Penne ala Vodka

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to cut out cocktails during the week.  But because I am the master self-enabler — and also really, really good at justifying just about anything — I make exceptions when it comes to adding cocktail ingredients to food.  Case in point:  Penne ala Vodka. 

I thought we would celebrate Valentine’s week with several pink and red recipes … here’s the first.  If you’ve never had vodka sauce before, don’t be  scared.  It’s not anything like bellying up to the bar for dinner.  The sauce simmers for about half an hour and the alcohol cooks out; the vodka flavor is subtle in the end.  As a matter of fact, the only thing I would cut back on if I was serving this to kids is the red pepper flakes – a quarter teaspoon doesn’t sound like much, but after my sauce reduced for half an hour, it did end up having quite a little kick.  Just something to keep in mind!

Add a protein to this if you’re so inclined – sliced grilled or sauteed chicken, shrimp or even some cooked and crumbled Italian sausage would be awesome.  :-)  Have a great week!

Makes 3 cups; enough for 1 pound of pasta
SOURCE:, recipe by Grace Parisi

1/4 c. good olive oil (Sendik’s Olive Oil is on sale if you’re running low)
2 oz. pancetta, small dice (ask them to cut you a smallish chunk in the deli)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 t. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 c. vodka
1 T. tomato paste
1 28 oz. can whole peeled Italian tomatoes with their juices, crushed by hand
pinch of sugar
2 basil sprigs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. heavy cream

Hot cooked penne pasta (DaVinci Short Cuts are on sale)

In a large saucepan, heat the oil.  Saute the pancetta, garlic and crushed red pepper over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 5 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with vodka.  Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring for 1 minute.  Add the canned tomatoes with their juices.  Stir in the sugar and basil, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Simmer the sauce over low heat , stirring occasionally, until it thickens and is reduced to 3 cups, about 30 minutes.  Taste sauce and season again with salt and pepper if desired.  Discard the basil sprigs and the garlic.  Add heavy cream and simmer 5 minutes; toss sauce with hot pasta and serve.

Featured, Fresh, Frugal, Fabulous, News | February 7th, 2012