Monday, January 08, 2007

Cooks Illustrated: Perfecting Penne alla Vodka

We live in a row house in Boston, with only 6 units in our particular building. There are three floors, two condos on each floor, so essentially we only have one neighbor who lives across the hall from us, all of the other dwellers in the building live below us. In the 10 months that we have lived in our new place we have become pretty good friends with the neighbor across the hall, A, who is our age, and is a cardiologist. We've taken to just calling him "the cardiologist" and everyone knows who we are talking about. Most of the time I'm pretty happy with what I've done with my life, but then A comes home and he's the same age as me, and he saved lives everyday and well, I take people out to eat.

Oh well.

I like to cook a lot and he's a bachelor, so I leave little treats on his doorstep for him. Cookies, biscotti, etc. He sometimes works late shifts at the hospital so it's a nice surprise for him when he comes home to have something waiting on his doorstep. So it was great the morning before Christmas Eve when CB and I got up and opened the door and he had left a bottle of Belvedere vodka on the doorstep with a note saying that we were the best neighbors he could have asked for.

A few days ago I got my first issue of Cooks Illustrated (I absolutely love this publication) and there was a spread on Perfecting Penne alla Vodka I thought how serendipitous, I have a lovely new bottle of vodka with which to make this great recipe. And because A, "the cardiologist" was the reason that I had said bottle, we asked him over for dinner. This was an absolute awesome recipe and so very easy to make. Please try this at home.

The recipe is also further enhanced if you make yourself a martini with the vodka first, and then proceed with the rest of the recipe. Bottoms Up.

If possible use premium vodka, inexpensive vodka will taste harsh in this sauce (as said my ATK blind taste testers)
1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 small onion minced (about 1/4 c)
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves minced
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 C vodka (I used Belvedere)
1/2 C heavy cream (I used light)
1 lb penne pasta
2 Tbs finely chopped fresh basil
Grated parmesan for serving

Puree half of the tomatoes in food processor until smooth. Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2 inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine pureed tomatoes and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around the edges, about three minutes. Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt. Remove pan from heat and add vodka. Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes to vigorous. Stir in cream and cook umtil hot, about 1 minute.

Add pasta sauce to penne pasta that has been cooked to al dente. Stir in basil and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, top with parmesan.


wheresmymind said...

Only ONE martini?? For shame *shakes head* hehe

Anonymous said...

did you try with the rosemary infused vodka I tasted recently in NY ?(herb's)

JB said...

Hmm rosemary infused vodka sounds awesome.

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

That looks so good. It's on my list to make. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

Beka said...

Thank you for posting the recipe. I have made it twice and it was a hit both times!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this! I was hunting for the recipe and REALLY did not want to sign up for yet more spam at the ATK website. You are the best.

JB said...

You're more than welcome. Glad to help.

Dave said...

I'm a Cook's Illustrated subscriber, but I was being lazy looking for this recipe and just googled it and lo, found your blog entry. I've made it a dozen times because it's so damn good and easy to make. Is that your picture of it? Awesome shot if it is.

JB said...

dave, that is indeed my picture. thanks for comment, glad i could be of help.