My dear friend, Vicky, lives in Michigan, and every so often, I cajole her into visiting me in D.C. She’s great company and a good cook, too! One of the highlights of her last visit was this rich vodka penne. (I swear, I don’t eat pasta all the time, despite my recent posts.) Vicky sent in her recipe, which hopefully she’ll make again when she visits this February (maybe we’ll even remember to photograph the dish for you). Here are her instructions:
-1 box penne pasta – brand of your choice
-1 cup vodka + some for the cook ;-). Please use a vodka you would actually drink since the sauce concentrates the flavor of the vodka. Ergo, 5 O’Clock or Heaven Hill vodka need not apply.
-2/3 c. cream
-1 can tomato sauce
-1 c. diced tomatoes
-2 Tbs. tomato paste
-1 tsp. EACH dried oregano and basil (if you use fresh, you may need to chop up more than 1 tsp., since drying tends to concentrate the flavor)
-3 cloves garlic, chopped
-1 med. onion, chopped (about 1/2 -2/3 c.)
-1/2 c. Parmesean cheese (I actually wind up using more, but that is the general guideline)
-Salt and pepper to taste
[LAZY MAN’S WAY: Just get a jar of your favorite red pasta sauce and bypass most of the following steps.]
1. In a deep pot, saute garlic and onions in olive oil over medium heat until garlic and onion are sufficently sweated. Add aromatics (basil and oregeno)
2. Add can tomato sauce and diced tomatoes to pot. Allow to simmer until liquid is reduced by about 1″, stirring frequently. (Use the handle of wooden spoon to determine this)
3. Add vodka. Stir until liquid is incorporated. Allow sauce to reduce once more.
4. While sauce is reducing, prepare pasta according to directions.
5. After reducing once more, add cream. Sauce should turn from bright red to a color I can only describe as creamsicle. Allow to simmer another 5 minutes to warm and incorporate flavors.
6. After sauce has been flavored with salt, peper and parmesean cheese to taste, pour sauce over pasta until lightly coated.
NOTE: Most recipes would advise NOT using diced tomatoes or if you do, using an immersion blender or food processor to make sauce smooth. Personally I like my sauce with chunky tomatoes. Feel free to adjust the recipe to your personal taste.