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When I was first married, I attempted to make penne vodka at home. It's a creamy, decadent dish that, when done right, tastes wonderful. However, my first attempt tasted like rubbing alcohol, so I decided to leave this one to the experts. Then, this year, I gave it another try and discovered that, with the right recipe, you can make a simple, relatively light (it still has heavy cream in it, so not that light), and perfectly delicious vodka sauce at home that will give fine Italian restaurants a run for their money.
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots, and a heavy pinch of salt. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil, add plenty of salt, and cook penne according to package directions.
Take pan off heat and add vodka before returning to heat and bringing to a boil. Let cook for 3-4 minutes, until most of the vodka is dissolved. Add broth, tomatoes, and red pepper, stirring to combine. Let cook for an additional 5 minutes (at least), stirring occasionally.
Drain penne when done to likeness. Meanwhile, make sure the top to your blender is open in order to vent steam. Pour tomato mixture into blender and blend, with your hand over a towel, until smooth.
Return sauce to pan, and stir in cream and basil. Cook for 1-2 minutes to heat through, and then remove from heat. Toss in penne, along with salt and pepper to taste, until fully coated. Garnish with parmesan cheese and extra basil, if desired.
-e. magill 12/11/2014
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