Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Just a quick note to wish you a wonderful 2012 full of good times, good friends and, most of all, good food!

To get you off to the right start, here's a dish you might try - it's celebratory and impressive, though not difficult, and just decadent enough.  Thanks to all of you who have continued to tune in throughout the year and check out what's cooking with me.  I appreciate your appetite!

Pasta with Vodka Sauce - adapted from Grace Parisi's Get Saucy
(Makes 6 servings)

A Brief Word on Pasta:  Although vodka sauce is traditionally served with penne, I recommend any pasta that is substantial (ie. not too thin) and pleasing to you - maybe fusilli, gemelli, rigatoni, or even bucatini (pictured), a thick spaghetti-like pasta with a hole running through the middle.  Whatever the variety you choose, make sure you cook it in rapidly boiling, well-salted water (no oil!!), stir frequently, drain promptly, and reserve some of the pasta cooking water to help glue the sauce to the pasta - it makes a big difference!

1 pound (16 oz.) dried pasta

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces thickly-sliced pancetta, diced
1/2 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of dried oregano
1/4 cup vodka
One 28-ounce can peeled whole Italian tomatoes, with juice, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup frozen green peas, thawed
salt to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, and then salt generously.  Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid, and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, deep pan over medium-high heat and add pancetta, stirring occasionally until browned and the fat has rendered.  Add the onion, garlic, red pepper, oregano, and tomato paste and stir until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the vodka and cook until evaporated, scraping up the browned bits stuck to the pan (hooray for pre-cleaning the pot!).  Add the tomatoes and simmer over medium heat until thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.  Add the cream and peas and simmer another 10 minutes.  Season with salt and more red pepper to taste.

If the saucepan is large enough, add the pasta now and reduce heat to low.  If not, transfer both the pasta and the sauce to a clean, large pot, over low heat.  Stir well and add pasta cooking water to thin sauce to your liking.  I like to make it a little too thin at this point, and wait an extra 10 minutes for the liquid to evaporate - this helps the sauce really stick to each piece of pasta.  If you're in a hurry, you can skip this and just serve immediately.  Either way, enjoy with a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley and a hearty appetite!

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