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Penne alla Vodka

I had been craving a good pasta dish. We hadn’t had pasta in a while, which is very unusual for us. I love pasta and could probably eat it even more than I already do 🙂 I had been wanting to try this dish for a long time, and I decided to finally go ahead and make it. We really liked this meal. It was very similar to Penne a la Betsy, which we both enjoyed not too long ago. I really like cream and tomato sauces, and this one was perfect. Sometimes sauces have too much cream and not enough tomato, or vice versa, but this sauce had a perfect balance between the two. The red pepper flakes gave the sauce the perfect amount of flavor. The only thing I would do differently is cut back on the onions just a bit because there was just a little bit too much in there. Other than that, this was a great dinner that I would definitely make again.

Penne alla Vodka (Cook’s Illustrated November 2006)

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ small onion, minced (about ¼ cup)
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
¼ to ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
Table salt
1/3 cup vodka
½ cup heavy cream
1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Puree half of tomatoes in food processor until smooth. Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2-inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine pureed and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1 2/3 cups). Add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around edges, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes too vigorous. Stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and transfer pasta back to Dutch oven. Add sauce to pasta and toss over medium heat until pasta absorbs some of sauce, 1 to 2 minutes, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick. Stir in basil and adjust seasoning with salt. Divide among pasta bowls and serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.

9 Responses

  1. I really like this recipe too. It’s actually my back-up meal for when I don’t have anything else planned, because I almost always have all the ingredients (except for the basil, which I don’t worry about). I’m generally too lazy to process the tomatoes until they’re smooth, so I just put some scissors in the can and chop them up a bit.

  2. I love Penne alla Vodka but haven’t tried the CI recipe. Thanks!

  3. That looks delicious! Great recipe!

  4. I will be bookmarking this as I love this dish and all the Cooks Illustrated recipes I’ve tried! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. Vodka/tomato/cream sauce is one of our favorites. I’ll have to dig out my CI issue and give it a try. Thanks for posting — it’s a good reminder.

  6. Yum that looks good! I’ve never made vodka penne before but it’s on my list of things to try!

  7. I’ve just linked to this recipe in our newest “Cast Iron Around the Web” entry at http://www.cookingincastiron.com

  8. mmmm it looks delicious!

  9. I just made this for dinner last night. I was WONDERFUL! So easy! Thanks for the recipe!

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