Wednesday, April 3

Penne with Tomato Vodka Sauce

It seemed like forever since I'd properly entertained at our home, so I was excited to have our friends over for dinner and game night last weekend. Weekend entertaining is always less stress for me since I have time to prepare almost everything in advance and can enjoy spending time with guests outside of the kitchen. I chose to serve Ina Garten's recipe for penne in vodka sauce since it makes the whole house smell delicious and is so easy to do before company arrives. The tomatoes, onions, and vodka cook in the oven for over an hour before getting pureed into a smooth sauce and mixed with basil, cream, and Parmesan cheese. Once guests are ready to eat, it only takes a few minutes to boil the pasta and toss with the sauce before serving. It's rich and delicious and is bound to please whoever you make it for. And if you're lucky enough to have leftovers, it tastes even better the next day.

Penne with Tomato Vodka Sauce:
  • Heat 2 tbsp. olive oil in a small dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Add in 1 diced large yellow onion and 4 minced garlic cloves and cook until soft but not brown, about 7 minutes.
  • Add 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes and a large pinch of dried Italian seasoning and stir to combine.
  • Carefully* add in 1 c. vodka and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until reduced by about half.
  • Drain two 28 oz. cans of peeled whole tomatoes and use your hands to crush each tomato and add to the pot.
  • Stir the mixture and sprinkle in 2 tsp. salt and a large pinch of black pepper.
  • Place a lid on the pot and transfer to a 375F oven for 90 minutes.
  • Let tomato mixture cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.**
  • Wipe out the pot with a paper towel and pour the sauce back in and place over medium-low heat.
  • Stir in 1 c. heavy cream and 3 tbsp. sliced fresh basil and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Check sauce for seasoning and add more salt or pepper as needed.
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt, and cook 1 lb. penne pasta until al dente.
  • Drain pasta and add to the pot with the sauce.
  • Toss the pasta with 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese until pasta absorbs some of the sauce, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Divide pasta onto plates and serve with more basil and cheese.

Serves four - six
*Remove the pan from heat before adding the alcohol to avoid any fire.
**Can be done a day in advance, let cool, and then kept in the fridge. Warm the sauce before adding in the remaining ingredients.