Autumn is upon us and what better way to celebrate than cooking rich and creamy pasta?
If I was forced to choose one cuisine to eat for eternity it would have to be Italian. Partly because a world without pasta or pizza is not a world that I wish to inhabit but also due to the Italian approach to food – simplicity and quality ingredients are the key to deliciousness. Penne alla vodka is a case and point to this culinary philosophy; in its simplest form it requires only five ingredients (tomatoes, onions, vodka, cream and pasta) but if the quality of these ingredients is up to par then that is all you need for sheer delight!
Although I do often adhere to and certainly admire this philosophy I have made a few additions to the ingredients list in today’s take on penne alla vodka – most notably crispy parma ham and a kick of heat from dried chili flakes. I use a mixture of rigatoni and penne – any pasta would do in theory but a tube shaped pasta is best as it allows the sauce to run through each bite! I created a simple salad to use as garnish that requires only rocket, parmesan and olive oil which really brings a lightness and depth of flavour and texture to the dish.
Serves 4 – 6
Prep time – 10 minutes
Cooking time – 20 minutes
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 100 g parma ham
- 400 g tin of plum tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 150 ml vodka
- 1/2 tsp chili flakes
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 300 ml double cream
- 100 g rocket
- 75 g parmesan cheese, grated
- 450 g pasta
- Place a large pan on the hob at a medium heat, tear up the parma ham into bite sized pieces and fry for a few minutes until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the ham and place on a plate lined with kitchen towel to absorb excess oil.
- Using the same pan heat up 1 tbsp of olive oil over a medium heat, add the garlic and onion and fry for 5 minutes until softened. Add the chili, oregano, sugar and tomato puree to the pan along with the plum tomatoes. Fill the tomato tin with water, swirl it around and add this to the pan as well, use the back of a spoon to crush the plum tomatoes and stir everything until combined. Season generously with salt and pepper and leave this to simmer for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to its packet instructions.
- Toss together the rocket with the remaining olive oil and parmesan, season with salt and pepper and leave to one side.
- Pour the vodka into the tomato sauce and turn up the heat so that it comes to the boil for five minutes – this will evaporate the alcohol from the sauce enrich the dish with a delicious and unique flavour.
- Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the parma ham and double cream until everything has combined evenly. Season to taste and pour into a serving dish, sprinkle over the rocket salad and serve with extra parmesan and a drizzle of oilve oil.
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