Most dishes that have alcohol in the ingredients, you can substitute any stock with and move on, but not with this one. It won’t be Vodka sauce without the vodka! But don’t worry if you simmer the vodka correctly before adding the rest of the ingredients, you burn the alcohol out of the dish and just leave the flavors of the vodka behind.
I found the recipe on Fine Cooking.com, one of my new favorite places to find new ideas or recipes for clean cooking, and as usual I’ve made a few adjustments to make it the way we like it. While we do like things spicy in our household, 3/4 of a teaspoon of red pepper flakes was a little too much for us. I scaled back to 1/2 of a teaspoon and it was perfect. Do remember it is supposed to be “Spicy” Vodka Sauce but always adjust to your tastes.
I also used half-n-half instead of heavy cream, switched the Parmigiano Reggiano for Romano cheese and left out the parsley. I added fresh basil and lemon zest for more fresh flavors that your taste buds will enjoy. Not major changes but they do add up to differences of flavors in the sauce. You could add some shrimp or sausage to the dish for the meat lovers or add veggies but it was good without as well.
Besides being absolutely delicious, the other great thing about this dish is that it is healthy and low-fat. Using whole wheat noodles will even up the healthy levels and while it does have a bit of cream, using half-n-half really cuts the fat levels from the original recipe. So not only is a sexy dish to serve up for Valentine’s Day (or anytime) but it’s healthy as well.
This time I used already made Gemelli past noodles from Italy but if you have time, the dish would also be wonderful with homemade fresh pasta noodles. Either way, it’s wonderful and completely yummy. Use your favorite pasta noodles and cook them al dente before adding to the sauce. Sprinkle with a little more cheese, garnish with a fresh basil leaf and sit down to enjoy the spicy, tomatoey flavors of Spicy Vodka Sauce with pasta. Serve with a crusty bread for sopping up the sauce and a salad for a complete meal.
Spicy Vodka Sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, adjust to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup vodka (use a decent one, cheap will taste cheap in the food)
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
Zest from one lemon
1 tsp. granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. half-n-half cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 lb. pasta noodles, your choice (about 3 cups, cooked), fresh pasta is an option as well
Cook the noodles to al dente according to package directions or use fresh pasta. Once done, drain and set aside until needed to mix with pasta sauce. Reserve some of the pasta water if you need to thin out your sauce.
In a large saucepan or skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and pepper flakes and cook until softened. Add the vodka and cook until the alcohol is burned out, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes undrained and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover with a slightly ajar lid and simmer the sauce about 15 minutes or until it has started to reduce.
Puree the sauce in a food processor or using a hand blender, returning back to the pan. Add the cheese, basil, cream, lemon zest, sugar, salt and pepper. The sugar helps to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Continue to simmer and reduce the sauce for about 5 more minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and keep warm, if not using immediately, otherwise, add the cooked pasta noodles and allow to simmer for 4 to 5 more minutes. This allows the pasta noodles to absorb the flavors of the sauce.
Serve up with more cheese and fresh basil on top.
Makes 4 servings.
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