You had me at vodka…I mean Penne…you had me at…oh whatever…
You had me at this whole delicious, classic, tangy, creamy pasta dish that I can’t seem to get enough of!
I not only love the name of the recipe (I mean really…. who doesn’t love a recipe that uses an adult beverage in its title), but this recipe is extremely easy and is guaranteed to satisfy all that are lucky enough to eat it!
But back to vodka, where did it come from? (Russia of course) …but we need to talk about Penne alla Vodka!
Where did Penne alla Vodka come from?
⁃ Who the heck knows…. Some say it's Italian, some say it's Italian-American, others claim it was invented by a vodka manufacturer. Some even claim that a chef needed some liquid to finish a sauce and used his flask…he accidentally discovered something amazing.
⁃ All we do know for sure is that the dish—Penne alla Vodka, tossed in a smooth, creamy sauce made with tomatoes, cream and a splash of vodka—became popular in the U.S. sometime in the late '70s and early '80s. This dish was so popular in fact that the name even tells what type of pasta to use-Penne…Cervasi of course! (one of my FAVS) For more information on pasta shapes and sauce pairing click here https://www.instagram.com/p/BpUgIUaHaGU/)
⁃ Its history may be muddled, but its flavors are crystal clear. Rich with cream, but with a sharp, bright flavor from the vodka and crushed red pepper makes this dish irresistible. It's the kind of sauce that's comforting in cold weather but makes you think of the warmer months ahead.
Why add vodka:
When used properly (by that I mean don’t drink it all before the dish is completed), alcohol improves our food. It bonds with both fat and water molecules, which allows it to carry aromas and flavor. In a marinade, alcohol helps to season the meat and carry flavor (not tenderize). It functions similarly in cooked sauces, making the food smell and taste better.
Adding vodka (like wine and such) to simmering sauces brings out the sauces flavors, in this case the tomatoes’ while the alcohol has a very soluble flavors. Since vodka is a neutral liquor, it cooks off without leaving much of its own flavor. This spicy, acidic mixture is then tempered with heavy cream to create a rich, vibrant sauce.
Why make it?
Well, it’s really, reeeealllly good and it’s also perfect for entertaining. You can whip this sauce up when friends pop over and look like a super hero chef. I usually have everything I need to make this sauce on hand.
This is super simple sauce and can be made in no time at all. It’s also great because it can be made ahead of time and frozen. The sauce will also keep in the fridge for a few days before you want to serve it. I love the subtle soft color…I make this on Valentine’s Day because it’s a sexy food and the color is pinkish blush (depending on how much cream you use;)
What else can you do with it?
Although serving it on penne is the classic preparation, as we speak (or I type) I have it drizzled on some cannelloni baking away in the oven. This sauce is great served over ravioli, cannelloni or any type of your favorite pasta!
That’s all folks…. I hope you love it as much as me!