This Spicy Sausage Pasta is a yummy twist on pasta alla vodka incorporates sweet and buttery butternut squash in the tomato cream vodka sauce that practically melts in (so it's undetectable by picky eaters) topped with crunchy, buttery, torn rustic croutons.
Why Make This Pasta
- This Spicy Sausage Pasta recipe is an easy-to-make and delicious meal that the whole family can enjoy.
- It's a simple and comforting dish that comes together quickly, in 40 minutes or less - perfect for busy weeknights.
- Butternut squash in the sauce adds a touch of sweetness to balance out the heat from the sausage, making it more palatable to picky eaters.
- The crunchy, buttery croutons on top are like an extra special treat you won't find in traditional pasta alla vodka recipes all while adding incredible flavors to every bite!
- dry penne pasta- or other short cut pasta
- ground hot Italian sausage- or you can use ground mild Italian sausage
- cloves garlic- minced
- butternut squash- diced. You can use frozen butternut squash or fresh butternut squash
- chicken stock or chicken broth- this is the base of your sauce, so choose one that you enjoy.
- vodka- any brand
- canned tomatoes- you can use diced tomatoes or peeled whole tomatoes still in their juice
- dairy- use heavy cream or half-and-half. This helps cut some of the acidity from the canned tomatoes that you're using and gives it a creamy element to the sauce.
- oregano- you can use fresh oregano or dried oregano
- bread- use leftover or stale bread that you can tear into 1-inch pieces
- olive oil
- garlic powder
- salt and black pepper
First, begin to preheat the oven and bring a pot of water to a boil while you prepare the tomato sauce.
Start frying the ground sausage in a large skillet. Halfway through the browning, add the minced garlic and diced squash.
Continue sautéing the sausage and squash until crispy.
Pour in the vodka into the hot skillet, and use a spatula to scrape up the stuck browned bits off the pan, deglazing the pan.
Let the vodka simmer for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes, stock, and oregano.
Lower heat to medium low and simmer to reduce slightly while you cook the pasta and croutons.
Boil the pasta in salted water, drain and set aside. If desired, toss with olive oil or butter to keep from sticking.
Tear bread apart into 1 inch size pieces and arrange on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, garlic powder, and salt.
Bake until browned and crunchy.
After the skillet has simmered for 10-15 minutes and reduced slightly, lower the heat to low. Add the cream and grated Parmesan cheese.
Give the cream and Parmesan a little stir, then add the pasta and toss to coat.
Serve the pasta with extra Parmesan and the crunch rustic croutons on top.
Store leftovers in an airtight container and keep them in the fridge for up to 3-4 days.
Reheat your leftovers on the stovetop slowly so you don't break the sauce. Reheat this until warmed through.
Sometimes you may find that it is helpful to add a splash of water, milk, or cream to the sauce as you are reheating this super easy pasta recipe, so the sauce is not so thick and it helps break things up as it reheats in the pan.
Can I freeze this creamy sausage pasta recipe?
While you can try to freeze these leftovers, I don't typically do so. I have found that the texture of the pasta changes when thawing and the sauce likes to break when reheating.
I try to enjoy leftovers the next day when possible so I still get all the best flavors and textures.
- Making rustic croutons is the perfect way to use up the end of bread before it goes bad.
- Other herbs and spices you may want to try are Italian seasoning, try some fresh basil, or you can add some red pepper flakes if you want a little extra heat.
- Up the creaminess factor in this recipe by adding a few small chunks of cream cheese to melt and stir in when you add the cream with the parmesan cheese.
- You can swap the penne out for another type of pasta in this great dish, but I would stick to the smaller pasta shapes. Rigatoni would work nicely in this quick dinner and the sauce would adhere to the cracks and crevices in that pasta just like it does on the penne.
- Adjust your spicy flavors by using mild sausage if you don't want it hot or adding more heat by using cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes to the creamy sauce.
- You can add in extra veggies if you wish. Some sweet bell peppers or diced red onion would pair nicely with the rest of the flavors in this creamy Italian sausage pasta recipe.
- If you are having a hard time breaking up the ground sausage, try using a wooden spoon to make the process a bit easier.
Can you use frozen butternut squash?
Sure, frozen diced butternut squash is perfect for this recipe, inexpensive, and all the hard work is done for you.
Do I have to use butternut squash?
Nope, if you want to swap it out you can. You can substitute the butternut squash with sweet potato, winter squash, pumpkin, or a variety of other starchy, sweet root vegetables. Be sure to peel and rinse.
What kind of sausage should I use?
I typically make this spicy Italian sausage pasta recipe with ground sausage. You can use hot, mild or even turkey sausage.
If those aren't what you have on hand, or you don't like spicy food, you can try sweet Italian sausage.
Can I double this recipe?
Yes, this is a great recipe to double or even triple. Just increase the quantities of the ingredients listed in the recipe card and make as you would originally.
The only other thing you need to consider is making sure you have a large enough pot to boil the pasta in and a big enough skillet for the rest of the dish.
This easy pasta dish is so delicious and hard not to eat it right out of the pan. It may just become a new favorite and warrants making extra just so you have leftovers to enjoy again later.
Can I make this without the vodka?
Yes, you can make this without the vodka. This will change the overall flavor profile of the dish, but it can be done.
If you want to try another cooking alcohol, you can try a dry white wine instead.
If you want to keep this alcohol free, you can swap the vodka out for just more chicken stock or chicken broth, whatever you choose to use. If you are worried about the alcohol in the dish, the majority of it cooks down as you are cooking the spicy sauce.
But if you prefer not to have it at all, there are other options that you can use in this sauce to bring flavor and depth.
If you love this hearty pasta meal, you need to check out these other delicious pasta meals I've created and shared along the way!
- Lemon Ricotta Pasta- another creamy recipe
- Creamy Acorn Squash Pasta- yet another creamy pasta but instead of butternut squash, try acorn squash
- Spicy Sausage Kale Pasta- great to make if you love the spicy sausage in this recipe
- Summer Squash Pasta- just what you want to make when you're wanting to use up more summer squash
- Spicy Sundried Tomato Sausage Pasta- another pasta dish with spicy sausage. What can I say, we love it!
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Spicy Sausage Squash Pasta with Vodka Sauce
- 12 ounces penne pasta, dry or other short cut pasta
- ½ pound hot Italian ground sausage or mild
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups diced butternut squash frozen or fresh; see recipe notes for substitutions
- 1 ½ cups chicken stock or broth
- 1 cup vodka any brand
- 15 oz can, diced tomatoes or peeled whole tomatoes in juice, undrained, unseasoned
- ½ cup heavy cream or half and half
- 1 tablespoon oregeno fresh or dried
- Stale or leftover bread torn into 1-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- salt and pepper to taste
- First, begin to preheat the oven and bring a pot of water to a boil while you prepare the tomato sauce.
- Start frying the ground sausage in a large skillet. Halfway through the browning, add the minced garlic and diced squash.
- Continue sautéing the sausage and squash until crispy.
- Pour in the vodka into the hot skillet, and use a spatula to scrape up the stuck browned bits off the pan, deglazing the pan.
- Let the vodka simmer for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes, stock, and oregano.
- Lower heat to medium low and simmer to reduce slightly while you cook the pasta and croutons.
- Boil the pasta in salted water, drain and set aside. If desired, toss with olive oil or butter to keep from sticking.
- Tear bread apart into 1 inch size pieces and arrange on a baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, garlic powder, and salt.
- Bake until browned and crunchy.
- After the skillet has simmered for 10-15 minutes and reduced slightly, lower the heat to low. Add the cream and grated Parmesan cheese.
- Give the cream and Parmesan a little stir, then add the pasta and toss to coat.
- Serve the pasta with extra Parmesan and the crunch rustic croutons on top.