Saturday, August 6, 2011

Vodka Sauce

I'm hopeful that fall is on the way, my favorite season. The only evidence of this that I can see is in the garden. The huge zucchini plant is gone, the cabbages are gone and the only thing left are the tomatoes. But like the intense hot weather, they don't seem to be going anywhere. Everyday there are more and I like it, but I also worry about what I can make that will use them up. The crop is dwindling and I am still looking for new ways to use the ones I have. I should can the tomatoes and I know this, but I lack the motivation. Instead I'll settle for making pasta sauce.

Last night the pasta sauce went to a whole new level. It was after work and I had just finished this new work out DVD, Brazilian hip hop dance (for which I have no natural talent, so thankfully no one was home) and I was thinking about making pasta for dinner. I kind of wanted alfredo but then I also wanted to use some of the tomatoes and then I remembered that dish that Witt likes to order with vodka sauce.

Vodka sauce is interesting to me, because it's really so simple but at the same time, kind of sexy. It's a dish you could make for date night or dinner party night but easy enough to throw together on a weeknight. The tomato adds a nice acidic kick to the rich cream and nutty parmesan and the vodka adds just the smallest hint of spice and bitterness. And it's easy, even if you make your own sauce.

I am not a big fan of low-fat cooking. I already have sugar, white flour and most starches out of my diet and if I'm going to eat in moderation, I think authentic is better- real cream and butter and cheeses. I mention this to say that you could lighten up this dish if you wanted to, by using part milk or half and half and substitute the butter for olive oil. But it's pretty lovely the way it is.

I made a very simple tomato sauce with just basil and garlic and I used Roma tomatoes because I think they give off a thicker paste. Here's the recipe.

 Simple Tomato Sauce (makes about 2 cups)

15-20 medium sized Roma tomatoes
3 gloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat side of the knife
1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

First, boil the tomatoes for about a minute or two and then quickly submerge them in ice water. This will make them pop out of their skin easily. In a food processor, puree the peeled tomatoes just until creamy. In a sauce pan, add the garlic and a splash of olive oil and quickly saute on medium heat for a few seconds. Add the tomatoes and the basil and stir. Season with salt and pepper. Place a lid on the sauce and let it simmer for at least fifteen minutes. Strain the sauce to leave the basil leaves behind and reserve the liquid.

Gypsy Slow Down

Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce (serves 4)

1 box whole wheat penne pasta, cooked according to directions on box
2 cups simple tomato sauce
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus some for garnish
4 small leeks, washed and green parts removed, white parts reserved and diced
3 tablespoons butter
1/8 cup vodka or two generous splashes
1/8 teaspoon red pepper
Salt and black pepper

In saucepan, saute leeks and butter until soft. Add the tomato sauce and cream and let simmer for about 5 minutes to thicken. Stir in the parmesan and red pepper and add the vodka. Season with salt and pepper and serve over the pasta, garnishing with parmesan.

Gypsy Slow Down

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