Today we learn how to make penne vodka aka penne alla vodka, aka penne with vodka sauce. Penne alla vodka is one of the most delicious pasta even and it reminds me of childhood. I set out to recreate that ideal version of penne vodka that I remember as a child.
1 LB Penne
1/4 LB Prosciutto (optional)
3 Gloves Garlic, Sliced Thin
3/4 Cup Cream
3-4 Tablespoons, Vodka
1 Can Whole Peeled Tomatoes
1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 Stem of Basil
1/4 Cup Parsley, finely diced for garnish
1/2 Cup Parm for garnish
2-3 Tablespoons, Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons, Unsalted Butter
Salt & Pepper
To start, prepare the garlic, tomatoes, and prosciutto. Slice up the garlic thin. Then slice the prosciutto into little strips. If you want this to be meatless, then omit the prosciutto and begin the sauce just like you would with weekday sauce. Puree your tomatoes in a food mill or a blender.
Get a pot of salted water on the stove for the pasta and a wide-bottomed pan next to it to cook the sauce.
In the pan, add the prosciutto and a few tablespoons of olive oil and cook over medium-high heat and cook the prosciutto until it just begins to crisp up and then add the basil and garlic. The key is to try and time it so that you add the garlic at the perfect time to allow for it to cook and not burn and for the prosciutto to get crisp. If you don’t nail it, that’s fine, but when you start to see the garlic browning too much, it's time to deglaze and stop the cooking. (If you want to omit the prosciutto, then just use extra olive oil and start this sauce by adding garlic and basil to the oil and then adding the vodka and then the sauce.)
Turn the heat off for a minute and then add the vodka, let it sizzle and calm down. Turn the heat back on and reduce the vodka till it’s almost nothing. Now add the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes on medium heat until it reduces and becomes very thick. You can tell how thick it's getting by dragging a flat wooden spoon across the pan and look at how the sauce holds itself. Once you’ve cooked it down till most of the water is cooked out and you can see the bottom of the pan when you mix the sauce, then its time to add the cream. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook it on a simmer for a few minutes to thicken. Then cook the penne in salty water.
If you want extra sauce then I would just reduce two cans of tomatoes and use a little bit more vodka and cream. I like a lot of sauce for this pasta so I recommend making extra, but this recipe will satisfy 1 lb of pasta with just enough sauce.
Once the pasta is al dente, drain and transfer to the sauce and marry the sauce with the pasta for a couple of minutes until the sauce coats the pasta. Drop-in a 1-2 tablespoons of cold butter and a little pasta water to control the consistency of the sauce and then serve immediately with parm and fresh parsley.
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