Penne alla Vodka

This is an old standby for me. It’s easy, quick, and great reheated because there is no butter and very little cream. Most cream sauces have a butter base and that makes them oily when you try to reheat, but not this one! This is adapted from a reader recipe in Everyday Food 2003.

Your ingredients:

1 pound of penne pasta

1 tablespoon of olive oil

4-6 minced garlic cloves

a pinch of red pepper flakes

1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes with juice

3 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 teaspoon of sugar

1/3 cup of vodka

1/2 cup of heavy cream

coarse salt

freshly grated parmesan cheese

Use a fabulous garlic press to mince between 4 and 6 garlic cloves. I usually use 4 large ones but if you’re a garlicky freak, feel free to use 6. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic along with a pinch (very small amount) of crushed red pepper flakes. Don’t overdo these! They pack a lot of punch. Heat for about 30 seconds (garlic burns easily) and when it starts smelling scrumptious, add the can of whole peeled tomatoes.

To make the process easier, I usually try to cut open the tomatoes while they’re still in the can. If you’re feeling ambitious, pulse them in a food processor or blender before adding them to the pan. Otherwise, use a wooden spoon to break them open while the sauce is cooking. Chef beware: they squirt!

Add the 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, teaspoon of sugar and 1/3 cup of vodka (I like the good stuff). Season with a generous pinch of coarse salt. Simmer over low-medium heat for about 25 minutes until the sauce thickens. Stir it occasionally and continue to break up the tomatoes. That’s my cool new splatter screen that keeps the mess in the pan.

While the sauce is cooking, prepare your pasta.

See how much the sauce cooks down?? If you think the sauce is becoming too thick, you can always add 1/4 cup of water, but don’t forget that you’re adding cream at the end, and that definitely waters it down.

When the sauce is adequately thickened, pour in the 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Stir it well and then remove from heat. Don’t let the cream boil. I think that’s bad. Season with salt if necessary.

Combine the sauce and pasta and top each serving with freshly grated parmesan. Enjoy with some crusty Italian bread and white wine!

Printable Recipe

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