(Please excuse the pathetic picture. I used my phone to take a picture of the leftovers I was eating at work.)
I really shouldn't read food blogs in the middle of the afternoon. It's a dangerous time for me--lunch has worn off, but I'm still hours away from dinner. It's like going to the grocery store when you're hungry. I end up saving a lot of recipes that I probably will never get around to making. Then, every once and awhile, during this vulnerable time between meals (and actual work, which does distract me from hunger and blogs occasionally) I find a recipe that looks so good I want to leave early and go home and make it right away. Yesterday, I found that kind of recipe.
Maybe my hunger was getting to me, but I saw a Lidia Bastianich recipe for Penne alla Vodka on The Amateur Gourmet, and I immediately wrote down the only two ingredients I didn't already have (cream and parsley) and decided my dinner plans were going to have to change. I've been trying to eat really healthy all week, but the thought of brown rice and lentils just couldn't measure up to a bowl of pasta with creamy-alcohol sauce.
This was awesomely delicious, pretty darn simple to throw together, and fast. The sauce took less time to make then it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta. And since I wasn't going to be eating lentils and brown rice, I tried to make it somewhat less sinful by using whole grain pasta and substituting half and half for the cream. I have to say, it felt immensely strange to be measuring ingredients for a pasta sauce, since I have never done that in the hundreds of times I have made pasta sauce, but this sauce was worth the little extra vigilance. The only change I would make next time would be to use about half the garlic and mince it. I just don't like the idea of wasting garlic by using a ton and taking it out, although I know this change would somewhat compromise the creaminess of the sauce.
Penne Alla Vodka
Adaptedfrom Lidia Bastianich
35 oz. can Italian whole plum tomatoes with their liquid or crushed tomatoes
1 lb. penne
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
10 cloves garlic, peeled
Crushed hot red pepper
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup half and half
3 tbs. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or romano cheese
-Put a pot of salted water on for the penne. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions for al dente. Don't overcook because it will cook for a few more minutes in the sauce.
-If using whole tomatoes, process in a food processor with their liquid until finely chopped.
-Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the garlic cloves. Saute until slightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
-Add the tomatoes to the garlic and olive oil and season with salt and crushed red pepper. Bring to a bubbling simmer for 2 minutes, then add the vodka. Lower the heat and simmer until the pasta is finished cooking.
-When the pasta is almost done cooking, remove the garlic from the sauce and add the half and half to the tomato sauce, stirring to combine.
-Drain the pasta, then return it to the pot. Pour the sauce over it and stir to coat the pasta. Add the parsley and check the seasoning, adding salt and red pepper as necessary. Bring the pasta and sauce back to a boil, stirring, until the sauce is reduced enough to stick to the pasta (just a few minutes).
-Remove the penne and sauce from the heat and stir in the cheese.