Penne alla vodka

March 9, 2013, 3:11 pm alexandra meyer Yahoo7

A simple but irresistibly delicious dish that also gives you a chance to have a few cocktails in the kitchen!

Penne alla vodka

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Delicious and creamy penne alla vodka.

Sadly, it is no longer summer. Fresh, light seafood dishes are fading away; crisp, healthy salads are no longer a mealtime staple.

Well, unless you like eating salads all the time. But if you’ve read this blog before you know I’m not one of those people.

While we can sit around lamenting the end of summer I have decided not to. Aside from the fact that it would be pretty boring, I decided to bring on the autumn food!! And penne alla vodka is perfect for that.

This dish was a major hit when I made it at home. For ages we traveled to this one grocery store about 35 minutes away to stock up on their delicious vodka pasta sauce. It was a creamy, rich sauce only made at that store and we drank it up.

I don’t remember why, but one day I decided to give it a go myself. The first time I made it was back at home in the States so, like any 20 year old who doesn’t want to use a fake ID at the local liquor store where the clerks actually know her parents quite well, I had to ask my mom to pop out and buy a little flask of vodka just to make this dish. Unfortunately the excuse “oh but I’m just using this for cooking” doesn’t work when you’re under the legal drinking age.

The recipe is actually quite simple and it gets easier and easier every time you cook it, well unless you’re sneaking sips of the leftover vodka in-between steps.

Then it’s a bit of a challenge.

The sauce is so creamy and elegant, it’s got that amazing acidity from the crushed tomatoes mixed with a soft rich texture from the cream and the vodka simply binds everything together perfectly.

Alcohol has the ability to bond with both fat and water molecules which means you will have more flavour and aroma in your finished dish. Especially in a dish like this where you have a reduction sauce the alcohol carries additional flavours into the sauce that you wouldn’t be able to do with broth or water.

Plus, it’s just more fun to cook with alcohol. One of my favourite recipes is one from my grandmother for spaghetti bolognaise.

The recipe calls for two bottles of red wine, a hefty amount for a simple tomato sauce.

But as you read the instructions you start to see exactly why you need so much.

The recipe goes something like:

“Place all your ingredients on the counter. Pour yourself a glass of red wine and commence drinking. Dice the onion into small pieces. Chop the basil and cloves of garlic. Top up your glass of wine. Sautee the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add the beef mince and cook until brown. Have another swig of wine…”

You can see where the recipe is headed. In my opinion this is the best and if it was socially acceptable, only, way to cook.

Simple and delicious.

Penne alla vodka
Serves 4 to 6

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup vodka
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup heavy cream
Generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil, plus additional for serving
1 pound penne pasta
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for serving

Cook pasta in well-salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water, drain pasta and set aside.
Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in frying pan, remove the casings from the sausages, break into small pieces and cook until browned on the outside and cooked through. Drain on a plate covered in paper towels and reserve for later.
While the pasta and sausages are cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking until fragrant, about a minute more. Stir in tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste and vodka. Cook until most of the alcohol has evaporated, at least 5 minutes. Stir in cream, red pepper flakes and salt. Bring to a simmer, and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook sauce until thickened, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Stir in basil and cheese.
Add pasta and sausage to skillet and toss to coat, adding pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. Serve topped with additional basil and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

It also works with rigatoni!

Last week's post: Mardi Gras rainbow cupcakes

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