Friday, April 13, 2012

Vodka Cream Sauce

We tend to keep several jarred sauces in our pantry for nights when I need to whip dinner up in a matter of minutes. Those sauces are good to have on hand and if I have the time I'll add extra veggies or protein to them, but creating a sauce (almost) from scratch always tastes so much better.

I've been making this one for a couple years now and I'm just now getting around to posting it. I feel the need to apologize for the iPhone picture, but at the same time I'm also not sorry. I love taking photos of food, but once dinnertime rolls around I just want to eat and relax with my husband! I'm working on posting more of our favorite recipes, which means there will be more iPhone pictures in the future. I'm sorry I'm not really that sorry.

What I'm actually really sorry for is not sharing this with you sooner. This is one of those meals that's hearty and flavorful enough to stand all on its own. Sometimes if I'm really feeling ambitious, I'll add shrimp to the mix (throw them in the sauce just before adding the cream so they'll have time to cook) or my new favorite way is to make it with bacon*. Put this on your menu and you definitely won't be sorry you made it!

Vodka Cream Sauce 
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 4

8 ounces pasta of your choice
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you want it spicy!)
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup (4 ounces) vodka
1/4 cup chicken (or veggie) broth
1 24-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup cream (whipping, heavy, half & half; fat free works fine, too)
3 tablespoons (about 10 leaves), fresh basil, thinly sliced
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, set aside, and keep warm.

Heat oil in a large pot or skillet with high sides. Add onion; saute until soft and tender. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, garlic, and red pepper flakes, and black pepper; saute 1 minute. Add vodka; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until liquid has reduced by half (if the vodka reduces rather quickly I sometimes add an extra splash or two just for kicks). Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender (or a blender), process until smooth. (If you used a large blender, return mixture to pan.) Stir in cream; cook 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly until no white streaks remain. Stir in cooked pasta, basil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Serve immediately with Parmesan cheese and homemade bread.

*To add bacon: Omit olive oil; dice 4-6 slices of bacon and cook until brown and crispy in the skillet before adding onion. Remove cooked bacon to paper towels and let drain. Using the bacon fat, cook onions and follow the rest of the recipe. Add cooked bacon pieces to the sauce before adding cream.

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