Composed of crushed tomatoes, cream, and a good helping of vodka, Penne alla Vodka is rich and satisfying pasta sauce with the vodka bringing out flavors in the tomato in a really interesting way thats not typical of most basic marinaras. This dish is commonly seen throughout Italian-American cuisine and is often paired with Italian sausage and penne pasta. Though I try to add some variety by adding eggplant to this dish, my version of this recipe is more Lazy American than Italian American. To cut down on labor and time, I commit a cardinal sin against Italian cuisine and use my favorite jar of marinara sauce instead of creating my sauce from scratch in my Eggplant alla Vodka. Though I can hear little Italian grandmas crying as I write the phrase “jar of marinara sauce,” I will say that this recipe as delicious as it is easy and no amount of grandma tears will make me change my ways.
- 2 Eggplants, chopped into 1” cubes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3-4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup vodka
- 1 jar (32 oz.) of your favorite Marinara Sauce- I like Rao’s Marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup of Cream
- 2-3 Tablespoons of Fresh Basil, chopped
- a little grated parmesan for serving
- Dutch oven or large Pot
1) Heat the olive oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat (you do not want the olive oil smoking, just hot)
2) add the onion and cook until it starts to soften and become translucent
3) add the chopped eggplant and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir to make sure the eggplant is combined with onion and oil. Cook the eggplant until it just begins to soften.
4) Turn the stove off. Add the vodka and marinara coating the eggplant and onion in it. Turn the stove back to medium heat and bring to a simmer (a simmer is little bubbles. We do not want a rolling boil full of huge bubbles. Those are all scientific terms, by the way).
5) once you have brought the sauce to a simmer, turn the heat to low and let the sauce cook for 10-15 minutes or until the eggplant is very tender and cooked through.
6) With the heat on low, add the salt and cream stirring to make sure everything is combined. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.
7) Turn off the heat and stir in the fresh basil. Serve with the *protein of your choice and your favorite pasta or polenta. I even serve this even plain with shaved or grated parmesan to top it off.
*I chose Italian sausage because it was convenient
Cookies and Salt Note: For those of you wanting a more healthful version of this sauce, substitute pasta with a bed of fresh spinach or arugula. By pouring the hot sauce on top, spinach/arugula will start to wilt. This trick also works with any hearty sauce that you would serve with rice or pasta. I use fresh spinach as a substitute for rice in curries and even as a sub for tortillas. For chicken enchiladas verdes, you could scrap the tortillas, mix the green sauce with the chicken, heat it up in a skillet, and pour over spinach. Ta Da! Healthy!
I received neither money nor tomato sauce for this post.