Once upon a time La Botega and Macaroni Grill invented two of the best Vodka Cream Penne's I have ever had. Since having it at those two places, it has fast become my favorite all time pasta. Too bad I moved away from both restaurants. How does someone make restaurant quality Vodka Cream Sauce anyway?! After searching through many different recipes, I decided to combine the basic elements and then make the recipe my own. I made a giant batch of the sauce and froze some to thaw out and pour over pasta at a later date. Freezer friendly is how I roll!
Vodka Cream Sauce over Penne
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 Roma tomatoes, cubed small
3 cups red sauce (I just used my canned tomato sauce)
1/3 cup vodka (I used Finlandia)
1 Tbsp pesto
1 dried chili pepper, crushed ( or you could do 1/3 tsp red pepper flakes)
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 box whole wheat penne
Pancetta (a salty Italian smoked ham)
Whole milk mozzarella balls, cut in half
In large saucepan, saute onion in oil until tender and add garlic, cooking for one extra minute. Stir in tomatoes, sauce, and vodka. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Stir in pesto and pepper flakes into the tomato sauce. Continue simmering.
In seperate saucepan, combine the half and half with the flour, stirring until smooth. Bring to a boil and stir continuously for two minutes or until thickened slightly. Add this roux to the tomato sauce mixture and combine well. Cook penne according to package, drain, and serve with sauce and Parmesan.
Another way I made this was to combine all the sauce + penne in a large pot, stir in the halved mozzarella balls, sprinkle the top with the Parmesan + a bit of shredded mozzarella and I bake on 350 for 20 minutes. It gave the top a lightly crispy cheese layer that complimented the pasta and sauce so well!