Thursday, May 2, 2013

Baked Penne a la Vodka

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This is the time of year where there's a lot to celebrate in my family. The month of May marks the beginning of our family birthday season and with that, we usually have some sort of reunion. in fact, tonight, my sister and her family are flying in from Virginia to spend the weekend and attend Joel's 3rd birthday party {more on that tomorrow!} I love when my family comes together and although it will be a brief visit with my sister, it will be a fun one. Speaking of family, growing up my siblings and I loved to make dinner together. I usually would find a recipe, gather the ingredients and my sister would help me prepare it. Then my brother would come along and sneak in a taste and claim to be the resident taste tester. Baked pasta dishes, especially lasagnas, were a favorite of ours to make because it was easy to put together, everyone could help contribute something to the meal and it was relatively affordable too. Now that we're older and live apart, it's much harder to get together to cook with my siblings. So I'm dedicating this dish to my brother and sister. This Baked Penne a la Vodka combines {gf} penne pasta with a rich and creamy tomato sauce, spiked with a little vodka and baked under a blanket of mozzarella cheese...

This was a dish that The Baron and I enjoyed. I mean, who could resist pasta with a tomato cream sauce and baked with cheese? It was easy to put together in advance and it's freezer friendly too. If you can find San Marzano tomatoes, I would highly recommend it. They may be a little pricier but worth every penny. These tomatoes have a bit more tomato flavor with a slight sweetness and less seeds. If you haven't used San Marzano tomatoes before, this would be a good recipe to try them in!

Baked Penne a la Vodka
recipe adapted from The Gourmand Mom

1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 shots vodka
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound prosciutto 
1 can whole plum tomatoes, rinsed, drained and seeded {or San Marzano}
2 small cans tomato paste
2 cups heavy cream2 cups half & half
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, finely minced

salt and pepper to taste
1 stick butter, cut into pieces {8 tablespoons}
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese1 lb penne pasta, cooked per package directions
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, add 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, add onions and garlic, sauteing until softened. Add prosciutto and saute until slightly crisp.

Remove skillet off stove and carefully pour in vodka. Stir and place skillet back on stove. Cook off the vodka for a few minutes.

Add the rinsed, drained and seeded tomatoes to the pan, breaking them up by hand into chunks.
Add tomato paste to the skillet and stir to incorporate.
Add heavy cream and half & half, stirring to incorporate for the sauce.

Stir in a tablespoon of butter as a time into the cream sauce.

Add the Parmesan cheese to slightly thicken.

Stir in half of basil into the sauce and reserve the remaining basil some for garnish. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place cooked pasta into a baking dish and top with vodka sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted and pasta is warmed through.

Before serving, garnish with remaining basil.

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