One of my pre-New Year’s goals is to stop wasting so much food. Besides literally throwing money away, spoiled food wastes the efforts of the people, trucks and natural resources used to get that food to me in the first place. So in an effort to clean out my pantry, I’ve started planning meals around what I already have on hand.
Last week, as I was staring into the pantry, I discovered an about-to-expire can of San Marzano tomatoes. How nicely those would go with my about-to-expire cream! I thought. A quick search on one of my favorite food blogs, 101 Cookbooks, rendered a recipe for Penne alla Vodka, one of Mr. Gonzo’s favorite dishes at our local Italian place. Plus, it comes together quickly, which meant I could make dinner and play dinosaur cars with my Little GG.
This sauce can take as little or as long as you like. True, too, for dino cars, a game which can last hours or minutes (you never know). So in my adaptation of Heidi’s version (which she whips up in no time flat), I ended up leaving the sauce on simmer for close to an hour and it was fantastic. Just be sure to add the cream right before serving; no sense in spoiling perfectly good food with curdled cream now, is there?
Penne alla Vodka
10 garlic cloves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, plus the liquid
¼ cup vodka
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red peppers
1 cup cream
1 pound penne
A few fresh basil leaves
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- Prepare the pasta according to package directions.
- Peel the garlic cloves and lightly smash each clove using the back of your chef’s knife.
- Warm a medium skillet over medium heat; add the oil. When the oil swirls with the consistency of water, add the garlic and sauté, for three minutes or so, until lightly browned.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor or using a handheld blender, lightly pulse the tomatoes in their juice until they’re crushed but not puréed .
- Add the tomatoes to the skillet, bring to barely a boil, then reduce heat to low.
- Add the vodka, add the salt and crushed red peppers, and simmer over low for 15-20 minutes.
- Just before the pasta is done, are ready, add the cream to the tomato sauce and continue to simmer just a few minutes more, moving the heat to medium low, until the cream has warmed up. You can scoop out some or all of the garlic or you can smash it with a spoon if you’d like more than a hint of garlic.
- Serve the pasta in individual pasta bowls and add generous ladles of sauce to each bowl. Snip a few basil leaves over every dish, and pass with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Adapted from a recipe by Heidi Swanson.