This month, my stepson is visiting us here in Belgium, and he recently decided to go vegetarian! Therefore, I am working hard to add more meatless meals to my repertoire. Obviously it will require some adjustments, but I am sort of enjoying the challenge so far. Fortunately we already have quite a few meatless dishes that we enjoy, including this pasta alla vodka.
This is a nice weeknight dinner that comes together quickly, especially if you can spare 15 minutes earlier in the day to chop and prep your ingredients. Pasta, tomato cream sauce, fresh basil, parmesan… what more needs to be said? Yum! I am already looking forward to the leftovers for lunch. 🙂 If you are in a rush, you may be tempted to skip the last step of letting the pasta rest and soak up some of the sauce, but it is so worth it if you can hold out just a couple of minutes before serving this up.
Meanwhile, my quest for meatless inspiration continues. I recently rediscovered Sonja & Alex, who have a food philosophy that I love, and I expect to be making many meals from their site in the near future. I also am waiting for my copy of America’s Test Kitchen: The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook to arrive, which I hope will be chock full of ideas. If you have any favorite meatless meals, please share!
Pasta Alla Vodka
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
16 oz. dried pasta (I used fusilli; anything with ridges to hold the sauce is good)
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. table salt
1/4 to 1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
generous handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Bring a large pot of water to boil for cooking the pasta. When the water is boiling, add the pasta and cook according to package directions until just shy of al dente.
Meanwhile, divide the tomatoes in half. Add half to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Coarsely chop the remaining tomatoes, discarding most of the seeds. Combine the puree and chopped tomatoes in a large liquid measuring cup. Add in just enough of the reserved tomato liquid so that you have about 2 cups.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and mix just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in the tomatoes and salt. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka. Return the pan to the heat and simmer briskly until the alcohol flavor is cooked off, about 8-10 minutes. Stir frequently and lower the heat if the simmering becomes too vigorous. Stir in the cream and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. (Take care not to cook the cream too long or the sauce will separate.)
When the pasta is finished cooking, drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss over medium heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1-2 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add some of the reserved pasta water to adjust the consistency. Sprinkle with basil and adjust seasoning with salt if needed. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.