. I've been ordering it at a few of my favorite local (to my hometown) restaurants for years—a slightly different rendition at each place. Swirled in tomato cream sauce is my favorite way to have pasta (blame it on a go-big-or-go-home attitude when it comes to carbs and calories), and the only thing better is when it's joined by hot andouille sausage, sweet and slightly acidic roasted red peppers, big shavings of Asiago, and fresh basil.

This recipe is inspired, at least in my memory, by the Sherwood Inn, where I spent several summers working (and eating). I got to know some really great people there and I truly have the best memories of those long days and nights together (there's nothing that forms a bond like being in the trenches of "misery" together and making the absolute best of it, through humor, mostly). Good times, great oldies.

Fettuccine with vodka cream sauce, roasted red peppers, and Andouille sausage

Yields about 6 servings
6 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 andouille sausage links, sliced
1 T olive oil
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
⅓ cup vodka
1 tsp salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
½ pint heavy cream
1½ roasted red pepper, sliced thinly into inch long pieces
1 box fettuccine
Asiago cheese (you’ll grate about ¼ cup into the pasta), plus a few shavings as garnish
½ cup basil chiffonade, plus a little more for garnishing
Other tools: immersion blender, although not entirely necessary

Bring a large pot of water to a boil (for pasta). Meanwhile, in a large pan, heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced sausage and cook for a few minutes until just cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove to a paper towel lined plate. Add garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes to the pan and cook until just fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1-2 minutes, being careful not to let the garlic burn. Add in tomatoes, vodka, salt and pepper, and simmer for about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Meanwhile, once the pasta water has come to a boil, salt it heavily, and add fettuccine; cook to desired doneness and drain, reserving some pasta water). Regarding the sauce again, lower heat to medium low, and pour in heavy cream. Stir and let simmer for a few more minutes, and use an immersion blender to crush up the tomatoes a bit (this step isn’t entirely necessary, but I really like to crush up the tomatoes to make a thicker, uniform sauce, but still with some chunks of tomatoes in it). Add back into the pan the andouille sausage, along with the roasted red peppers. Transfer cooked fettuccine into pan, and stir to combine. Add a few tablespoons of pasta water to give the sauce a nice consistency. Grate Asiago cheese over the top, and sprinkle in basil. Serve right away with extra cheese and basil.