Introduction: Non-Vodka Sauce Rigatoni With Bratwurst

This is one of my favorite pasta recipes for two reasons:

1. My kids will eat it (this is rare).

2. It is super easy to make and when it is done anyone who tastes it will think you are a cooking rock star.

Step 1: Assemble Your Ingredents

One of the best things about this meal is how little it takes to make it. You will be making the sauce from scratch and really, you could use any pasta. I would suggest that you use something tubular because the sauce will find its way into the pasta and make the experience that much better. I cooked this meal for 5 people with plans for leftovers. Hot or cold, this is pretty good so I planned on a little extra for tomorrow's lunch. Here's what I used:

  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream - You can use more or less depending on how wet you want your sauce to be. As you are cooking, you will think that it is too juicy but once you add the pasta, all that goodness gets soaked up into the pasta.
  • 2 Roma tomatoes - You can use whatever kind of tomato that you want as long as they are a little firm. They don't get added until the end and you want them to provide a little bit of resistance when bit on. If they just fall apart, you won't get the texture that makes this so good.
  • 1 Medium onion - Nothing special here. Just get an onion.
  • 1 Bunch of cilantro - This is totally unexpected and gives the meal a great smell and a little extra zing. Don't leave this out.
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes - Diced is best but if you have stewed on hand, those will work too.
  • 1 Pound of pasta - Any tubular pasta will work. I've had success with penne, rigatoni, and even bow-tie. I have found that the tubular pasta is best though. Macaroni is too small.
  • 5 Bratwursts or about 1 pound of sausage
  • Olive oil (not pictured) - You only need a couple of tablespoons of this.
  • Seasonings (not pictured) - You may want to add a little salt, pepper, and maybe Italian seasoning. Also, if you like a little heat, toss in a pinch or two of red pepper flakes.

Step 2: Start the Pasta

First things first. Start some water boiling. Follow the directions to cook your pasta. You don't need to do anything special here. Just cook it. Don't cook the pasta and let it sit. We will be doing two things at once here and we will use the cooking pasta as a timer.

A word about oil: For some strange reason, there seems to be this idea that if you put a bit of oil in your water it will prevent the pasta from sticking to the pot as it cooks. While this is true, it really messes up your noodles. Pasta is made for the sauce to stick to it. When you add oil to the water, that oil sticks to the pasta and prevents the sauce from really combining with the pasta. Don't do that.

Step 3: Prep the Onion and Brats

You only need about a cup or so of diced onion. Take the peel off of your onion and dice it into nice small pieces. Put it to the side.

We only want the insides of the brats so it is necessary to remove the casings. Using a sharp, pointed knife, insert the point of the knife into the end of the brat and make a slice along the curved portion extending to the other end. Peel back the casing and throw it away. Put the innards aside. Do this with all of your brats.

Step 4: Cook the Onions and Sausage

You will need a pan that is big enough to hold all of your sauce and pasta. Also, a heavy pan tends to work better than something like a stock pot. I use an enamel coated cast iron pot.

Start by heating a bit of olive oil in the bottom of your pan. You will be cooking the onions so use as much oil as you need to keep the onions from sticking to the pan. You don't want to use too much. When you cook the meat, you will have plenty of grease so take it easy on the olive oil or your sauce will end up on the slick side of things.

Put your onions in the heated oil and cook them until just before they start to turn translucent. If you overcook them, it isn't the end of the world but don't let them burn.

As your onions are nearing completion, toss in your meat. Cook the meat and onions until the meat is cooked completely through. If you want to add some seasonings, now is the time to do it. Add you pepper, salt, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes to taste.

Once the meat is done take a look at the grease in the bottom of the pan. This is flavoring goodness and you want to keep most of it but if you have too much you will need to drain some off. How much is too much? I don't know. You will have to make a judgement call here.

Step 5: Make the Sauce Saucy and Start the Noodles

Turn down the heat on your meat and onions. Add the canned tomatoes and give them a quick stir. Pour in the heavy whipping cream. Let this come to a boil then turn the heat to simmer. Cover and simmer. Stir often.

If your sauce is too thin, you can leave it uncovered as it simmers. Some of the liquid will evaporate. Take it easy here though. When you add the noodles a lot of the sauce will be soaked up and if you let too much liquid boil off your meal will be dry and boring.

Your water for the noodles should be boiling by now. Add the noodles to boiling water. Let your sauce simmer until your noodles are done.

While your noodles are cooking and your sauce is simmering, dice your tomatoes into smallish chunks. Chop up your cilantro. Put these aside.

When the noodles are done, drain the water and put the noodles aside. You could rinse the noodles to stop the cooking process but don't. Removing them from the heat will do that and you don't want cold noodles for this dish.

Step 6: Mix It All Together

Remove the sauce from the heat.

Add the tomatoes and cilantro to the sauce and give it a quick stir to distribute them throughout the sauce.

Add the pasta and mix the whole thing thoroughly. Notice how the pasta soaked up the sauce and how the smell is just about the best thing in the world. Serve it up with a side of salad and VOILA! Revel in the praise of those who partake of this great meal.

Below I have listed the ingredients with a simplified version of the recipe. Enjoy.


  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 can of Italian flavored diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound of rigatoni pasta
  • 5 bratwursts
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


  • Dice the onion
  • Dice the tomatoes
  • Chop the cilantro
  • Remove the bratwursts from the casings


  • Cook the pasta as directed
  • In a separate pan, heat the olive oil on a medium high heat. Cook the onions until just before the turn translucent.
  • Add the meat and cook until done
  • Add the un-drained can of tomatoes
  • Add the heavy whipping cream
  • Reduce the heat to simmer and allow the sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the sauce from heat and add the diced tomatoes and cilantro.
  • Stir until the cilantro and tomatoes are mixed throughout the sauce
  • Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce
  • Mix the pasta with the sauce

Step 7: The Non-Pasta Alternative

If you happen to make this for gluten free friends, instead of using pasta, you can use spaghetti squash. To do so, cook the spaghetti squash as you normally would and do not add it to the sauce. If you need help, check out this Instructable.

Serve the sauce on the side and sit back with a slightly superior air as you bask in your open-mindedness.

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