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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Penne ala Vodka aka Vodka Riggies

Everyone likes pasta because it is so versatile, easy to prepare and reasonably priced. It works well when serving as a main dish or as a side.   

This Vodka sauce is reasonably easy to make and tastes yummy. Roasted peppers and salty prosciutto jump into a saucepan with crushed tomatoes, parsley, cream and vodka for a tasty sauce. Add Parmesan cheese to finish and serve and the cheese lover in your house will be a happy camper. Once you have the sauce to your liking you can add or take away the remaining ingredients to suit your taste.

Vodka Riggies

One 35-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) with their liquid
1 pound penne
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 slices of prosciutto, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Crushed hot red pepper, to suit your taste
1/4 cup vodka, good vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
¼ cup juice from jar of sweet peppers
1-2 roasted red peppers diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil for finishing the sauce, if you like
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing if you like

Chunks of grilled chicken breast
Cooked Shrimp
Cooked Italian Sausage
Green Olives
Black Olives

Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.

Pour the tomatoes and their liquid into the work bowl of a food processor. Using quick on/off pulses, process the tomatoes just until they are finely chopped.

Stir the penne into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 8 to 10 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Peel and whack garlic with the side of knife to split open. Add whole crushed garlic cloves to oil cook, shaking the skillet, until the garlic is lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes. Add the prosciutto and sauté just until crispy. Add the tomatoes and pepper juice to the pan. Bring to a boil, season lightly with salt and generously with crushed red pepper, and boil 2 minutes. Lower the heat, so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and pour in the vodka, simmer to reduce or thicken or until the pasta is ready. Be careful not to catch the alcohol on fire. 

Just before the pasta is done, remove the large pieces of garlic from the sauce and pour the heavy cream into the sauce. Add the 2 tablespoons butter, if using, and swirl the skillet to incorporate into the sauce. If the skillet is large enough to accommodate the sauce and pasta, fish the pasta out of the boiling water and drop it directly into the sauce in the skillet. Add diced sweet peppers. Add your choice of optional ingredients here. Toss to coat and heat through. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the parsley over the pasta.  

Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheese over the pasta, and toss to mix. Serve immediately, passing additional cheese if you like.

Notes and swaps
For a quicker version, use your favorite marinara sauce to replace the tomatoes. 

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