November 29, 2012

Pasta alla Vodka

I can remember my mother calling me from the liquor store one morning while I was in college, talking about how she was going to make Pasta alla Vodka for dinner and she was stumped over what type of vodka to buy for the sauce. I gave her a few recommendations, and later that night when I came home for dinner, I realized she had bought the cheapest, worst type of vodka man could purchase: Kamchatka vodka. It was the kind college freshman would call "easy, cheap and quick," and at $5.99 a bottle, you really couldn't beat the price, but you paid for it the next morning with a wicked hangover.

I was surprised, however, that it made a fine addition to the Pasta alla Vodka recipe that night; and no worries, this sauce won't give you a hangover. ;)

Pasta alla Vodka

2T olive oil
4 oz. thick, slab style bacon, chopped and cooked until crisp*
2 cloves garlic, minced
1t crushed red pepper flakes**
1 - 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/4-1/2 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/3 cup vodka
1 - 8 oz. pkg. mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped***
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 -1lb. pkg. rigatoni or other tube-shaped pasta, cooked al dente.

1. Add olive oil and bacon to a large sauce pan and warm over medium heat, Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and cook one minute, taking care not to brown garlic.
2. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper to saucepan. Cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced to 2 cups. Add vodka and continue cooking for 2 more minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in mascarpone cheese and bacon until well combined. Add fresh basil and remove from heat.
4. Toss sauce with pasta and serve with parmesan cheese.

* Bacon may be omitted for a vegetarian sauce.
** Additional crushed red pepper flakes may be added for a spicier sauce.
*** If fresh basil isn't available, omit, because dried basil will not taste the same in this dish.

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