Saturday, November 8, 2008

Vegetarian Penne alla Vodka

Oh yes, friends. The mother of all pasta dishes. I feel like I can check this off of life's to-do list. I'd been eyeing the bottle of vodka for a while, waiting for my opportunity to cook up this specialty and a small dinner party gave me the chance to create my own version. This dish is unknown here so I felt free to play with the ingredients. Argentineans often add cream to pasta as a sauce but I need a little more than that. I had trouble finding a vegetarian (not vegan) recipe so I tweaked a few to come up with the following:
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2/3 c. vodka
  • 1 c. tomato puree
  • A couple of tomatoes (canned, whole, peeled) chopped up a little
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 2 T milk (2% or less, as you prefer)
  • 1/2 t. salt + more for the pasta water
  • ground pepper or crushed pepper flakes to taste
  • a handful of basil
  • 1/2 c. cheese + extra for table (of the parmigiano-reggiano variety - reggiantio would be great and cheaper, we used sardo)
  • 400-450 g penne (1 lb)
Melt the butter and olive oil together over medium heat, add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes before adding the onion. Saute for 5 minutes (add red pepper flakes here and cook for at least 30 seconds) and add vodka (you probably want to take the pan off of the flame to avoid burning down the kitchen while you pour in the vodka), simmer on low for approximately 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. The mixture will get a little foamy and reduce by nearly half. Roughly chop and add a couple of canned, whole tomatoes and the puree, along with salt and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will look something like this:

You could stop here, cover the tomato mixture and continue when you're about 15 minutes away from serving time. Or just keep going... Add cream and milk (believe me, this is a smaller amount of cream than any recipe lists and it was just perfect. Simmer for 10 minutes while your penne cooks to al dente in salted water. Drain pasta and mix with sauce, cooking together another 5 minutes until the pasta is cooked to your taste. You may need to add a touch or water or a little puree. (You could also just fully cook the penne and then stir together with the sauce but it's really great if the flavor gets into the noodles.) Finally, mix in the cheese and serve, topped with shredded fresh basil.

Of course, this isn't figure friendly but I'm sure it's lighter than what I typically ate in restaurants AND it has all the flavor. This served 4 of us and was lunch for 2 today.

1 comment:

Julia said...

mmm penne a la vodka - i should try this! i've read that it's a good idea to save a little of the pasta cooking water and add that to the sauce for a little more flavor