Monday, May 7, 2007

Vodka Cream Pasta

I guess you could say I have a love-hate relationship with Rachael Ray. Her personality is irritating, her voice is annoying, and her catch-phrases (such as 'EVOO') are absurd. However, when I used to babysit on Friday mornings, Rachael was always on just when Maggie went down for a nap. And while Rachael is irritating to be sure, she also taught me that you can cook sausages in water and olive oil; the water boils away as the sausage cooks and towards the end of the cooking time, the olive oil crisps up the outside casing. Tasty!

Last night I tried a Rachael Ray recipe which turned out so delicious I just can't recommend it heartily enough. You've got to try her vodka cream pasta! One addition I made: I added spicy chicken Italian sausage to the sauce. I removed the sausage from the casing and crumbled it and browned it in the pan before I added the garlic and shallots. I also put the crushed tomatoes in the blender for a minute because FavoriteBoy doesn't like chunky tomato sauce. Other than that I followed the recipe exactly. It turned out simply delicious and I'll definitely make it again some time. The recipe yields at least enough for five or six people, so if you're cooking for just two like I am you can freeze some of the sauce for later before adding the basil. (And in that case, cook less pasta than the recipe calls for, obviously.)

Rachael Ray's Vodka Cream Pasta

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, minced
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock
1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)
Coarse salt and pepper
16 ounces pasta, such as penne rigate
1/2 cup heavy cream
20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes to develop their sweetness. Add vodka to the pan, 3 turns around the pan in a steady stream will equal about 1 cup. Reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente (with a bite to it). While pasta cooks, prepare your salad or other side dishes.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves.

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