Pasta with Red Pepper Sauce, Sausage, and Shrimp

September  2, 2010
1 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

Many years ago my sister married an Italian, and has spent most of her life in Italy. She recently made a dish for us of tortellini in a simple red pepper sauce, of finely minced red peppers that had been cooked until they almost dissolved, which she said was her late mother-in-law’s recipe. When I kept asking her about possible variations or additions to the recipe, she kept saying, “No, not for this,” and stressing that it is important to stick with the recipe. Well, since I’m not Italian, I took the basic recipe and changed a few things to come up with another one. It is important, though, to stick with her preparation method, and mince the sauce ingredients finely. - SallyCan —SallyCan

Test Kitchen Notes

Such a tasty pasta dish! The sauce is delicious and the red peppers add so much sweetness. You can taste summer in every bite. This would be a great dish to make if you were serving a crowd family-style, yet it's elegant enough to serve at a small, intimate dinner. I'm already looking forward to the next time I make it. - Victoria —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 1/3 c olive oil
  • 1/4 lb pancetta or bacon or country ham, finely minced
  • 1 large onion, very finely minced (about 1 1/2c)
  • 2 large red peppers, seeded, membranes removed, and very finely minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, very finely minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, very finely minced, ½ tsp reserved for shrimp
  • ½ c vodka
  • Water, as needed
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 3 T butter, softened
  • 2 T fresh oregano, minced
  • 2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 T butter
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 4 Italian or Chicken with Basil sausage links
  • 1/2 lb Pasta (spaghetti, penne, whatever you like-remember I’m not Italian)
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, optional
  1. Get your pasta started: cook in hot water as per package directions, when cooked, drain and keep warm.
  2. Prick your sausages with a fork and cook in skillet on stove or grill them. When cooked, slice.
  3. In a medium saucepan with a lid, warm olive oil and add pancetta or bacon. Cook, stirring, on medium for a minute, then add onion. Cook on medium until onion is softened, but not browned.
  4. Add red peppers and plum tomatoes. Turn heat to low and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a tablespoon or two of water if it starts to become dry.
  5. Add vodka, garlic (reserving ½ tsp for shrimp), and red pepper flakes. Turn heat to medium, cook for a minute or two, stirring.
  6. Cover, return heat to low, and cook on low for another 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally and adding small amounts of water if needed. You want it to be somewhere between soupy and dry.
  7. Remove lid, with a fork whisk in softened butter, and season with salt & pepper to taste.
  8. Don’t cook the shrimp until just before you’re ready to serve. In clean skillet heat 1T butter and 1T olive oil on med high. Add shrimp, turn heat to high and cook for a minute, add garlic, cook for another minute or two, on both sides, until just cooked.
  9. To serve, toss warm cooked pasta with sauce. Place sliced sausage and shrimp on top, and garnish with oregano. If you’re not Italian, feel free to serve with cheese.
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See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • babswool
  • AntoniaJames
  • SallyCan

5 Reviews

babswool November 14, 2016
Loved this recipe. Just the right heat and variety of flavors. Didn't have any Vodka in the house but will remember to try it with another tomato sauce sometime.
AntoniaJames September 9, 2010
Okay, here's another question. Why do you add vodka? I've heard of people adding vodka to tomato sauces, but have never tried it. (In fact, I think I even saw a jar of some sauce with vodka in a store once.) What does it do? Is there any particular kind of vodka one should use? Thank you. ;o)
SallyCan September 9, 2010 has a way of mellowing things out! It kind of softens and evens the flavors, bringing them down a bit, without adding extra acid or flavors, as a wine would do (which was used in the original tortellini recipe). Do try it in a fresh tomato sauce; it's really fascinating how vodka changes it. Flavored vodkas ~like lemon~ can add interest, but for this recipe I like a plain vodka, since there is so much else going on. It needen't be super expensive vodka, either~I'd save that for a drink :)
AntoniaJames September 9, 2010
Yaaaaay, Sally! Love the recipe, love the photo and I REALLY love the story behind this one. I can imagine the conversation you describe. Is that lovely sausage some that you made? ;o)
SallyCan September 9, 2010
Thanks! The lovely sausage was some made by my dear husband :)