If I had to guess who I was in my past life, I’d have to say an Italian =P Italians can take a few simple ingredients like tomatoes, garlic, shallots, olive oil, a bit of cream and a splash of vodka and make something so comforting, so heart-warming and incredibly soul-satisfying that it just brings you back home, no matter where you are or who you’re with at the time. It’s no wonder that Rachel Ray called her version of penne alla vodka, You Won’t be Single for Long Vodka Cream Pasta =P
Our version of penne alla vodka is a bit simpler, but sometimes the simplest solution just so happens to be the best I first made this dish for Anthony on Valentine’s Day (our very first one together) and needless to say, we weren’t single for long =P I guess it’s true what they say… “The key to a man’s heart is through his stomach” =D
|PREP TIME||5 Min|
|COOK TIME||25 Min|
|READY IN||30 Min|
|2||tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (See the Guide)|
|2||garlic cloves, minced|
|1/4||teaspoon piment d’Espelette or crushed red pepper flakes, optional (See the Guide)|
|1||28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes (See the Guide)|
|1/3||cup heavy cream|
|1/2||cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for serving|
|1/4||cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves|
|salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste|
|Large cutting board|
|Heavy-bottomed French or Dutch oven (See the Guide)|
|Chef’s knife (See the Guide)|
|Colander or pasta strainer|
|Slotted wooden spoon or non-metal spatula|
|Microplane or box grater|
- In a large heavy-bottomed French or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and shallots and gently saute for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly until fragrant and translucent. Lower the heat if the garlic starts to brown. Add the piment d’Espelette or red pepper flakes, if using.
- Pour in the vodka and let reduce by half, another 3-5 minutes.
- Add in the tomatoes and a sprinkling of salt. Bring to a boil and let simmer, uncovered, stirring often to break up the tomatoes, until sauce is thick, about 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a large stockpot of water to a boil over high heat. Once the water boils, salt the water and cook penne until just under al dente, about 9 minutes and then drain in a colander.
- While the pasta cooks, stir cream into the thickened tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Season again with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add the drained pasta to the tomato sauce and stir to coat the pasta with the sauce. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the pasta; continue to stir and reduce if needed.
- Turn off the heat and sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano over the pasta and toss to coat evenly.
- Just before serving, thinly slice or tear up the basil leaves.* Divide pasta among 4 serving platters. Garnish with a sprinkling of Parmigiano-Reggiano and basil.
- Since basil tends to bruise easily, wait until the last minute to prepare the basil garnish. You can stack up the basil leaves, roll them tightly like a cigar, and use a sharp knife to chiffonade or cut the basil into fine ribbons. Note that a steel knife will oxidize the basil quite rapidly and turn the cut edges of the basil black. Simply tearing the basil leaves by hand will slow down the oxidation process and will provide your dish with a more rustic look.