Remember the roasted grape tomatoes we made last summer? Well, though winter has felt more like spring of late, this is a much more practical time to make and enjoy them–not to mention they’re about the only tomatoes of tastiness this time of year…and they get even tastier when vodka joins the party. CENT’ANNI!

Here in the Land of Steady Habits, grape tomatoes keep popping up buy one/get one free, so no time like the present! Let’s heat things up in the kitchen!

ROASTED TOMATO VODKA SAUCE WITH HOT CHICKEN SAUSAGE

For the tomatoes
2 pints grape tomatoes
3 large (or 6 small) garlic cloves
olive oil to coat the bottom of your baking dish
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground pepper

For the vodka sauce
1 pound hot chicken sausage, cooked/crumbled (I love Stew Leonard’s–try it if you’re local and like it hot!)
1/3 cup vodka
1 cup half-and-half (equal parts milk and cream)
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half the lemon
extra ½ teaspoon Kosher salt

First, get the tomatoes going!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil to coat 9 x 13″ glass baking dish. Roll the tomatoes around in the olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Gently smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife–or use a garlic press–and add to baking dish. Make sure all the tomatoes are in an even layer.

Let ‘em roast for 10 minutes, give ’em a shake, then 10 more minutes of roasting and you’re done! Here’s a Yankee housewarming tip: when you’re finished, leave the oven door open and enjoy the extra warmth. Ma, this one’s for you for all the times you have reminded me to do this–now EVERYBODY knows! HA HA!

While the tomatoes are roasting…
Now’s a good time to get a BIG pasta pot boiling so you can make a pound of penne. Or rigatoni. Penne rigate is my pasta of choice.

Coat a large saute pan with olive oil and cook the sausage—squeeze it from the casings and break into small pieces. Once you’ve completely cooked and crumbled the sausage, drain the excess oil and leave the sausage in the pan.

Once the tomatoes are done…
Use a potato masher to give the tomatoes a squeeze right in the baking dish. Be careful–they’re hot little devils and have a tendency to squirt where you don’t want them to go. Add 1/3 cup vodka. You’ll hear it sizzle. Sizzling is good! Squeeze half the lemon.

Now back to the pan with the sausage in it. Keep the pan on a low heat, just to simmer. Add the tomatoes, garlic and all the liquid from the baking dish to the sausage. Add the half-and-half. As it all simmers, the sauce will thicken just a bit. You’ll see. Don’t forget to add the lemon zest.

Magically–or at least when I’ve made it–by the time the penne were ready to drain, the vodka sauce was ready. Toss the drained pasta with the sauce. You should have no trouble getting six servings out of this recipe. I like to sprinkle Pecorino Romano over mine. Hope you LOVE!

Update: went to sleep in spring and woke up in winter. Take a look!

The Queen is bird-watching from the safety of her snow shelter!

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