Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Penne alla Vodka - with a couple of twists...

Since I started Meatless Mondays back in early November, I've tried to not take the easier routes (salad, pasta, etc), particularly for dinner. If you been reading along, you've seen that my wonderfully supportive wife has gone out of her way to create some spectacular vegetable dishes over the past six weeks. This week I wanted pasta, one of my favorites to be specific, penne alla vodka. So, there I was at work all day, dreaming about the creamy and satisfying vodka sauce I was going to have for dinner. Well, I got something different and I think it may have been even better!

Before I tell you about the pasta, I should mention that we started out with a traditional insalata tricolore, consisting of arugula, radicchio, endive and a ice size piece of gorganzola in our homemade balsamic vinegar dressing and Mexican squash (also known as pipians) that had been sauteed in olive oil and shallots then browned lightly with butter, bread crumbs and pecorino romano cheese.

Here is what the pipians look like before cooking. Smaller than a zucchini, and slightly milder in taste. We have several wonderful international markets in our area with all kinds of produce from all over the world.

The vodka sauce was prepared in a (mostly) traditional way. Tomatoes (Muir Glen fire roasted), fresh garlic, crushed red pepper and vodka. Most vodka sauces call for heavy cream to be added. Cynthia decided to lighten the dish by replacing the cream with a dollop of ricotta cheese that had been mixed with roasted garlic and a little pecorino romano and just a little nutmeg Finally, although not standard, some vodka sauces are finished with peas for both color and texture. I actually love what the peas bring to this dish.

In a final twist, we used edamame in place of the peas. The mild taste and slightly crunchier texture of the edamame was a very nice addition to an already tasty dish. A fine chop of fresh basil finished the plate and Viola!

If you're interested in the very traditional penne alla vodka recipe, Epicurious has a good one here.

Ooops, I think I forgot to mention the Layer Cake Primitivo we shared with dinner. It's a very affordable old vine zinfandel that we keep on hand at home at all times.


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  1. Looks great! I love this dish (at least versions I've had) will have to give it a try. Interesting vegetable, too.

  2. Alex ~ This pasta dish looks wonderful! I love traditional vodka sauce, so I am anxious to give this one a try with your twists! Thanks so much for the nice feedback on my pasta post as well! Have a super day!

    1. Great Val. This version is "cleaner", if you know what I mean. I love traditional vodka sauce also, but this one is somehow lighter. When you make it, let me know how it turns out.


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