Monday, 6 May 2013

Penne alla Vodka

Penne alla vodka was a dish I always got in my late teens / early 20s at a North London (Golders Green specifically) Italian called l'Artista. It was, as I remember, absolutely delicious and it always followed a starter of garlicky tomato pizza bread, which was sensational: the best garlic bread I think I have ever had, anywhere.

Penne alla vodka seems to be another one of those recipes of which there seem to be as many versions as there are people that cook it. I myself have cooked it in a variety of ways but on this occasion opted for prawns - as I remember the l'Artista version having, and mushrooms (which I always think go well with prawns) with a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Most recipes call for the vodka to be stirred into the sauce but a tip I picked up from Nigella is to add it to the drained pasta and then stir the sauce into that. I think agree with her that this is a much better way to do it: I’m not even sure why, it just is. Oh, and this is one seafood pasta recipe where I will actually add a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, as the creaminess of the sauce lends itself to it.

Penne alla Vodka
serves 2

1½ tsp garlic oil.
½ small onion, finely chopped
small tin of chopped tomatoes
4-5 mushrooms, sliced
100g prawns
200g penne
2 tbsp vodka
2½ tsp butter
2 tsp cream
pinch of red pepper flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil.

In a sauté pan heat the garlic oil and add the finely chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion over a low-medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until it is very soft and beginning to caramelize. Don’t let it catch or burn. Add the mushrooms and cook for another few minutes until they are softened a little.

Add the chopped tomatoes and red pepper flakes and continue simmering over a gentle heat for a further 20 minutes.

Add the prawns and cook for a couple of minutes (until just heated through) then stir in the double cream and take the pan off the heat.

Cook the penne for 3-4 minutes less than the packet instructions and then start testing it as you want it perfectly al denté.

Drain the cooked pasta then tip it back in the pan and pour over the vodka and stir in the butter. Add the tomato sauce to the pan, tossing everything together until the pasta is evenly coated.

Divide between two bowls and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan and a good grind of black pepper.

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