Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Penne with Vodka Sauce

I used to be kind of turned off to the whole idea of vodka sauce (mainly because I don't like vodka). Then I tasted it and realized it doesn't taste a whole lot like vodka anyway (there's just a hint and it works).

Now if you're worried that serving this to your kids will land you on the local news for getting your toddler drunk, don't be (although that does seem to be a phenomenon of late). But in this case, most of the alcohol burns off during cooking. You'd probably have to guzzle down three or four gallons of the stuff just to get a very small buzz. It's way easier to eat a bowl with penne and have a glass of wine on the side (now if you give the wine to your toddler, you're on your own). And let me add, you deserve to be on the local news.

Yield: 4 to 5 servings

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 cup vodka
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes (San Marzano if possible)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 pound penne pasta
1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
grated parmesan cheese

1.      Preheat oven to 375º F.
2.      Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.
3.      Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
4.      Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.
5.      Puree the tomato mixture using an immersion blender until the sauce is a smooth consistency.
6.      Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup parmesan. Serve with an additional sprinkle of parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate.

slightly adapted from Joseph Realmuto, 2009

fresh oregano leaves
onion and garlic cooking
vodka added
vodka reduced
crushing the tomatoes
out of the oven
mixing in the oregano and cream
mostly mixed (nice and pink)
penne draining



Randi said...

I want to eat this right now! And it's only 9:30 in the morning.

Elizabeth (Foodie, Formerly Fat) said...

I'm a huge fan of vodka sauce and I don't like vodka either! In fact, we haven't had this in a long long time... thanks for the reminder! I'm going to have to make this soon.

Judie Cleland said...

I want this for dinner tonight also. Notice I said want because I'm not really cooking tonight; Jimmy is going to a dinner meeting. But, someone else in Lynchburg is making it---
I will make it soon. Looks yummy and can be prepared ahead. Great dish!

Anonymous said...

Very yummy! I loved putting it together and then popping it into the oven until dinner time. I do have a question - what role does the Vodka play? Actually, that might have been Wayne's question when he was not making declarative statements.
This was another one of those nights when he sounded like a broken record. "This is so good - this is really good - I really like this". Becky

Susan said...

I'm glad you all liked it so much! To answer your question about the vodka, I'm going to cut/paste this explanation from The New York Times:

The alcohol in the vodka enhances the flavor of the tomatoes. Some flavors are alcohol-soluble, meaning that they will be released only by the addition of alcohol. Vodka can help bring out these flavors without contributing another flavor, as wine or brandy would.

So a tomato sauce made with a touch of vodka can be slightly more intense than one made without. This is a particular boon if you are using less than perfectly ripe, late-summer tomatoes, which may need that flavor boost.

Interesting, right?

Anonymous said...

Thanks - that is very interesting. I love having a cooking expert (even one that uses frozen pie crust) in the family. A note on pie crusts - I love the Pillsbury ones that come rolled in a box. Mother used to make pie crusts with no effort, no recipe, etc. I did not develop that talent.

Judie Cleland said...

Susan, I made this for dinner tonight (may 22). Priscilla Offen is here for a short visit. Dinner was delicious! Had a nice salad and homemade rolls with the penne pasta. So good. I have to admit, I made a slight mess of crushing the tomatoes over the pan and also with the blender. Well worth it!

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