Nothing says “I Love Penne” like a good Penne Rigate in Vodka. Although I have to admit that penne pasta is not one of my favorites, it tends to leave me feeling like I am either going to explode or that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. But once again, in moderation and smaller portions, the flavor of penne absolutely caresses your taste buds.
What I love about good Italian cooking, and what I learned the many years I sat in the kitchen and watched my grandmother cook, is that the simplicity of the recipes are what makes them so fulfilling. Good, quality ingredients, and a non-fussy way of cooking is something of a tradition. While there are some arduous tasks, such as the all-sauce or the multi-layer lasagna, I have to admit when it comes to cooking, Italian reminds me of home.
I chose this dish as it is a grownup pasta dish for a more refined taste….and guess what, you’re both of those things! So let’s stop chatting and get cooking. This recipe is good for about 4 people…remember – this pasta is filling! Here’s what you need to grab at the store:
*3-4 Cups of Penne Rigate
*1/2 Cup of Vodka
*6 Tablespoons of Heavy Cream
*3 Heaping Tablespoons of Tomato Paste
*2 Tablespoons of Parsley (chopped)
*1-2 Thick Slices of Ham (cured)
*1/4 Cup of Unsalted Butter
*Fresh Ground Salt and Pepper for Tasting
Now let’s get going. Dice the ham, trying to really pay attention to your knife cuts (keep as uniform as possible when dicing). Grab a pan, melt the butter and toss in the ham and stir. After a minute, add the chopped parsley and tomato past, stir and taste. This is when you can add the salt and pepper to fit your tastes. I’d cook this together for a total of 8-10 minutes.
When this is done, add the vodka and cream and stir. If you want a more subtle vodka taste, I suggest using only 1/4 of a cup. Cook until the alcohol in the vodka has burned off.
While this is going on, you can add your penne rigate to a pot of salted, oiled boiling water for the cooking time on the box, minus 1-2 minutes. When do you know it is done? After you taste it! Not when the timer goes off.
Drain the pasta (and do not rinse) and then split evenly between 4 plates. Then give the sauce one final stir and gentle ladle over each portion. Remember, less is more and we want to see some naked pasta here, not a sea of red. Put the extra sauce not ON the pasta, but in a gravy train or cup so people can add what they want at the table. This is a great rule of thumb as everyone likes their pasta differently. Serve with fresh garlic bread, shaved parmesan cheese and a nice full bodied red wine (cabernet sauvignon is my fave with this dish). Enjoy!
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