Penne with Vodka Sauce

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We had a delicious turkey dinner, including roasted yams with brown sugar and marshmallows, green bean casserole, stuffing, gravy, and the Cranberry-Orange Relish I made last week.

One of the benefits of such a large meal is having leftovers: all of the food, in much less time. Friday night I popped most things in the oven to heat, put the turkey and gravy together in a pot to heat, and I relaxed while the oven and stove did their thing.

I knew I was making soup with leftover turkey for dinner Sunday, and thought Penne with Vodka Sauce would be a nice break from all of the turkey. Vodka sauce comes together quickly, in the time it takes to boil water and cook the penne.

This recipe comes from a friend from South Florida, Patti Tarquinio Gonzales. She is a terrific Italian cook and a gracious hostess. I think of her every time I make this sauce – recipes are often tied into memories, don’t you think?

Friday afternoon I put the crushed red pepper flakes in the vodka to steep, covered in plastic wrap. Saturday afternoon I strained the red pepper flakes out, and had lovely, spicy pepper vodka for the sauce. Garlic bread rounded out the meal, and we have leftovers for another two meals.

Penne with Vodka Sauce

1 C vodka

1/2 t crushed red pepper

1 28 oz can whole, peeled tomatoes, pureed in the blender (I prefer the texture when I puree the tomatoes myself, but you can buy pureed tomatoes in the can if you like)

2 thick slices prosciutto, cut into julienne strips

1 medium sweet onion, diced

2 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 T unsalted butter

1 box Penne Rigate, cooked according to package directions

2/3 C heavy cream

The day before you make the sauce: Put the crushed red pepper in the vodka, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit on the counter overnight; I usually do it for 24 hours. The vodka will turn red from the red pepper flakes. Strain the vodka into a glass container, and divide. I use 1/2 C of the flavored vodka in one recipe of Vodka Sauce; save the other 1/2 C in a lidded glass container and refrigerate for another use (Bloddy Mary, perhaps?).

Use a 4 quart pot to cook the penne according to package directions. While the water heats to boiling, begin preparing the sauce.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot. Add the prosciutto and cook until it begins to brown. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the pureed tomatoes, salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Add the prepared vodka, and let the sauce come to a gentle bubble. Turn down the heat and add the cream.

Drain the penne after it’s al dente; add to the vodka sauce. Stir to combine.

I had some parsley on hand, and garnished the plated penne with the parsley. The green adds a nice pop of color to the pink sauce. Serve with garlic bread to round out a simple supper.

Let me know how you like it!