Italian drunken noodles are my Italian fusion take on one of my favorite Thai-style dishes. Brimming with noodles drenched in a flavorful, wine-infused sauce, bits of spicy Italian sausage, plus sweet bell peppers, onions and basil, this Italian take on drunken noodles is not only scrumptious, but quick and easy to prepare as well!
An Italian twist to a favorite Thai dish
If you've ever had the pleasure of trying Thai drunken noodles (or pad kee mao), you know what an amazingly vibrant, rich and flavorful dish it is.
With ribbons of broad rice noodles drenched in a sweet and savory sauce, charred red and yellow bell peppers and onions, a choice of spicy meat, tofu, or shrimp, and a light flourish of freshly julienned Thai basil, this dish always hits the spot when it comes to all those big flavors I crave in Thai cuisine.
I must admit, whenever I would enjoy this dish, it always made me wonder what an Italian version of it would taste like...
So in the spirit of play, I created this Italian drunken noodles recipe in which I swapped out some of the more Thai-style ingredients for Italian ones—my oh my, were the results delicious!
How to Make Drunken Noodles with an Italian Twist
In keeping with those basic components of noodle, meat, veggie, sauce and herb, it's easy to see how Thai-style drunken noodles can easily be “morphed” into a brand new, Italian-style dish with a distinctly different flavor profile, while still maintaining the spirit of the original.
This is what I love and appreciate about fusion food!
What I did with this Italian drunken noodles recipe was to substitute wide and tender pappardelle noodles in place of the broad rice noodles, and then switched out some spicy and rich Italian sausage for the tofu, shrimp or chicken typically served in the Thai version.
For the sauce element, I used a tomato base kissed with a hint of wine in order to make the dish a bit “drunken”, and then kept the classic vegetable medley of multi-colored bell peppers and onions, plus that flourish of fresh basil to tie all the flavors together.
Here's a glance at my Italian drunken noodles recipe: (or just jump to the full recipe below...)
- To get things started, I cook my pappardelle noodles according to package instructions, and keep them warm while I prepare the sauce.
- For the sauce, I place a large, heavy-bottom pan over high heat, and add a drizzle of olive oil; once hot, I crumble in the spicy sausage and brown it until cooked through, then remove it from the pan.
- Next, I caramelize my onions in the pan drippings, then add in my seasoning, followed by my bell peppers, and saute until golden; then, I add in my garlic and wine, reducing that just a bit.
- Finally, I add the diced tomatoes, with their juices, into the pan, along with the browned sausage, and allow the mixture to simmer for a couple of minutes; and then, I finish the sauce with a touch more olive oil and some fresh herbs before adding in my warm pappardelle noodles, and tossing everything to combine.
Italian Drunken Noodles
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves 4
Nutrition Info: 610 calories
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
- 8 ounces pappardelle noodles, uncooked
- Olive oil
- 4 spicy Italian sausage links, casings removed
- 1 large onion, quartered and sliced thinly
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 orange bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
- ½ cup white white (I used Chardonnay)
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
- 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, julienned, divided use
- Prepare the pappardelle noodles according to instructions on package; then, drain the noodles very well, and keep them warm while you prepare the sauce.
- Place a large, heavy-bottom pan or braising pot over medium-high heat, and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil; once the oil is hot, crumble the spicy Italian sausage into the pan in small chunks (you want to keep the sausage fairly chunky), allowing it to brown in the oil for a few moments on each side; once the crumbled sausage is browned, remove it from the pan/pot with a slotted spoon and place into a small bowl to hold for a moment.
- Next, add the sliced onion into the pan with the sausage drippings, and allow it to caramelize and become golden for roughly 5 minutes or so, stirring to keep it from burning (add a touch more olive oil, if necessary); once the onion starts to become golden, add the salt, Italian seasoning and cracked black pepper, and stir to combine.
- Add in the sliced bell peppers, and allow those to saute with the onion for about 2 minutes until slightly tender and golden; next, add in the garlic, and once it becomes aromatic, add in the white wine and allow it to reduce for a few moments, until almost completely reduced.
- Next, add in the diced tomatoes with their juice, and return the browned spicy Italian sausage back into the pan, and gently fold the mixture to combine; allow it to gently simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes to blend the flavors, then turn the heat off.
- To finish the sauce, drizzle in about 2-3 good tablespoons of the olive oil to create a silky, rich flavor, and stir in the chopped parsley and about half of the julienned basil.
- Add the cooked pappardelle noodles directly into the sauce, and using tongs, gently toss and combine the noodles with the sauce and all of the ingredients in it; check the seasoning to see if you need to add any additional salt or pepper.
- To serve, add equal portions of the Italian drunken noodles to bowls, and garnish with a sprinkle of the remaining julienned basil (you can even top with shaved parmesan, if desired, and an extra drizzle of olive oil).
Tips & Tidbits for my Italian Drunken Noodles:
- The larger the pan, the better: Use a large, heavy bottom pan (cast iron or a Dutch oven) for this dish, as it retains heat well and will give a little extra color and flavor to your peppers and onions; plus, it provides room to add the noodles directly into the sauce at the end, and toss 'em around.
- Pappardelle are best, but don't sweat it: Pappardelle noodles are the broad or wide egg noodles that look a bit like “ribbons”, and you should be able to find them in the pasta section in most markets—they really are best for this recipe; but if you can't find them, feel free to substitute whatever type of pasta noodle you like. The flavor will still be amazing.
- Go white or go red: White wine is what's called for in this recipe, but red wine would also be a delicious choice; use whatever you'd actually like to drink with this dish.
- Looking to leave out the alcohol? No problem: If you'd prefer to leave alcohol out, then simply substitute chicken stock for the wine, and add a little squeeze of lemon at the end for that “brightness” as well.
- Go Veg: For a meatless version, omit the spicy sausage altogether, and enjoy just the veggies, noodles and sauce; but you can always use a vegetarian “crumble” in this dish as well, or even use cubed tofu to keep in line with the Thai inspiration.
- Prep ahead: You can make the sauce element of this recipe ahead of time, such as the day before you'd like to serve it, which will actually give the sauce more time to sit and gain deeper flavor; just prepare the noodles the day of, toss with the warmed up sauce, you're set to go.
Cook's Note: This recipe was originally published in 2013, and has been updated with even more love!