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Penne alla Vodka

May 6, 2010

by Elizabeth

While I am a self-professed Food Network junkie, in all honesty there are really only a few chefs on the network that I love. I’m completely obsessed with Barefoot Contessa and Giada, and I really like Tyler Florence, Claire Robinson and newcomer Melissa d’Arabian. Some of the other shows are fine enough to have on as background noise while I’m cleaning, cooking, or being completely worthless. Rachel Ray is generally on that list as the EVOO business, overuse of Italian sausage, and the fact that she insists on carrying everysingleingredient she needs for all three recipes at once kind of stresses me out.

But a few of Rachel Ray’s recipes have really appealed to me over the years, my favorite being “You Won’t Be Single For Long Vodka Cream Pasta.” Obviously this is a slightly annoying name for what is actually just “Penne with Vodka Sauce”, but I think I can forgive her because my sweet husband used to cook this for me when we first started dating. So the title is fitting, because obviously he wasn’t single for long after he wooed me with this rich, comforting meal. And now I’m the one repeatedly making the annoyingly-named pasta, because it really is quite good.

Penne alla Vodka

serves 2, lightened up a bit from the original recipe

adapted from Rachel Ray

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup vodka
1/2 cup chicken stock
16 oz  can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups penne pasta
3/4 cup half & half (or 1/2 cup heavy cream if you’re feeling indulgent)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (alternately use 1 teaspoon dried basil)
Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, shallot, and red pepper, and saute for 3 minutes, until shallots are softened. Pour in the vodka, and scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan with your spoon. Let the vodka reduce by half, this should take about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes. Bring the sauce to a bubble, then reduce it to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, and dried basil (if not using fresh).

While the sauce simmers, cook the pasta. When the pasta has about 3 minutes left to cook, stir in the half & half. Let the sauce reduce while it simmers over low heat, but don’t let it come to a boil. (If it’s too hot the half & half will separate – gross.) Drain the pasta and dump it into the sauce. Pull the pan off the heat and stir in the fresh basil (if using). I like to let the pasta hang out in the sauce for a minute or two before serving – it will absorb some sauce and thicken up a little bit. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Lani permalink
    May 7, 2010 3:39 pm

    Hi Elizabeth! Finally got a chance to check out your blog. It’s wonderful! Penne alla Vodka? A long-time favorite of mine. Oh to be young and full of energy again (and child-free!) – maybe I would have time for all these wonderful projects too! Thanks to you and your friend for bringing such beauty to our lives. Love you!

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