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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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December 01, 2008

Penne Pasta With Vodka Sauce

Nick and Toni’s Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola
(from a Barefoot Contessa show)

* 1/4 cup good olive oil
* 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
* 3 cloves of garlic, diced
* 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
* 1 cup vodka
* 2 (28 ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
* Kosher salt
* Freshly ground black pepper
* 3/4 pound penne pasta
* 4 tablespoons fresh oregano
* 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream (I’ll try it with half and half) 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.

Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands. Add 2 (1/2 tsp) teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.

Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan.

Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan. Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate.

FIRST ATTEMPT NOTES:  I cut this recipe down to a quarter of the original and it was good but cutting a recipe down that much always makes me wonder what it would be like if I made the whole recipe.  This is good enough that I think next time I WILL make the whole recipe and then just freeze it in small serving containers.  The 1/4 recipe made enough to have it twice!  Also, I made this in that blasted LeCreuset saucepan with the hole in the lid.  Put tinfoil under the lid, and still had to add liquid twice (I had saved the liquid from the canned tomatoes).  So, even though it is probably mostly the pan's fault, I'm kind of wondering about that 375 degrees for 1-1/2 hours.  That's pretty hot and I will probably not go above 350 when I make it again.

I used half and half instead of heavy cream.  And I used some shallot instead of the red onion (mainly because I was making such a small amount).  Those are the only things I changed.

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