CLASSIC pasta penne alla vodka








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Where or when vodka (not necessarily a drink one associates with Italy) became a major ingredient in a pasta sauce is not real clear, but that historical data is not of the moment since a vodka sauce has become fashionable and ubiquitous on pasta menus.

Here is one we find best. It is adapted from several sources, including one from Cook's Magazine. We recommend their article in the December 2006 issue, for a very thorough (as is their wont) analysis of this vodka sauce. Worth noting is their finding that the quality of the vodka used makes a difference. Cheap vodkas, distilled but once, means a cheap-tasting pasta. Nyet.

for the sauce:

  • two tablespoons olive oil
  • two medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • one-half cup diced onion
  • good pinch of red pepper flakes
  • one 28-ounce can imported Italian plum tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • one-half cup vodka
  • one-quarter cup heavy cream
  • two tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • one tablespoon butter
  • one tablespoon vegetable oil
  • freshly grated parmesan

for the pasta:

  • one pound of penne is ideal, although fusilli would also work

Drain the tomatoes and roughly chop them. Save a half cup of juice.

Heat the oil in a saute pan large enough to eventually hold the sauce and the pasta. Add the garlic. When it first starts to sizzle, add the onion. Cook until golden, about four minutes. Add pepper flakes, a half teaspoon salt and some freshly ground pepper.

Add the tomatoes and juice and simmer slowly (do not boil) for fifteen minutes, until tomatoes break down into a sauce. Turn up the heat and add the vodka. Cook for at least six minutes or until the alcohol is burned off.

Add the cream, stir and cook for about two minutes to reduce the cream. Set aside,

Meanwhile bring 4-5 quarts of water to a raging boil. Add a tablespoon of salt. Drop in the pasta and stir. Continue cooking until al dente (or just a touch short of al dente). Reserve one cup of liquid. Drain somewhat, although the pasta should carry a little moisture.

Bring the sauce to heat again. Add the pasta to the sauce. Add the tablespoon of butter and the parsley. Stir very well. If not moist add some of the reserved liquid. Cover and steam-cook for a minute over medium heat.

Stir again. Serve, adding a tablespoon of parmesan to each dish if you wish.







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2006 classic pasta. All Rights Reserved.