Pumpkin Vodka Sauce with Sage, Romano, Sausage and Penne

Did you know in the early stages of pregnancy some women secretly use a rubber band to expand the waist on their jeans if they get a little too tight? Well FYI, it works even if you aren’t pregnant! Happy Fall!! (haha)

I try to eat pretty healthy most of the time. Pasta is something I rarely indulge in, so when I do, it better be worthwhile. This dish will not disappoint. The pumpkin flavor is really subtle but adds a slight sweetness and earthiness. The Pecorino Romano cheese has a bite that is perfect combined with sage, tomatoes and cream, and the sausage has just the right amount of spiciness. Altogether this rich and hearty dish will truly warm your belly. Oh and yes, there really is vodka in vodka sauce but you cannot taste it.

You will need to add some of the pasta water after you cook the pasta into your sauce so I recommend cooking the sausage first and then starting the pasta itself before you make the sauce. That way when the sauce is cooking the pasta will finish cooking and you can add the pasta water at just the right time. It also helps to have everything measured and chopped and ready to add before you begin.

RECIPE TUNES (because everything is always better with music)

  Native Tongue by Switchfoot • Visions by Dirty Heads • Cry out for Me by DREAMERS


  • 10 sage leaves
  • 1 16 oz. package of Italian sausage. I prefer the ones with sage and you can use turkey, pork or whatever option meat you like best. (See picture below the recipe for a reference of what I use.)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp crushed garlic from a jar as seen in pics at the bottom or 4-6 fresh garlic cloves crushed and diced
  • 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup puréed pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup vodka (I use Stoli but whatever kind you have/prefer as long as it is not a flavored vodka will work.)
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 box penne pasta (or pasta of your preference)
  • 1/4 cup pasta water (after pasta is cooked use the water it cooked in).
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper (For adding at the end if you feel it needs any.)


  • Chopped basil for garnish
  • More Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese for garnishing


  1. First finely chop your sage leaves and set them aside. This is an herb I had never cooked with before I made this. From my research, I found out it is one you want to use sparingly because it can overpower flavors. 10 leaves worked perfectly.
  2. Now you need to cook your sausage. Coat your pan with olive oil and cook the sausage on medium to high heat. Break it up while it is cooking using a wooden spoon so it is in smaller pieces that will be added to your sauce later. Continue stirring it and breaking it up while it cooks until it all browns on the edges. (Takes about 10 minutes on med/high heat.) When it is cooked set it aside in a bowl for later.
  3. Now start your pasta. Add pasta to your water once it is boiling and set a timer. Make sure you have your colander ready to go and placed over a bowl or container to catch the water, so you can use some of it in your sauce when pasta is cooked.
  4. While pasta is cooking, using the same pan you used for the sausage (no need to clean it) add some more oil to coat it, and sautée your garlic and sage for a few minutes on high.
  5. Add your tomatoes, your pumpkin, and your vodka to the garlic and sage and turn down the heat to medium, stirring it regularly. If pasta is still cooking, turn the heat down to low and cover sauce until pasta is finished.
  6. Drain your pasta when it is done, making sure to save the water for your sauce.
  7. Add your cheese, cream and pasta water to your sauce and stir everything well. Let it cook for a couple minutes, then taste it and only add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it. (The cheese is very salty so you may or may not need any more salt.)
  8. Add in your sausage and stir it again.
  9. Add in your pasta and mix it well.
  10. Finally garnish it with chopped basil and more grated cheese if you like or simply enjoy as is. Mmmmm it is so creamy and good.




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