Thursday, July 22, 2010

Can I See Some ID?

Good evening everyone! Welcome back to Out Of The Culinary! Tonight, as we've not so subtly alluded to all week, we're cooking with vodka! One of my favorite things about cooking is how easily one can utilized alcohol in a dish to take advantages of its great flavor (and usually avoid the 'downfalls' of alcohol at the same time!)

So, when I was browsing our cookbooks for this week's recipes - I stumbled upon my recipe tonight. I was actually heading to the page across from it (a recipe I will do NEXT week) when this one caught my eye: 'Penne With Vodka Sauce' As I said, I love using alcohol's flavor in a recipe (I have a couple stored away for this fall/winter when I can make a stew using Guinness - I'm excited for that one) so this recipe was an instant pick for the coming week.

Quick disclaimer here, although most of the recipe's alcohol should (SHOULD) be cooked off by the time you are ready to eat, it may still be wise to avoid sharing this meal with the kids. Women who are nursing or pregnant - best steer clear as well. For those of us not currently holding a tike in their tummy (and over 21 years of age) let's get started on this recipe!


The Recipe: Penne With Vodka Sauce
Original Recipe Found In: The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook

What You'll Need:

1 (28 Oz.) Can Whole Tomatoes, Drained
2 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/2 Small Onion (Minced)
1 Tbs. Tomato Paste
2 Medium Garlic Cloves
1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1/3 Cup Vodka
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Lb. Penne
2 Tbs. Fresh Basil (3/4 - 1 tsp. dried)

Begin by placing a large pot of water (roughly 4 quarts) on high heat to bring to a boil. While you are waiting for this, you should begin pre-measuring and cutting your ingredients.

Next, puree half of the tomatoes in a food processor until well blended. Dice the other half until they are about 1/2 inch pieces. You can use a food processor for both processes, just monitor the diced tomatoes to make sure they don't become overly smooth.

The recipe calls for you to store the pureed and diced tomatoes in a liquid measuring cup. They claim that you should have about 1 2/3 cups of tomatoes at this time. Now, I ran into a different situation here. Our Hy-Vee didn't sell 28 Oz. canned whole tomatoes. They did sell 14 oz. cans. So, we opted for two 14 oz. cans of whole tomatoes. Now, my plan was to puree one can and simply diced the other. However, after pureeing the first can and pouring the contents into my measuring cup I came to a startling conclusion; I already had 1 2/3 cups of tomatoes. So, Instead of two forms of tomatoes, I simply used the first batch of pureed and continued on with the recipe. Obviously, this is going to vary based on what brand of tomatoes you buy among other things - just be sure to monitor the amount before continuing on in the recipe.

Next, heat your oil in a large frying pan or skillet until the oil begins to shimmer. Then, on medium heat, add your onion and tomato paste and stir until mixed together. Cook until your onions begin to brown (roughly 3 to 4 minutes). Add your garlic and red pepper flakes, making sure to stir constantly until fragrant (you will know, once you start to smell garlic, it's perfect) this should take roughly 30 seconds.

Onions and tomato paste. Smells good actually! 

Add your pureed and diced tomatoes to the pan along with a pinch of salt. Bring them to a simmer before removing the pan from heat and adding your vodka.  Now, don't be tempted to do a "One shot for the recipe, one shot for me" with the vodka here. I cannot guarantee results if you start 'taste testing' the vodka as you cook. You've been warned.


Return the pan to medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. You want to cook off the alcohol here, so a good vigorous simmer is desired. This should take about 10 minutes. By now, your pot of water is likely boiling as well. Add in your penne, making sure to stir every few minutes.

Now THAT is a vigorous simmer!

After 10 minutes have passed, your penne should be very, very close to al dente. Add your heavy cream to the tomatoes and stir well. Bring the pan back to simmer (this should take about a minute) be sure not too leave the pan on the heat for too long, however, as the heavy cream will burn. I'd recommend not leaving the pan on the heat for any longer than a minute and a half.

Drain the water from your pasta and then return the penne to the pot. Pour your sauce in with the penne as well. Stir in your basil and cover all the noodles evenly. On low heat, mix everything together well. Allow to simmer for about 2 to 4 minutes, until the penne starts to absorb some of the sauce. All that is left is to dish up and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Adding the sauce 

The Results:

I bet this isn't the first thing that comes to mind when I say "check out this steamy picture!" 

I was very happy with the results of this recipe. I typically don't like overly 'tomato-y' sauces with my pasta. Luckily, this sauce was very light and just clung to the noodles slightly. (That is courtesy of the tomato paste & pureed tomato combination).

The sauce itself held a great flavor. The vodka provided a nice 'bite' to the sauce (not in a bad way at all, simply a light flavoring of vodka - don't be scared away by the word bite) with complemented the sweet flavoring of the heavy cream and the tangy flavors of the tomatoes nicely. When served up with a little parmesan cheese, this recipe truly shined as a showcase of simple, clean - delicious flavors.

All in all, this was a great recipe. What is even better about this recipe is the fact that it was so simple to make. It took about 20 minutes to prepare and even that time was fairly straightforward and hassle free. For those of you who use "I don't have time to cook" as an excuse for not making fresh homemade meals, you've just run out of excuses. In no time at all, you can have a delicious pasta recipe on the table for the whole family. Here's hoping you give this one a try yourself!

That's all we have for you tonight. Thank you all for stopping by and sharing another week of recipes with us! As always, we're off tomorrow and Saturday. I'm brainstorming another 'quick hit' idea for a Sunday post - but that is still flexible. Watch our twitter or facebook feeds for a heads up on the next post.  Until next time,


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