Last week, I asked Gedalia, an excellent photographer, over for dinner with his wife Rachela so that he could take a few pictures of me. No, they’re not for an online dating profile. I’ve sworn off of those. (I’ll keep you posted on how that’s going.) The head shot is for PresenTense magazine, which asked me to contribute content and photographs to their upcoming magazine. I’ll tell you more about that when it gets published, but for now, let’s chat about the picture.
Rachela helped me pick out an outfit and Gedalia snapped away. We all agreed that the mischievious ones were best.
Mischievious, not mischievous. Miss-cheeeeeee-ve-us. Rhymes with devious. That’s me. Mischievious, that is. Not devious.
To incentivize (bribe) Rachela and Gedalia to come over after a long day, I rewarded them with dinner. Check out what I made.
Penne alla vodka
A vodka sauce made with tomatoes, cream, and of course vodka, is one of my favorite pasta sauces and does take a little more effort than opening a jar, but this whole dish takes about 20 minutes. There’s no chopping! If you’re starving, snack on a few olives and pour yourself a glass of wine. I use Lidia Bastianich’s recipe as a starting point. Boil the pasta just shy of al dente because it will continue cooking when you add it to the sauce. Beware the sauce does splatter and make a mess of your stovetop. On second thought, that might just be me…whenever I cook I make a mess!
- 1 pound penne
- one 35-ounce can tomatoes (San Marzano are really good) – whole or chopped - if you use whole tomatoes, given them a quick whirl in a blender or food processor to break them up (but don’t over blend or you will end up with pink frothy aerated tomatoes)
- 2-3T olive oil
- 6-10 cloves garlic (depending on how big the cloves are)
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 C vodka
- 1/4 – 1/2 C cream (I use a bit more than 1/4 C light cream but the original recipe calls for 1/2 C heavy cream)
- 3/4 C parmesan cheese (and more for sprinkling)
Boil. Put a huge pot of water on to boil. When the water comes to a rolling boil, add several large pinches of salt. The water should be as salty as chicken broth. Pretty salty. Cook pasta just shy of al dente and drain (don’t rinse), reserving a cup or two of the pasta liquid.
Saute. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat (large enough to hold the cooked pasta too). Whack garlic cloves with the side of a heavy knife to remove skin and crush the meat a bit. Add the cloves to the hot oil and cook until light brown.
Step back. Add the tomatoes carefully and step back. There will be a fair amount of sputtering and splattering here.
Boil. Bring tomatoes to a boil and add salt and a generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, and boil 2 more minutes.
Simmer. Pour in the vodka and lower the heat so the sauce simmers and continues to splatter. When you first add the vodka, it seems to float on top, so simmer until the vodka gets fully incorporated (about 10 more minutes). Take out the garlic cloves and pour in the cream.
Mix. Add the pasta to the sauce and gently simmer until the sauce sticks to the pasta. If it gets too dry, add some of the pasta liquid to bring the sauce to the right consistency. Add grated parmesan to the pasta and mix. Serve with lots of extra cheese.