Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vodka Sauce with Penne

I've been taking a little break from writing to enjoy Spring Break and a visit from one of my besties, Sarah. She flew in from New York and was itchin' to experience some suburban activities that she's missed since living in the big city (grocery shopping without taking the subway, cooking in a fully stocked kitchen, etc). I was, of course, more than happy to oblige! We spent our days together shopping, cooking, eating, and reminiscing about our shenanigan-filled friendship.

We sought inspiration from Giada's Everyday Italian cookbook, which I hadn't used in ages. But what a great collection of recipes! We ended up making two delicious dishes and shared a little feast.

The main dish that stole our hearts (and later, stomachs) was the Vodka Sauce with Penne. We started by making our own marinara sauce which was really easy, just required a bit of chopping. Once that was underway, we got the Vodka Sauce simmering (both recipes follow). It was well rounded and had just the right mix of sharp, acidic sweetness (from the vodka and tomatoes) and luscious depth (from the cream and parmesan). And to sassify it a bit, we added some roasted shrimp and sliced cremini mushrooms.

We almost had as much fun making it as we did eating it...almost. It tasted pretty amazing.

Stay tuned for some other scrumptious selections from our Spring Break Menu!

Happy Searching,

Marinara Sauce
from Giada De Laurentis's Everyday Italian 
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 [32 oz] cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thicken, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste. [The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.]

Makes about 2 quarts/8 cups.

Vodka Sauce
from Giada De Laurentis's Everyday Italian 
3 c. Marinara Sauce
1 c. vodka
1/2 c. heavy cream, at room temperature
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

In a large heavy skillet, simmer the marinara sauce and vodka over low heat, stirring until the mixture reduces by one fourth, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and continue to simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, 1/2 tsp of salt, and 1/4 tsp of pepper. Season the sauce with more salt & pepper to taste.

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