Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Foto: Penne a la Vodka

Penne a la vodka is an Italian dish (or Italian-American, depending on who you talk to) with a variety of reported origins. Regardless of how it began, all agree on one thing - it's made with penne pasta, heavy cream, vodka, tomatoes, onions, and sometimes bacon or other meat. My Aunt Connie has made a classic version of this dish for as long as I can remember, but thanks to my decades of lactose intolerance, it was always a bit too creamy for my personal taste. A funny thing happened recently, though...I got a craving for Connie's penne a la vodka. So Kelli and I went into the kitchen and created this version that's both gluten-free and lighter on the cream. It has a nice tomato flavor, subtle vodka notes, a little heat from red pepper flakes, and a little smoke from bacon. The combination is divine.

Here's how to make it:

3 strips bacon, diced small, uncooked
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 tbsp vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp dried basil (approximate)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (approximate)
Salt and pepper
1/2 pound GF penne pasta (Tinkyada)

1. Saute the bacon until it's done, but not too crispy.
2. Add the onions and garlic to the bacon and drippings. Saute over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic.
3. Add the vodka to de-glaze the pan and burn off the alcohol (about 2 minutes).
4. Add the tomatoes, simmer for 5 minutes, then puree the sauce with a handheld immersion blender.
5. Add the cream and spices, simmer for 5 minutes, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If the sauce is too thick, you can thin it out by adding a little bit of reserved pasta water.
6. Toss with GF pasta (boiled until al dente and strained) and serve.


- Pete

P.S. As you've surely noticed, our photos include more than just penne pasta. We didn't have enough for dinner one night, so we added some rotini as well. Flexibility!


gfe--gluten free easily said...

It does look divine, Pete. I use whatever pasta we have on hand when making dishes. I kind of like the mix even when it's supposed to be one type of pasta. I'd probably just make this using an alternative milk like coconut milk. When you use such a small amount, you can't taste the coconut flavoring usually, and full-fat coconut milk provides the needed thickness and consistency.

Hope everyone is starting to get more sleep and you all are doing well!


peterbronski said...

Hi Shirley... Coconut milk sounds great. I was going to post some suggestions for making the dish dairy free, but since we hadn't actually tested any of our recommendations, we thought it best to bite our tongue until we could guarantee the results! =)

Sleep is getting a little better... Thanks!

Cheers, Pete

theMom said...

OK, another dumb question,

Do you remove the bacon from the pan after cooking it and just use the drippings? I'm not sure how cooked bacon would go in an immersion blender, but I thought I'd ask.

This does look great, but I'm all for the full cream version. I've never had vodka with pasta, but this sounds alot like carbonara?

peterbronski said...

Hi Mary... We just leave the bacon in there and don't worry about it. If you want to retain larger bacon pieces, you could always remove them and re-add them later. But it's simpler and once less step to just go straight to the immersion blender. The bacon flavor will be in their either way!

Cheers, Pete