In college, my group of friends and I often chose cheap Italian BYOB restaurants as our dinner option before important parties or other events. It was not my favorite thing to do, but it was a pretty regular occurrence nonetheless.
I came to love (and trust) the Penne a la Vodka as a cheap and almost always delicious option at these places. Only problem is that the sauce is filled with heavy cream, cheese, and, of course, lots of vodka. Add some bread and butter to begin followed by white pasta and you have yourself a not so healthy meal. Oh, and don’t forget the wine…it is a BYO restaurant after all.
So, I decided to try my hand at making this dish a little healthier. I subbed 2% milk for the cream, and used just a touch of parmesan cheese and vodka. It’s definitely not as indulgent as the classic, but it is flavorful and filling enough to make an appearance on my monthly recipe rounds. I used whole wheat flax seed pasta and topped it all with sautéed ham for some added some protein. Adding roasted or sautéed vegetables to the mix would be another great option.
- 4 cups whole wheat or gluten free pasta
- olive oil or olive oil spray
- 1/2 cup onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons vodka
- 4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 2/3 cup 2% milk
- 1/4 cup fresh basil (plus extra sprigs for garnish)
- salt, to taste
- pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
- Prepare a pot of boiling water for pasta.
- Add olive oil or spray to a large pot. Add onion and garlic and sauté until translucent.
- Add crushed tomatoes and simmer on low for about 10 minutes, or until almost all of the liquid has cooked off.
- While tomato sauce is simmering, cook pasta according to packages instructions, keeping it slightly al dente.
- When most of the liquid has simmered off the tomato sauce, add vodka and parmesan cheese, and mix until fully incorporated.
- Then, add cream, stir completely, and cook for another 2-5 minutes, or until most of the liquid is cooked off.
- Season with fresh basil, salt and red pepper flakes (optional).
- Store any leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge or freeze individual portions.
P.S. I digressed to kindergarten the other day and made some DIY New Years’ Resolution reminders to put on the wall by my bed to keep me accountable. I used foam sheets, traced a heart, and used gold and silver pens (plus glitter glue…oh ya!) to write some of my main resolutions. These little reminders could be taped by your desk at work or on the inside of your medicine cabinet until you have them memorized for the year. The other pictures didn’t turn out so great so this one above is the only one I have to share for now.