Monday, April 1, 2013

2013 Home Opener: Skillet Penne Alla Vodka

Last weekend we celebrated the return of the Revs to Gillette Stadium on a blustery New England day. The soccer was abysmal! The wind was whipping! But, as always, the food and company (and beer) were great. 
The Midnight Riders hosted an open house of sorts, welcoming a wayfaring busload of Bostonians to Foxboro. Instead of my typical small meal for two, I tripled this recipe from America's Test Kitchen in effort to feed the masses. If only my sterno had been able to compete with the cold wind...

Alas, I served cool-ish, clumpy pasta. I swear it was delicious when it was hot! Thankfully, my many companions cooked delicious and hot cold -weather dishes to keep the crowd happy and full.

If you're considering this recipe, I'll suggest you save it for home. Serving it lukewarm over a sterno wasn't my best tailgating choice. But in the skillet is my preferred method for making penne alla vodka. As simmering homemade tomato sauce always does, it made my house smell amazing. Be sure to use good canned tomatoes and a decent vodka. Cheap vodka will make this sauce taste harsh. Without further ado:

Skillet Penne Vodka
via America's Test Kitchen

3    (14.5-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
2    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion
1    tablespoon tomato paste
2    garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2    cups water
1/3 cup vodka (see note)
12  ounces (about 3 3/4 cups) penne
1/2 cup heavy cream
2    tablespoons chopped fresh basil
     freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Pulse the tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until coarsely ground and no large pieces remain, about 12 pulses.
2. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering .Add the onion, tomato paste, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the processed tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes no longer taste raw, about 10 minutes.
3. Stir in the water and vodka, then add the pasta. Cover, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat to maintain a vigorous simmer, until the pasta is tender, 15 to 18 minutes.
4. Stir in the cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute. Stir in the basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, passing the Parmesan separately.

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