Saturday, November 8, 2008

Recipe: Penne a'la Vodka

At my house we go through about three to four bottles of vodka a year, none of which is ever used for drinks. All of it is dedicated for use in this sauce. We even keep a sizeable plot of parsley growing, again, almost exclusively for preparing this sauce and chimichurri. Now, if I can just find room for a cow, I'll have my own source of cream.

In life, few things are certain, in fact the certainties stand out and one of mine is this: If I ask my wife Michelle what she wants for dinner she's going to ask for penne a'la vodka. She always does. She'll eat it for two days in a row with some as leftovers for lunch. She loves the stuff. Here, I'll do an experiment right now and ask her... (asks wife what she wants for dinner...wife answers "risotto!"). Alright, so fewer things are certain than I thought. One of the beauties of this sauce is that it is quick to make. In fact if your ingredients are prepared, you can put your pasta water on to boil and this sauce will be ready at the same time you are straining the pasta. The other great thing about this sauce is its rich flavor and silky smooth texture.

I add crumbled Italian sausage most times I prepare this, and I encourage you to do the same. This will give you a good idea of how this sauce can enhance the flavor of the food it is coupled with. It will also couple well with boneless chicken breast (cubed). In fact, I have been toying with the idea of using this sauce to make a lobster and scallop lasagna. You can look for that one in a future book as I think the creaminess of the sauce is a sure hit with the flavor and texture of the shellfish.

Penne a'la Vodka

1 large can of ground tomatoes
1 can of tomato sauce
1 lb. of penne or ziti
4 Italian sausages (pre boiled and crumbled)
1/2 cup of vodka
1/2 cup of heavy cream
1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes (diced)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
10 cloves of garlic (lightly crushed with the back of knife)
3 Tbs of Italian parsley (chopped)
1-2 Tbs of unsalted butter
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of dried, crushed red pepper
1/8 to 1/4 cup olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Place pasta water in pan to boil. Cook pasta in normal way.

Preheat a separate pan and add olive oil. When oil begins to smoke lightly and shimmer, add garlic and saute until lightly brown.

Add both cans of tomatoes, crushed red pepper and sun-dried tomatoes, bring to boil and then cover and place on simmer for 10 minutes.

Add vodka and mix in, simmer until pasta is done.

Fish out garlic cloves from sauce, discard.

Add crumbled Italian sausage to sauce, mix in well, continue to simmer.

Strain pasta (reserve some water in a separate container), fold in butter ensuring all the pasta coated.

Check sauce, add salt and pepper to taste.

Add cream to sauce, mix in well.

Add pasta and parsley to sauce, continue simmering to desired consistency. If mixture is too thick, add reserved pasta water.

Stir in cheese, let settle for a few minutes. Serve garnished with a little more cheese and parsley.
Recipe: Penne a'la Vodka from Chop onions, Boil Water by Henry Krauzyk