Monday, February 13, 2017

Penne Alla Vodka

It's anybody's guess whether this dish is really Italian or not. Some claim the dish was invented at Dante's, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy. Luigi Franzese, a chef at New York's Orsini restaurant in the 1970s is also sometimes credited. But other sources relate that a certain James Doty, a graduate of Colombia University, was the originator.

While its origins are murky, the flavor is not.

I've never seen it on a menu in Italy, but it's certainly ubiquitous here in the states and for good reason -- it tastes delicious.

It's also perfect for the home cook owing to its ease of preparation. The whole dish comes together in less than 30 minutes.

It's also perfect for those of you thinking of meatless dishes to prepare for Lent.

So what are you waiting for?

Pour yourself a Bloody Mary, but set aside a little of that vodka for Penne Alla Vodka.

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Penne Alla Vodka

printable recipe here

1 lb. penne pasta

2 T. olive oil

1/2 cup minced onion

3 cloves garlic

4 cups tomato sauce (1 lb. 13 oz. can)

1/2 cup vodka

salt, pepper

red pepper flakes

1/4 cup cream

fresh basil, minced

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for the table.

Sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil until wilted. Add the tomato sauce, vodka, salt, pepper and a little of the basil, saving some whole leaves to decorate with at the end.

Cook the sauce over high heat until it starts to "sputter," then lower immediately to a simmer for about 15 minutes to a half hour, stirring occasionally.

Bring the water for the pasta to a boil, adding salt. Dump the pasta into the boiling water and cook according to package instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, stir the cream into the sauce at low heat. When the pasta is al dente, drain it from the water and add it to the pot with the sauce. (I like to take out a little sauce from the pot in case it is too much sauce for the pasta. I don't like my pasta to be "swimming" in sauce - just dressed lightly. You can always add it back in if it's not enough).

Stir the pasta into the sauce while you have it over a simmer, until the sauce is permeated through the pasta. Turn off the heat and add 1/4 cup parmesan cheese.

Serve with more grated cheese at the table.

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