Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Penne with vodka sauce and scallops

Once, when I was in college, a friend had a bunch of people over for a dinner party. The only thing, and I do mean the only thing, I remember about this party is that she served pasta with made-from-scratch vodka sauce. And it was delicious.

I found this recipe in Food Network Magazine and (as usual) tweaked it to suit my needs and ability. The original recipe calls for whole tomatoes for a true from-scratch sauce, but I prefer to use canned, unflavored tomato sauce. It's just...easier.

- 1 box penne noodles
- 2 tbsp butter, separated- 2 shallots, minced (or 1 small onion)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)- 16 oz plain tomato sauce (the Kroger brand comes in 8 oz cans)
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1/2 cup vodka (I used the super cheap-o stuff and it tasted fine, but nice vodka would obvi taste better)
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
- 1/2 pound bay scallops
- salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt liberally. Add penne and cook according to package directions. While that's cooking, melt 1 tbsp of the butter in a large skillet. Add the minced shallots or onion and cook about three minutes, until soft. Add garlic and red pepper flake, if using, and cook for about a minute.

Add the tomato sauce, basil and vodka (don't spill on the burner or on the gas flame or you'll have a fireball). Salt to taste. Simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until the alcohol cooks off. This will take about seven minutes or so.

A note on the pasta: it will probably finish cooking somewhere around here. Before you drain it, reserve 1/2 cup of the starchy water. Also, start on the scallops. Melt the other 1 tbsp butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the scallops and cook until opaque, only a couple minutes. Finish the sauce while the scallops are cooking.

After the alcohol has cooked out of the sauce, add the cream, cooking for about three minutes. Stir in the Parmesan. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss. For some reason, I decided not to toss the pasta in the sauce, as you can see in the photo. Just realized I skipped that bit. Anyway, if the sauce is too thick, you can add some of the reserved pasta water (I didn't have this problem though, likely because I used canned tomato sauce instead of fresh tomatoes). Season with salt, if needed. Top with scallops and more Parmesan cheese.

This recipe is great because you'll have a bit of leftover pasta (this is a recipe for two, but it makes enough pasta and sauce for four). It's really great reheated for lunch at work the next day :)

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