Quick post today! Penne alla vodka is one of my favorite crowd-pleasing recipes, and it seems to go especially well over Valentine's Day. I like to serve this in kind of a cliche manner, with Caesar salad, garlic bread, and red wine.
You may substitute the vodka for broth, but the reason that vodka is used is that there are alcohol-soluble flavors in tomatoes that are released when alcohol is added, giving a richer and more full flavor to the dish. A good portion of the alcohol is cooked off, but not all of it. If you'd like more of the alcohol removed, add the vodka before boiling instead of after.
If you'd like, you can substitute half and half for the heavy whipping cream, but the final sauce will be a little more finicky and the dairy liable to separate. If this happens, a quick blend with a stick blender will remedy the situation but you'll have a smoother sauce. Though personally, that's how I prefer it and how it's pictured below.
Penne alla Vodka
16 oz. penne pasta
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 - 1 tsp. crushed red pepper, depending on spice tolerance
4-6 (or more!) cloves of garlic, minced
28 oz. can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese, plus additional for the table
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare pasta as directed.
While the pasta is being prepared, heat olive oil in a large stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, stirring quickly, then add canned tomatoes and stir. Increase heat to medium high and allow to come to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir in vodka, and cover and let simmer until pasta is cooked.
While pasta is draining, remove the lid from the tomato sauce. Add heavy cream and Parmesan cheese and stir until smooth, then add salt and pepper to taste. If desired, blend with a stick blender. Combine pasta and sauce and toss well, then move to a serving dish and serve immediately.