I have a vodka pasta recipe that an acquaintance gave me thirty years ago (I remember being pregnant with my daughter and she is now thirty!) She had cut it out from Bon Appetit Magazine and they, in turn, had gotten the recipe from some fancy restaurant in Rome. The sauce had obscene amounts of butter and cream in it and also called for pepper vodka (you can buy it or make your own by soaking a hot pepper in some vodka for a few days.) I can't, in all good conscience, eat something that rich anymore. I am always mindful of my next doctor's check-up and what my blood test will reveal about my cholesterol! So far I have avoided needing medication, and I'd like to keep it that way.
I experimented with the basic sauce ingredients and came up with this lighter version. It's still not exactly diet food, but with portion control, isn't too bad. Of course controlling the portion is the hard part! This is supposed to serve four (3 ounce portions each) but realistically three people could probably do it justice.
12 ounces penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can)
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Cook penne according to direction. Personally I like mine al dente so I check it a bit earlier than it says on the box.
Cook your sauce first--remember, the sauce waits for the pasta, the pasta never waits for the sauce! This is very quick and perfect for a weeknight dinner that is fast but tastes like it comes from a gourmet restaurant.
Saute the shallots in the oil over medium heat until softened--about three minutes or so. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for a minute (be careful not to burn the garlic.) Remove from the heat and add the vodka. Add diced tomatoes and bring to a boil (to burn off alcohol.) Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Stir in the Parmesan.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss. Serve with extra Parmesan cheese.
Note: you may want to add salt to the sauce -- I try to keep my sodium intake to a minimum, but if it's not an issue for you, season away!