Penne Vodka

Penne Vodka is the perfect weeknight dinner.

Why? Well, you can make the sauce in the time it takes to cook the pasta and in less than 30 minutes you have a bursting with flavor pasta dinner on the table. I absolutely love these types of easy pasta recipes that while the pasta is cooking you can make the sauce, and in this synchronized rhythm you’ve got the dinner components cooking simultaneously. Then just combine, eat, relax.

Let’s face it. No one has the time or energy to whip up involved dinners every night. At the end of an exhausting work day I want to relax and unwind, but I also don’t want to eat snacks for dinner or resort to ordering takeout…again. So meals like this really save the day. There’s very little chopping, nothing too complicated, and it makes enough for leftovers. Eat this meat-free, or if you have a little extra time and energy on a weekend you can cook up some chicken and add that for a little extra heartiness.

The vodka in the dish brings out the tomato flavor, the actual alcohol will cook off. However, if you prefer to remove the alcohol entirely you can absolutely do that. Also, as noted below, you’ll need to use a ladle full of the boiling pasta water to thin the sauce. Whenever you’re cooking a sauce and it needs to thin out a bit, always use the water the pasta is cooking in, don’t add more cream. Adding more cream will add too much heaviness and creamy flavor that you’re not looking for, but the boiling pasta water will thin the sauce without adding anything to the flavor that you’re not looking for.

-3/4 of a 16oz box penne pasta (yes, this is how I measure pasta. It’s not perfect, so if you want more or less you can cook however much pasta you want. I find that 3/4 of the box is what I typically cook. This gets us a dinner for 2 plus leftovers.)
-2 garlic cloves
-1 and 1/2 tablespoon butter
-2 tablespoons flour
-2 and 1/2 cups light cream
-1 6oz can tomato paste
-1/4 cup vodka (this is just the size of a mini bottle)
-1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
-3/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon pepper
-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
-1-2 ladles of reserved pasta water

1. Boil the pot of water and cook the pasta.

2. While the pasta is cooking, in a large pan melt the butter over medium-high heat. With a zester, zest in the garlic cloves and cook until lightly browned. Add the flour and whisk to form a paste. Turn heat to medium and add the light cream, tomato paste, vodka, and basil. Simmer for 8-10 minutes, then add the grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add 1 ladle full of the boiling pasta water to thin the sauce. Never add more cream, add the pasta water to thin out a sauce.

3. Drain the pasta and pour into the the sauce pan. This is my trick for only having to clean one pan, I always pour the pasta into the sauce pan and not dump the sauce into the pasta pot creating two dirty pots and pans. I also never dump ALL the pasta at once, I start with about half then keep adding until I have as much pasta as I want. Garnish each plate of pasta with a little extra Parmesan cheese.

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