Pennette alla Vodka
Note: This post was inadvertently posted earlier than I had planned. The”Crostata” recipe, which was scheduled for Wednesday, will be delayed until next week. Thanks for your understanding.
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I really cannot recall just when I started making this dish. I do know it was around the time I moved here, to my current home, about 13 or 14 years ago. Being that I was tending bar at the time, in retrospect, finding another means of consuming alcohol of any kind doesn’t seem like the best of ideas. Still, regardless of when or why I started making this tomato sauce, it remains a favorite of mine, both for its simplicity and great taste.
Basically, this is nothing more than a tomato sauce laced with cream and vodka. It really is that simple. Over the years, what began as a meatless dish has evolved and I now make it using prosciutto, although I have been known to serve it using ham, pancetta or even shrimp. You can pretty much use whatever protein you want and about the only thing you cannot skip is the vodka. Do that and all you’ve got is a marinara sauce with some cream added to it — not that there’s anything wrong with that. As for the brand of vodka to use, I opt for a higher quality brand, often “tasting” it first, in my kitchen, just to make sure that I’ve chosen wisely. Higher quality, however, doesn’t mean top shelf and I certainly will not be cooking with the highest quality vodka available. My basic rule of thumb is that if it’s good enough for my martini, it’s good enough for my pasta.
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Penne with Vodka-Cream Sauce Recipe
- olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1/4 – 1/3 lb. chopped prosciutto, cooked ham, or pancetta (optional for vegetarians)
- 1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, (optional)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2/3 cup vodka
- 1 large (28 oz.) can tomatoes, diced or crushed
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 lb penne pasta
- reserved pasta water
- grated pecorino romano cheese
- Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over med-low heat.
- Add pork product and slowly render the fat. Do not cook until crisp.
- Increase heat to med-high. Add butter, then onion, and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. If needed, add some olive oil.
- Season with salt & pepper, add the garlic, and continue sautéing for another minute
- Remove pan from heat, add vodka, stir to combine, return to heat. Have a pan lid nearby to smother the flame should the vodka ignite. Allow to reduce for about 3 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, cream, parsley, season with salt and pepper, stir thoroughly, bring to a boil, and reduce to a low simmer.
- After sauce has simmered for 20 minutes, begin heating a large pot of salted water in which to cook the penne. Cook the pasta per package directions, cooking until about 2 minutes before al dente.
- Reserve a cup of the pasta water, strain the penne, and add the pasta to the tomato sauce.
- Continue cooking the combined pasta and sauce until the pasta is done to your liking. Add some of the reserved pasta water to the pan if the pasta becomes dry during this last step of the cooking process.
- Just before serving, add the basil, mix well, and garnish the serving platter with grated pecorino romano cheese.
- Serve immediately.
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One needn’t use meat to make this dish and a pound of large shrimp, cut in half, is a worthy substitute. If you do use shrimp, however, add them to the sauce just before you add the pasta. The shrimp only need a couple of minutes to cook, during which the pasta should finish cooking. Remember: no cheese!
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Coming soon to a monitor near you … Just not as soon as you thought it would
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