Growing up, we were allowed to pick any dish we wanted for our birthday. Being the good Italian child that I am, I usually rotated between ravioli and pasta figoli. As I got older though, this became my favorite birthday dish. Rich, creamy, decedent, penne a la vodka is still one of my favorite meals.
While it’s no where near my birthday, I decided to recreate this dish for a special night in. While this used to be a special once-a-year meal, recreating this without the excess cream, butter, and cheese allows me to enjoy it whenever I get a craving.
Whole-wheat fusilli, savory cashew cream, vodka tomato sauce. The teenager in me gets a little homesick whenever I make this dish. Since I am 3,000 miles away from most of my family, recreating it this week, being just a few days short of Thanksgiving, seemed appropriate. Food is so powerful, it’s funny how a simple meal can recreate so many wonderful memories.
Penne a la Vodka
1 large can (28oz) crushed tomatoes
1/2 medium onion, finely diced
2 tbsp. Earth Balance butter
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup cashews, soaked in 1 cup water for at least 30 minutes. Soaking allows them to blend easier.
1/2 cup water
12 oz. penne pasta
In a large saute pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add onions, and garlic; cook down until soft and onions are translucent. Stir in red pepper flakes and salt. Add crushed tomatoes, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Add vodka to the sauce and cook an additional 5 minutes until alcohol is cooked off.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Add the soaked and drained cashews to a blender or food processor. Add 1/2 cup of water and blend until a smooth sauce forms, about 2 minutes depending on the power of your blender. Pour the cream into the tomato sauce, stir to mix and reduce heat to low.
Add the pasta to the water and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked pasta, sauce, and reserved pasta water.
Put a big fork into the pasta and eat!
What are your favorite childhood meals?