Good evening everyone! We’ve made a lot of dishes on the blog (over 300 unique recipes in 3 years) and some of them have become personal favorites. The problem is, if we ever want to return to a dish that was a success, we have to alter the recipe or find another, slightly different, form of the same dish (to avoid “double dipping” on the blog).
It’s a fun challenge, taking a recipe that you know works as originally creating and finding an adaptation to it. It really lets your curiosity and creativity reign. Tonight, we’re returning to a dish from the first year of the blog – Penne with vodka sauce. When we cooked up the America’s Test Kitchen version of this recipe, we found that the vodka enhanced tomato sauce became rich and full of flavor, with a nice "bite". So, how do you take an already great sauce and make it better?
If you said “add bacon” you’re wrong. Close. But wrong. Let’s get cooking and find out!
The Recipe: Penne with Vodka Sauce and Pancetta
Recipe Inspired by: America’s Test Kitchen & Eatingwell.com
What You’ll Need:
12 Ounces Penne
8 Ounces Thinly Sliced Pancetta
1 Small Onion, Diced
3 Cloves Garlic, Diced
½ Cup Vodka
28 Ounces Crushed Tomatoes
¼ Cup Half and Half
2 Teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce
½ Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
¼ Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare the pasta according to package instructions. Cook the penne until it has just become tender. (12 to 15 minutes on average).
Set a large (12 inch) non stick skillet over medium high heat and add the pancetta (don’t overlap the pieces). Cook until the pancetta crisps slightly, cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your pancetta. Set the cooked pieces aside until they cool slightly then chop them into small pieces with a chef’s knife.
Using the same skillet over medium high heat, add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion becomes translucent. Next, increase the heat to high and add the vodka. Allow the mixture to come to a boil. Continue to boil until about ½ of the liquid cooks off (5 minutes).
Stir in the tomatoes, half and half, Worcestershire sauce and the crushed red pepper flakes. Reduce the temperature until the mixture is at a light simmer. Allow the mixture to simmer until it thickens, roughly 10 to 15 minutes, before stirring in the pancetta.
Serve the sauce over the pasta, topped with fresh basil. Enjoy!
Both recipes contained almost the same ingredients (although quantities did vary slightly) so it should come as no surprise that this edition tasted very similar to the original recipe cooked up nearly 3 years ago. The sauce is rich, but has a nice "bite" courtesy of the vodka. If you don't like tomato heavy sauces, this is one you may be interested in trying. The sauce itself is very light and simply clings to the penne - you're not drowning the pasta with this sauce, which is a nice bonus.
The difference between this recipe and the original, however, was the pancetta and the pancetta was the star of the dish. Lightly crispy, full of flavor and still (somehow) juicy - the pancetta transformed the sauce from "nice compliment" to the pasta to "headliner" of the recipe. It's amazing how much one ingredient can transform a dish, but pancetta's inclusion to this recipe makes this an all time favorite.
That's all we have for you this evening, we're back tomorrow night with a brand new recipe. Until then,