Monday, May 16, 2011

Penne alla vodka

This is another recipe that comes from the Pioneer Woman, which is one of the absolute best food blogs around. I'm a huge fan of her work. There are so many good recipes on her site. I chose penne alla vodka, because its one of my favorite Italian dishes, but I've never made it myself. The vodka really adds a unique flavor to traditional tomato sauce. You can use whatever brand of vodka you want, but as usual, the better the ingredients the better the final product. I was really happy with how this dish turned out. To add some protein to the dish I sauteed some chicken with garlic, basil, parsley, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper.

Below are the original ingredients and directions with my notes in italics.

Ingredients:
1 pound pasta (I prefer penne, but you can use whatever you want.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 whole medium onion, chopped finely
2 cloves (to 3 cloves) garlic, chopped
¾ cups (to 1 cup) vodka
1 can (about 14 Oz.) tomato puree
1 cup heavy cream
1 pinch red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoons (to 1/2 teaspoon) salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Cook pasta according to package directions, being careful not to overcook. (The recipe lists this item first, but I would save this until you're simmering the sauce so you have nice hot pasta.)
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add olive oil and butter. When butter is melted, add in chopped onion and garlic. Stir and allow to cook for two minutes.
3. Pour in vodka. Stir and cook for three minutes.
4. Add in tomato puree and stir.
5. Reduce heat to low and stir in cream. Allow to simmer, being careful not to overheat. (My one issue with this recipe was that this step was a bit unclear. I took the directions to mean that I should simmer it for a couple of minutes. The first time I tried it was like drinking a shot of vodka with some tomato and onion mixed in. I let it simmer for about 30 minutes total and it turned out delicious.)
6. Stir in red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.
7. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of pasta water in case sauce is too thick. Add cooked pasta to the sauce, tossing to combine. Splash in a little water if it needs it. Stir in Parmesan cheese.

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