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Cure for the uncommonly cold

Now is the time for comfort food. I recently got a gift subscription to Bon Appetit and their main articles this month were on cheese and caramel; it’s been incredibly cold; I’ve been busy with work and new projects, like knitting my first hat. When I cook, I just want something good. Good to eat with a quilt across my lap while watching something enriching on my new favorite channel, Create. Produce is a rarity around here, except for Cuties (so cheap and juicy!) so I’ve been getting my fill of starches and dairy.

A comfort food recipe that’s always been in the back of my mind was pasta alla vodka. I remember having it at our family friend Lynn’s apartment in Chicago. I was still in my picky eater stage, but Lynn let me “help” cook the sauce and served it with her delicious garlic bread. Years later, I read a similar recipe on Smitten Kitchen, borrowed from Rachael Ray. I generally wouldn’t trust RR to help me recreate homey nostalgic dishes, but this time, SK’s endorsement convinced me. The sauce turned out richer than I remembered, almost like tomato basil soup. Heavy cream is amazing like that. The vodka adds a unique layer of flavor to the sauce that I can’t quite put my finger on. We ate it with long spaghetti, but it’s one of those sauces that would work better with a short noodle like penne or rotini.

RR named this dish “You Won’t Be Single For Long” Vodka Cream Pasta, but let’s not start any rumors. I made it for Jake and he liked it. That’s the only thing to report about that.

Pasta alla Vodka
serves 6

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
about half a yellow onion, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
Coarse salt and pepper
16 ounces pasta, such as penne
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 T chopped fresh basil
grated parmesan

Boil water in a large pot. Add pasta when boiling.

Heat a large, high-sided skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and onions. Gently saute onions for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan and reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves. Serve hot and top with parmesan. And of course, it makes excellent leftovers.

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One Response to “Cure for the uncommonly cold”

  1. February 12th, 2009 at 9:45 am

    Kate says:

    I made this once! For a dinner party. Something went terribly wrong though and it tasted weird. This was the same dinner party where I started the bruschetta on fire in the broiler just as the guests were arriving. I’m glad you had better luck with it.