Do you ever have those nights when things don’t go as planned? And, your intended dinner for the night falls by the way-side? It happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. While ordering a pizza is very tempting on nights like those, this pasta dish is almost as easy as picking up the phone and ordering. This was one of the first dishes I learned to make “by heart”, and I can always turn to it in a pinch.
You probably have everything you need in your pantry already. The sauce just takes a few minutes – saute the onion, add the tomatoes and vodka and allow to simmer, you add the cream and basil at the last minute. One note of caution, don’t use inexpensive vodka. I’m not saying to go out and spend $40 on Grey Goose just for this recipe, but lets not go for the $7.99 special either! The flavor of the vodka is concentrated in the sauce, so you really want to use the best possible. With a green salad, this is the perfect summer meal for those warm nights.
Penne Alla Vodka
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 small onion minced (about 1/4 c)
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 C vodka
1/2 C heavy cream
1 lb penne pasta
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh basil
Grated Parmesan for serving
Puree half of the tomatoes in food processor until smooth. Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2 inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine pureed tomatoes and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around the edges, about three minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes to vigorous. Stir in cream and cook umtil hot, about 1 minute.
Add pasta sauce to penne pasta that has been cooked to al dente. Stir in basil and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, top with parmesan.
Source: Cooks Illustrated, November/December 2006