The Truth About Vodka Sauce

Oct 06, 2017 456

BY: Robin Raisfeld and Rob Patronite

Besides fettuccine Alfredo, is there a dish reviled by pasta snobs as much as penne alla vodka? The other day, one of these detractors summed up the recipe for us as follows: Bring a large pot of water to a roiling boil, add salt, toss in penne, and cook until al dente. Meanwhile, in a small pot, heat up a can of cream-of-tomato soup. Drain pasta. Dump soup over pasta. Mangia!

Although the pasta snob was just being extra snooty and probably secretly craves the stuff, he wasn’t so far off the mark. The problem with vodka sauce is the inherent simplicity of the recipe: just onions, garlic, crushed red pepper, a slug of vodka, tomatoes, and heavy cream. And the trouble with simple recipes, as everyone knows, is that they’re the most difficult to get right. Which might be why it seems that lousy penne alla vodkas (soupy, bland) outnumber outstanding penne alla vodkas (tangy, balanced) by such a wide margin. (Though we’d argue that like pizza and mashed potatoes, the dish belongs to that superb group of comfort foods that fall under the heading Good Even When Bad.)

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