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Top Rated Alla Vodka Recipes
Even if you're like me and can barely suppress an eye roll at the mention of words like "healthy grains," I guarantee that you'll like spelt — and specifically spelt pasta. It legitimately tastes like the real thing — none of that dense, chewy texture you get with other alternative grains. And while I'm not 100 percent sure I'm justified in feeling a lot less guilty about eating pasta when it's made with spelt, I definitely do, which is a real bonus.See all quinoa recipes.Click here to see Healthy Swap-Outs, One Grain at a Time.
Penne alla Vodka Recipe
Why It Works
- Using a hefty dose of tomato paste gives the sauce the deeply sweet base notes it needs, while a small can of tomatoes adds a brighter layer of flavor.
- Very gently cooking the onions and garlic in butter makes them very sweet and mild, without any harsh onion flavor remaining in the final sauce.
- Adding the vodka to the sauce when there are only a handful of minutes left of cooking time ensures the sauce is neither overly boozy nor absent of the flavor-enhancing effects of the vodka.
A staple of Italian-American red-sauce restaurants across the United States since the 1980s, vodka sauce has a history as opaque as its densely creamy orange hue. Was it a famous Italian actor who invented it? A '70s restaurant in Bologna? A Columbia University student? Or did it come from Russia? Meh, as much as I love delving into the history of famous dishes, I can live with this mystery remaining unsolved.
What's cool about vodka sauce isn't who came up with it, but rather how delicious it is. And yes, the vodka really does matter here. We know, because we've done the tests before. Several years ago, Kenji delved into the matter of whether vodka sauce really needed the vodka, and the answer was an unequivocal yes (though the sauce is delicious without it, too).
In a series of blind tastings, Kenji found that the hit of neutral booze enhanced the fruity aroma of the sauce while bringing a background heat and sharpness that balanced out the richness of the sauce.
He also zeroed in on what he found to be the ideal amount of vodka—about one quarter cup per quart of sauce, simmered for about seven minutes before serving. My testing aligned with his, and so that's what this recipe calls for (to get the timing right, the vodka is added about a minute before the pasta is combined with the sauce, and then it's all cooked together for another few minutes by the time cheese is stirred in and the pasta is finished, you'll be pretty close to the seven-minute mark).
That said, personal tastes vary, so if you want a boozier sauce, you can always add a little splash of vodka right before serving to bring the alcohol to the forefront.
What else makes this sauce great? Well, if you look at enough vodka sauce recipes out there, you'll find that some of them use a very large volume of tomato paste as the only tomato element in the sauce, while others go for canned tomatoes (sometimes with a couple tablespoons of tomato paste added for depth).
I tested both methods and liked aspects of each. A tomato paste–heavy vodka sauce has wonderful fruity depth that, to me, gives the sauce part of its signature flavor. But even a full tube of paste combined with a whole lot of cream can't quite make enough sauce for four servings, and leaves the onion flavor too dominant. Canned tomatoes, on the other hand, provide a brighter, fruitier tomato character, but none of that tomato paste depth a couple tablespoons of paste aren't enough to compensate for that.
My solution: Use both an entire tube (or can) or tomato paste, plus a small can of whole peeled tomatoes. Combined, they yield a sauce that's nuanced and layered, with richness, depth, and brightness. It's a winner.
As for the pasta? Most recipes call for penne, and it's an option here, but at Serious Eats we love this sauce even more with rigatoni.
Penne Alla Vodka
Heat the oil in a medium (11-inch) Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for just one minute. Add the vodka and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mixture is reduced by half. With clean hands, crush each tomato into the pot. Add 2 teaspoons of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and bake for 1½ hours.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the pasta and cook according the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
Pour the tomato mixture into a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree until smooth. (You can also use a blender.) Return the tomato mixture to the pot. Add the fresh oregano, cream, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper and simmer partially covered for 10 minutes. Add the pasta to the sauce and cook for 2 more minutes. Off the heat, stir in ½ cup of the Parmesan cheese and serve hot sprinkled with extra Parmesan and fresh oregano.
Copyright 2020, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved
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The World’s Greatest Penne ala Vodka
This, dear friends, is your lucky day. I am about to share a recipe for the best Vodka Sauce you’ve ever tasted. Seriously…this stuff is a. maze. ing. This recipe comes from a lovely friend, Erin, who acquired it from her uncle, whose friend, Charlie, came up with it. Follow all that? The first time I had the pleasure of this sauce was during college, when Erin whipped it up to the great delight of everyone in our sorority house. We were all hooked. Our biggest problem after that, was figuring out who was old enough to buy the vodka, so we could make it again.
This is a rich sauce not exactly what you would call diet-friendly. But, all things in moderation. It’s worth it! Just hold your breath while you pour in the quart of cream and drop in the stick of butter. It’s gonna be a long run for me tonight!
A little note about Mise En Place – The French phrase, Mise en Place, pronounced MEEZ-on-plahs, roughly translates to “everything in its place”. In the culinary field, this refers to the practice of gathering, preparing, and organizing ingredients prior to beginning the cooking process. I’ve mentioned this all before, but I say it again because I truly believe that mise en place is the #1 thing you can do to make cooking a successful, enjoyable experience. Now, my mise en place isn’t always nicely arranged on a tray. That just makes a pretty picture. But, I do prepare my mise en place almost every time I cook. Sometimes I do it just prior to cooking. Other times, I gather, measure, and prepare things whenever I have a moment over the course of the day. This way, when dinner time rolls around, I’m ready to cook! The practice of preparing your mise en place will save you many headaches and a lot of frustration. It will save you from burning the soup, while you’re searching for a spoon or from overcooking the green beans while you’re chopping the garlic. You’ll be just like those chefs on TV, skillfully whipping up delicious meals with ease.
But, enough about mise en place. Let’s get cooking!
World’s Greatest Vodka Sauce
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 3 shots vodka
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 pound prosciutto (optional, but recommended)
- 1 can whole plum tomatoes
- 2 small cans tomato paste
- 1 qt heavy cream (or you can use a combination of light and heavy cream)
- 1 small bunch of fresh basil, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 stick butter
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
- and garlic and cook in olive oil until soft.
- Add prosciutto and cook for a few minutes.
- Form mixture into a circle with a hole in the middle, pour vodka in the center of the circle and allow to cook off (about 5 minutes). **Pour vodka into a shot glass or other wide-rimmed container before pouring into the pot. Never pour alcohol directly from a bottle into a hot pan. It is flammable and there is a chance that flames could find there way into the bottle and cause it to explode.
- Rinse plum tomatoes under water and rinse out all the seeds. (Seeds make the sauce bitter.)
- Cut into quarters or eighths and add tomato pieces to mixture.
- Add cream and tomato paste, stir until combined and hot.
- Chop approximately 5 basil leaves and add to the sauce. (Save additional basil leaves for garnish.)
- Add cheese and butter and simmer over low heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. About 1-2 tsp of each should be good.
Serve over penne pasta. This dish pairs nicely with steamed asparagus or peas.
The sauce will keep for a few days in the refrigerator if you don’t put it on the pasta. (Pasta with the sauce already on it does not reheat well.)
Italian Bread with Roasted Garlic Butter
Remember that garlic we roasted last week? (Click here for a reminder.) Combine 1 head of roasted garlic with 1 stick of softened butter. Cut a loaf of Italian bread in half lengthwise. Spread the roasted garlic butter on both halves. Put the halves back together. Wrap the loaf in foil. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 20-25 minutes. Cut into slices and serve with the Penne ala Vodka.
I have occasionally added sauteed shrimp or chicken for an complete meal when not using as a side dish. Just toss 1 pound shrimp or bite-size chicken breast chunks with garlic and butter in a separate pan until cooked. Add to sauce just before serving.
You can substitute 1 teaspoon dried basil or parsley for the tablespoon of fresh basil or parsley.
Diced tomatoes can be used in place of crushed.
Since this recipe has a high yield, you can freeze the leftovers for quick meals on another day!
I Made GrossyPelosi's Pasta Alla Vodka and It's My New Favorite Way to Consume Vodka
According to Dan Pelosi, aka the food blogger behind GrossyPelosi, this pasta alla vodka is so good, "You should have an ambulance waiting outside for your first bite, because you just don't know what's going to happen." Well, technically it didn't hospitalize me when I tried it, but it was definitely as dangerously delicious as Pelosi promised it would be during his recent Good Morning America appearance.
If you've never made pasta alla vodka before and you want to go all out, this recipe is hands down the way to do it. It has both olive oil and butter, both parmesan and pecorino romano, and most importantly, a lot of vodka. While Gigi Hadid's famous Carbone-inspired recipe calls for only one optional tablespoon of vodka, Pelosi's calls for six, and it is not optional — as Pelosi stressed on his blog, "We are making VODKA sawce honey!"
Once you allow the sauce to cook down and the alcohol to evaporate, what's left behind is a robust flavor only vodka can create. It's important that you don't rush this step because the sauce won't taste the same if the alcohol doesn't evaporate all the way. But don't worry, it's easy to tell when it does. You'll be able to smell it as soon as it happens (even through the strong aroma of the garlic and tomato), and you'll be able to taste it too. In fact, you probably won't be able to stop tasting it after that first bite. If you love pasta, you can't go wrong with a "sawce" as rich and glossy as this one.
Fusilli alla Vodka
Fusilli alla Vodka is the simplest, quickest route to restaurant-worthy pasta comfort at home.
Fusilli alla Vodka is quick, easy comfort food.
1 pound fusilli
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
¾ cup tomato paste
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup vodka
½ cup cream
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ cup grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
10 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (stacked on top of each other, rolled up together like a cigarette, and then sliced thin), plus more for garnish
Boil a pot of salted water, and cook the fusilli according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, and sauté until it is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and red pepper flakes, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon. Add the vodka and stir again for about 3 minutes, until the vodka just about disappears. Lower the heat to low, then slowly stir in the cream to make a pink sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cooked pasta and the reserved pasta cooking water to the same saucepan, and stir to coat the pasta with the sauce. Stir in the parmesan, then the basil. Divide the pasta among 4 bowls and serve garnished with more parmesan and basil.
Why did they put vodka in vodka sauce?
So, we know that vodka sauce came into fashion in the ‘80s, but that doesn’t answer why they’d put vodka into tomato sauce in the first place. It turns out, it acts as an emulsifier and helps prevent bad interactions between the acidic tomato and the cream.
Even more importantly, it helps release alcohol-soluble flavor molecules, leading to a brighter and fresher tasting sauce. For this to happen it needs to be cooked into the sauce, adding it after cooking, even in small amounts, will make the sauce taste alcoholic, and that is not the goal.
By simmering the sauce with the alcohol, it allows new flavors to come out of the tomatoes and to make the dish more complex.
Penne alla vodka ingredients.
Apart from the vodka, penne alla vodka includes tomato passata, pancetta, onions, fresh or heavy cream, peperoncino (Italian red chili pepper) and grated parmigiano (optional). I added cherry tomatoes because I have a garden full of them this year. But, I also like mixing passata with cherry tomatoes. It gives the sauce more texture and makes it sweeter.
Tips for the Perfect Penne alla Vodka
- Noodles: Cook the noodles so they are just underdone, definitely al dente, so they don’t get mushy but hold up in the sauce.
- Pasta: Although this calls for Penne, you don’t have to use penne pasta. Rigatoni, cavatappi, ziti, fusilli or even fettucini all work.
- Cooking Time: Make sure to simmer the sauce once you’ve added the vodka for at least 1/2 an hour total time to make sure the alcohol cooks off, otherwise you’ll be able to taste it.
- Intensify tomato flavor: Want to amp up the tomato flavor substitute out the tomato sauce for 1/2 cup of tomato paste. YUM!
- Add ins: Make this your own unique pasta and add in Sausage, chicken, bacon, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms or olives for diversity.