The decadent, creamy sun-dried tomato sauce in this spicy fusilli will leave you begging for another bowl. Skip the restaurant--this pasta is the perfect dish for a girl's night in or date night at home.
This luxurious pasta dish was inspired by the fusilli with sausage & a spicy tomato cream at Tarantino's in Lincoln Park, Chicago.
Spicy Fusilli FAQ
Should I salt the pasta water?
In all other cases, yes--I do salt my pasta water. However, in this recipe, I chose not to because of the high salt content of the sausage and the pesto rosso.
What is the purpose of adding vodka to the spicy fusilli sauce?
The alcohol in the vodka adds depth to the flavor of the sauce by highlighting the flavors from the spices and sun-dried tomatoes in the pesto rosso. It also acts as an emulsifier, helping to keep the cream from curdling and separating when the acidic tomato sauce & pesto rosso are added. If you're interested in reading more, HomeCookWorld has a really interesting article about vodka sauce.
Why put the pasta directly from the boiling water into the sauce?
The starch from the unrinsed pasta allows the sauce to stick to the pasta better, and the small amount of water remaining on the pasta helps to thin the sauce.
What should I serve with this pasta?
To balance the fat & heat from the pasta, I'd choose a non-starchy vegetable like roasted asparagus or steamed sugar snap peas, or a crisp side salad with bitter greens. And of course, no pasta is complete without garlic bread made with pesto butter.
Spicy Fusilli Nutrient Notes
The numbers don't lie--this recipe is a heavy-hitter when it comes to fat and calories. Even as a dietitian, there's nothing I love more than indulging in a decadent pasta like this. I recommend enjoying this pasta as-is, and savor Every. Single. Bite.
Heavy cream vs. half & half: Swapping in half & half is a great way to still enjoy a creamy pasta dish while cutting some of the fat and calories--it will save you 60 calories and 7g fat per serving.
Vodka vs. wine: Vodka is used for its neutral flavor and higher alcohol percentage. However, if you don't have any on hand, feel free to swap in ¼ cup dry wine. The extra liquid will impact the thickness of the sauce, so hold off on adding the ¼ cup of pasta water unless you need to thin the sauce after adding the pasta.
Pork sausage vs. leaner meats: Not only will using a leaner protein option save you fat and calories in this dish, but it will likely also reduce the sodium in the dish. If you choose to use plain ground turkey or ground chicken, add an additional ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes. I'd recommend a happy medium, like using a sundried tomato chicken sausage; it's the best of both worlds--tons of flavor and less fat!
#1) When making the sauce, use an extra-large frying pan or a dutch oven. I personally like to use my dutch oven. The depth of the pan makes it much easier to mix the pasta into the sauce.
#2) When reheating leftover pasta in the microwave, add a splash of milk or half & half to the bowl before heating. This will allow the pasta to stay moist while heating.
#3) Use a rasp grater to grate the parmesan over the hot pasta. The small, sharp holes in this grater allow you to get those tiny, restaurant-worthy curls of parmesan in every bite!
From one of my favorite family-owned restaurants in Chicago to your kitchen, I hope you enjoy this decadent spicy fusilli as much as I do.
All my love & a little butter,
Olivia Sokolowska, MBA-RD
This decadent, creamy sundried tomato sauce combined with spicy Italian sausage and fresh, hot pasta will leave you begging for another bowl.
- 1 lb. bulk hot pork sausage
- 6-8 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- ¾ cup pesto rosso
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Freshly cracked pepper
- 1 lb. fusilli pasta
- 2 tablespoon unflavored vodka
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup pasta water
- Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Typically, we would salt the water, but in this recipe, I advise against it because of the high salt content of the sausage & the pesto rosso.
2. While the water is heating up, mince the garlic, and then proceed to cook the sausage.
Cook the sausage
3. Bring the stove to medium-high heat, and in an extra-large frying pan or dutch oven, cook the sausage. Use a meat chopper to consistently break up the sausage into small crumbles as it cooks. When the sausage is fully cooked, transfer it to a bowl & set aside.
Make the sauce
4. In the same pan that the sausage was cooked, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has fully melted, add in the minced garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
5. Add the pesto rosso, red pepper flakes, and freshly cracked pepper to the pan and stir consistently until well combined.
6. At this point, the water for the pasta should be boiling. Add the pasta to the boiling water, and set a timer to remove the pasta when it is al dente.
7. Going back to the sauce, pour in the vodka and while stirring consistently, cook until you can no longer smell the vodka in the steam coming from the sauce. It should take about 2-3 minutes. Once the alcohol has cooked off, turn off the stove and add in the heavy cream & sausage, mixing to combine.
Assemble the spicy fusilli
8. When the pasta is ready, use a spider skimmer to remove the pasta directly from the pot into the sauce. Carefully mix the pasta, adding up to ½ cup of hot pasta water to the sauce if it needs to be thinned.
9. Immediately top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh basil and enjoy hot with a side salad or non-starchy vegetable.
*Serving Size: 2 cups; Serves 5
*Add an additional ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes to give it an extra kick. Any more heat than that overwhelms the flavor of the dish.
*If you prefer a bit more tomato in your sauce, feel free to add ¼ to ½ cup tomato sauce along with the pesto rosso.
*Feel free to use either fusilli or rotini in this recipe. The pasta shape pictured claims to be "fusilli" on the package, but it photographs more like rotini. Either way, this pasta is delicious!
Serving Size2 cups
Amount Per Serving Calories 872Total Fat 51gSaturated Fat 19gSodium 1153mgCarbohydrates 80gFiber 6gSugar 7gProtein 25g
Please note that nutrition information is a computer-generated estimate and should not be interpreted as a registered dietitian's advice. Nutrition facts calculations vary based on brands, products, and serving sizes.