Vodka Sauce

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Back in my single days, there were a few dishes that my then roommate and I used to make regularly because we loved them so much. One of them was penne with vodka sauce. We tried multiple recipes, modified the heck out of them, and finally found…the one. The most magical one. Easy, creamy, a little sweet, with a good spicy twist.

When Josh and I started dating, I sort of filed that dish away mentally as “something I’ll make one day when he’s not around.” Then I forgot about it. I mean, it had a cup of heavy cream in it. Not something he could eat.

Time passed, and I started craving it again. Then one day I realized, duh, coconut milk would work perfectly for the cream. So I started trying to remember down the elusive recipe and couldn’t quite get it right. Luckily, my old roommate has typed it into a Google doc and saved it at one point, so there was no need for tears (it was close).

Josh’s response to this dish? “Why have you been holding out on me?!”

Note: To make it vegan, I switch out coconut milk for the heavy cream. Since the coconut milk is naturally sweeter, I omit the sugar from the recipe. Also, I always double the amount of red pepper flakes for a good kick.

Vodka Sauce

  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (double for extra kick)
  • 1/2 c vodka
  • 1 c heavy cream/ full fat coconut milk
  • ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (about 8 leaves)
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar (omit if using coconut milk)
  • 1 lb pasta of choice

Cook pasta according to directions, making sure to reserve some of the pasta water.

Process garlic through garlic press into small bowl and stir in 1 tsp water. Heat olive oil and garlic and red pepper flakes in saute pan over medium heat until fragrant but not brown, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes. Add vodka and simmer 5 minutes longer. Stir in cream, ground black pepper to taste, basil, sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt. At this point you can transfer the sauce to food processor and pulse to a course puree. I actually prefer to leave it a little chunky so I don’t bother to do this. Return sauce to pan and simmer over medium heat to thicken, for about 4 to 5 minutes. Add a small amount of pasta water, and cook an additional couple of minutes..

Serve over pasta and enjoy!

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