Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year. I don’t know about you, but Tuesday nights aren’t exactly the best time for my husband and I to go out on a date. So this year, we’ll be dining at the not-so-exclusive Family Kitchen Table on Valentine’s Day. Staying at home with the kids doesn’t mean you have to settle for chicken nuggets and tater tots. This pasta dish is perfect for a low-key Valentine’s Day. It’s not your everyday sauce, but not so out of the norm that the kids won’t touch it. In fact, my girls love this dish, which seems appropriate given the holiday I’m suggesting it for!
The first time I made this sauce, I was really quite surprised at how quickly it comes together. You can finish the sauce in the time it takes to boil the pasta!
As my water was heating up for the pasta, I prepped some of my ingredients. I minced up a few cloves of garlic, sliced some prosciutto into strips and grated about 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.
Then, I drained a large can of whole Italian tomatoes and roughly chopped them up with my kitchen shears.
My water was ready for the pasta, so I added a small handful of salt to the water and poured the pasta in. Then, I melted a little bit of butter in a large pan and sizzled up my garlic and prosciutto.
Once things started to crisp up, I added in my tomatoes and some crushed red pepper. I cooked the tomato mixture for about five minutes, breaking up the tomatoes even more with my spoon as I stirred.
Next came just a bit of cream. Usually, I’m not a big fan of creamy pasta sauces. Most are just too rich for me. The reason I’ve always enjoyed vodka sauce is because there’s a nice balance between the tomatoes and the cream.
I stirred in the cream, let it cook for a minute and then added 1/4 cup of vodka. The vodka doesn’t add a boozy flavor to the sauce at all, it just enhances the flavors that are already there and actually brings out the sweetness in the cream.
After a couple more minutes on the stove, I had a beautiful, creamy pink sauce just waiting to meet up with some pasta.
I drained the pasta well and added it to the sauce, I also added about 1/2 cup of that freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Once I’d gently tossed the pasta and cheese into the sauce, we were ready to go! Pair this with a nice salad and some crusty bread and you have a dinner fit for Valentine’s Day at a fine Italian restaurant…or at your favorite Family Dinner Table.
PENNE ALLA VODKA
Adapted from The Sopranos Family Cookbook
(Yes, those Sopranos. It’s actually a really good Italian cookbook! Check it out!)
- 3 Tbsp. butter
- 2-3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into thin strips
- 1 (28 oz.) can Italian peeled whole tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
- ½ tsp. crushed red pepper
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup vodka
- ¾ lb. penne pasta
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring at least 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add a small handful of salt to the water and add the pasta. Cook the pasta, about 10-11 minutes, until al-dente (tender, yet still firm). Drain the pasta, saving just a bit of the cooking water in case you need it.
- In a large skillet or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until lightly toasted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the prosciutto and cook for one minute.
- Add the tomatoes and crushed red pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes, breaking up the tomatoes with your spoon. Stir in the cream and cook, stirring well, for 1 minute. Add the vodka and cook for 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt.
- Add the pasta to the sauce and toss until it is well coated. If the sauce seems too thick, add a bit of the reserved pasta water. Add in the cheese and toss again. Serve immediately. Serves 4