Jersey's Favorite Penne alla Vodka
Vodka sauce is absolutely incredible! There’s something about the vodka that really enhances the flavors of the tomatoes. The cream gives the sauce such a pretty pink color, too. When I first shared my family’s vodka sauce recipe on social media, it exploded. People really seemed to love it just as much as we do here in Jersey. If you’ve never tried it, now is the perfect time to see what all the fuss is about.
Serves6 - 8
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (28 g) butter, divided
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons (8 g) Italian seasoning, divided
- 1 tablespoon (8 g) garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) vodka
- 1 (28-oz [794-g]) can crushed tomatoes
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream
- 1/2 cup (50 g) grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 lb (454 g) penne
First, heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon (14 g) of butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Make sure the pan is large enough to add the penne to later. Once the butter is melted, add the onion. Cook that over medium-high heat, stirring every 30 seconds or so for about 3 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Then add the minced garlic,1 tablespoon (4 g) of the Italian seasoning, garlic powder and pepper flakes, if you want the sauce to have a little kick. Turn the heat down to medium-low and sauté for about 2 minutes. This is because we want to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Also, lowering the heat will help the seasonings infuse into the butter and oil. That’s going to give your sauce a ton of flavor!
Now we’re going to add the vodka. I generally only cook with vodka that I would also drink, so make sure it’s of decent quality. Turn the heat up to medium-high and let the vodka gently boil for 2 to 3 minutes. This is going to burn out all the actual alcohol making it safe for kids to eat, too. So don’t worry, this is a family-friendly sauce despite its name.
Next, add the crushed tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and the remaining tablespoon (4 g) of the Italian seasoning. Give it a good stir and turn the heat down to low. Let the sauce simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Stir the sauce every 10 minutes or so. After that, add the heavy cream and Parmesan cheese. I always grew up using the powdered Parmesan cheese to cook with. So that’s what I always go with. If you choose to use fresh, that’s fine. But remember if you need to re-season later that fresh Parmesan tends to be a little saltier than the powdered stuff.
Simmer the sauce uncovered for another 30 minutes. This is a great time to put your salted pot of water on high heat. Drop in the penne once the water is boiling and cook until al dente. Right before you strain the pasta, add a ladle of the pasta water to your vodka sauce.
When the sauce is done, add 1 tablespoon (14 g) of butter. Give that a good stir until the butter is melted. Add the penne to the sauce and toss it all together until the pasta is evenly coated, then serve.
Reprinted with permission from Fast. Simple. Delicious. by Tara Ippolito. Page Street Publishing Co. 2022. Photo credit: Christina Branco.
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