Saturday, May 14, 2016

Anna Sultana’s Meatless Penne alla Vodka / Penne in Cream Sauce

A few years ago I posted the recipe for Penne alla Vodka from Artie's chapter Mia Cucina in The Sopranos Family Cookbook.
It’s become a popular post.
What’s not to love… 
pasta, tomatoes, cream, vodka.
And prosciutto.

Got an email asking if there’s a meatless version of the recipe.
Of course there is.
If you were reading any of the posts where I compared Carmela’s recipes to my Ma’s versions, you’ll remember that Ma usually had a healthier, lower cholesterol version of many of Carmela’s recipes.

And, of course, Ma had a healthier, meatless version of Penne alla Vodka.
it’s delicious, and perfect to make when you’ve invited a vegetarian, or two.


A bit of vodka trivia…
Usually the acidity of the tomatoes would make the oil in the cream separate. 
The vodka helps to make a stable emulsion, since it helps the liquid of the tomatoes and the oil in the cream remain mixed together. 
The vodka also helps develop the tomato’s flavour. 


Hints:

You can use either penne lisce (smooth) or penne rigate (ridged).
You can also use pennoni (big quills), a wider version of penne, or mostaccioli (little moustache) which also comes with either smooth or ridged sides.
The hollow centre and the ridges on penne rigate and on mostaccioli help to hold even more of the sauce.

Don’t have any kind of penne in the house?
Want a little variety?
You can use other types of pasta.
Choose something that has a bit of heft to it.
Yes to rigatoni or fettucinni, no to angel hair pasta or spaghettini.

Want more of a kick?
Use some more vodka instead of the tomato liquid to thin the sauce.


                        Penne alla Vodka

In a large pot bring to boil
4 quarts water
1 teaspoon salt

Drain, but save the liquid from
1 large can Italian tomatoes, chopped

In a dutch oven melt over medium heat
3 Tablespoons butter

Add
3 shallots, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Cook until golden.

Add
the drained tomatoes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne 
Simmer 5 minutes.

Stir in
1/3 Cup vodka
1 Cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
Stirring, cook 2 minutes, until it begins to thicken.
Remove from heat.

Add to the water boiling in the dutch oven
1 pound penne
Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.
Drain well.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss.
If the sauce is too thick add some of the liquid from the canned tomatoes.

Garnish with
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese
Serve immediately.

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