Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Penne with Vodka Tomato Sauce

         A couple years back I grabbed a bottle of Newman's Own Vodka Sauce from the store shelf. Not sure what compelled me. Not so much one to down any amount of vodka on any basis, really, I don't know what would have piqued my interest. But, I'm so glad something did. This, since, has been my very favorite pasta sauce. I love a basic marinara, though it occasionally leaves me wanting. And a classic alfredo is heavenly, but often so heavy that I feel overwhelmed with cream after a few bites. This sauce, then, in my mind, is the perfect marriage of the two.
          I decided to make a homemade version a couple weeks ago. Grocery list in hand, I first be-bopped into a classy liquor store down the street (clearly sarcasm if you knew my surrounding neighborhood), probably in pigtails, and asked the lady at the counter how I might most economically purchase 4 tablespoons of vodka. She looked at me like she didn't understand, then proceeded to wordlessly reach for a tiny 2 ounce sample bottle of Smirnoff in a basket on the counter. Well, there we have it. I paid my $1.25 and skipped back out into the rain with my also tiny paper bag. I got in the car and laughed. If you know me at all, the idea of me in a liquor store is just slightly humorous. But, I digress. This sauce is made perfect by the vodka addition. Just 2 tablespoons cooked in and it's given a luscious depth of flavor. Altogether, this takes about 20 minutes-ish to heat up on the stove, so, essentially, you can prep the rest of the meal and cook your pasta while the sauce simmers. I made a marvelous loaf of bread to go with this dish, and about died dipping it in olive oil and freshly grated parmesan. Is there anything better? Oy. Have I ever mentioned I love food? Well, give this a try. You'll fall in love, I guarantee it. Buon appetito! (that's Italian, i think. i had to look it up.)

serves 3-4

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
a pinch or so crushed red pepper
salt, to taste
1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree
1 pound penne (or another pasta of choice)
2 tablespoons vodka
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. In large, unheated skillet, combine oil, garlic, red pepper, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook over low-medium heat for about 3 minutes. Do not let garlic brown. Stir in tomatoes and turn down to low heat, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add additional salt and pepper, to taste.
2. While sauce is cooking, bring 6 quarts well-salted water to boil and cook penne according to package directions, until al dente. Drain well. 
3. Add drained pasta to the sauce, stirring to coat. Add vodka and toss. Add cream and toss, again. Cover, reduce to simmer, and leave for a couple minutes to allow pasta to absorb sauce. Top with cheese and parsley. Serve immediately.

1 comment:

  1. Geez, how did I miss this? It looks, sounds, fantastic!