Penne a la Vodka

Keeping things simple in quarantine does not mean that the food we make has to lack flavor. This penne a la vodka has just a few ingredients, most of them pantry ingredients, and is a much more exciting dinner than regular old spaghetti. Not to mention we could all use a little extra dash of vodka these days! Our recipe is different from other vodka sauce recipes because we cook the vodka down separately before adding the tomatoes. This helps smooth out the vodka taste so that there’s just a hint of it compared to other bolder tasting variations. We love to serve this creamy pasta as it is, but also bulk it up with slices of chicken or chicken sausage for a complete meal. 

Penne a la Vodka 
Makes: 4 servings 
Prep Time: 15 minutes   Total Time: 25 minutes 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb penne pasta (we used Trader Joe’s brown rice penne) 
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 shallot, minced 
  • 1/2 cup vodka 
  • 1- 28 oz can tomato puree 
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream 
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 
  • 4 basil leaves, chiffonade 
  • salt and pepper, to taste 

Directions: 

  1. Heat a large soup pot over high heat to bring to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, about 8 minutes depending on the pasta you have chosen. When the pasta has finished cooking, remove 1/2 cup of pasta water with a measuring cup and drain the pasta in your sink. Set aside. 
  2. While the water is boiling and the pasta is cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. 
  3. Add the butter and olive oil to the pan, letting the pan get hot and until the butter starts to bubble. Add the garlic and shallots to the pan and saute for 3-4 minutes, or until the garlic becomes fragrant. 
  4. Add the vodka to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes to burn off most of the alcohol.
  5. Add the tomato puree to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook another 7 minutes.
  6. Add the heavy cream and 1/2 cup of the cheese to the tomato sauce. Stir and keep over medium heat until the cheese is melted. 
  7. Add the pasta water and pasta to the pan. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until the pasta is well coated with the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve hot with chopped basil and the remaining 1/4 cup cheese, for garnish. 

Bucatini Carbonara

During a recent trip to Minneapolis, we had dinner at Martina and ate one of the most delicious dishes: Bucatini Carbonara. Bucatini has been a long time favorite pasta and having it Carbonara style was a first for us and a huge treat. For those unfamiliar, bucatini is a long, spaghetti-shaped pasta with a hole in the middle. Picture little spaghetti straws made to soak up all that saucy goodness. After having this dish in Minneapolis we knew we had to spend time trying to recreate it. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do! While this recipe has a small ingredient list, it is important that you do everything in the correct order and in a timely fashion to get great results. For that reason, the steps might seem out of order compared to a traditional carbonara recipe.

Bucatini Carbonara   
Serving Size: 4 entrees                                                                                                 
Prep Time: 20 minutes    Total Time: 25 minutes  

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Bucatini Pasta 
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan shredded cheese (plus more for garnish, if desired) 
  • 4 oz pancetta, Guanciale, or bacon, diced 
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature 
  • 2 whole eggs, room temperature 
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste 
  • parsley, for garnish  

Directions:  

  1. Whisk the egg yolks and whole eggs in a medium mixing bowl until they are completely blended. Add the 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and whisk again to combine. It is best if this bowl stays at least room temperature while you cook the remainder of the ingredients. This will help temper the eggs (warm them slowly) so that they do not curdle when you add them to the pasta. To achieve this, we keep the bowl near the stove top to absorb indirect heat. Be sure to keep it close, but not close enough that it will cook the eggs! 
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta as directed by the package, cooking the lowest number of minutes suggested. You want the pasta to be al dente as it will continue to cook throughout the rest of the recipe preparation. 
  3. While the water is coming to a boil, heat a large pan on medium-high heat.  Add the pancetta to the pan and cook to render off the fat. You want the edges of the pancetta to be crispy but you don’t want it to shrink and be too firm. Remove the pancetta from the pan and turn off the heat from under the pan. 
  4. When the pasta has finished cooking, remove 1 1/2 cups of pasta water with a liquid measuring cup. Drain the remaining water from the pasta and put the pasta into the pancetta pan. Turn the heat back onto medium. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water. 
  5. Turn the flame off on the pasta pan. Add the egg mixture and quickly mix to absorb the sauce among the pasta evenly. Continue to toss until the sauce appears cooked through- it should be creamy. If it looks too dry, continue to add the pasta water 1/4 – 1/2 cup at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. 
  6. Add the pancetta back into the pan, give it a quick toss, and top with parsley and more Parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately.