My wife Dana is a great cook and loves to dabble in recipes that center around Italian cuisine. She previously made Rigatoni Alla Vodka, but she has improved on it by using pancetta. Yep, she added bacon! No wonder I married her. This is quite possibly my favorite meal of all time. You have to try it!
I know that when the average foodie hears the like of Rachel Ray they cringe, but I just tried a take on one of her recipes and it was pretty darn good. As a man that likes to eat I will try just about anything once. Granted I have tried a couple of her recipes and had less than great results. However, this one hit the nail on the head. Her Christmas Pasta recipe is great. I modified it a bit to help with standard shopping ingredients and sizes, but for the most part left it as-is. The pancetta to start if off adds some great flavors. Plus this recipe makes a ton of sauce and then allows you to cook only the pasta necessary for each meal. Only two of you, make 1/2 lb of pasta and you are good to go. Want some leftovers for lunch, boil some fresh pasta and toss it with some leftover sauce. There is nothing like fresh pasta to make leftovers not taste like leftovers. I also changed the name as it is more of a Ragu than anything.
Quick Ragu Pasta
Heat a dutch oven or large heavy bottom pot over medium high heat.
Add oil, bay, and pancetta bits and brown for 1 minute. Then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Make sure to stir frequently so the garlic does not burn.
Add meats and brown. Using a wooden spoon crumble and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
Add the carrots, celery, and onions to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes.
Add the wine and cook for 1 minute.
Add stock and tomatoes to the pot.
Stir in parsley, allspice and season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cook 10 to 15 minutes minimum before serving.
Cook as much of the pasta as needed. Toss the pasta with a couple of ladles of sauce.
Finish the pasta off with some freshly grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of parsley.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
- ¼ pound pancetta, thick cut, chopped into small bits (Italian cured pork, ask at deli counter)
- 1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
- 1 pound meatloaf mix (ground beef, pork and veal)
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 cup Cabernet Savignon
- 14oz can beef broth
- 2 (28-ounce) cans chunky style crushed tomatoes
- 2 Tbs flat leaf parsley leaves
- ¼ tsp allspice
- Coarse salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 boxes penne
- Grated Pecorino Romano
- Heat a dutch oven or large heavy bottom pot over medium high heat. Add oil, bay, and pancetta bits and brown for 1 minute. Then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Make sure to stir frequently so the garlic does not burn..
- Add meats and brown. Using a wooden spoon crumble and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the carrots, celery, and onions to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the wine and cook for 1 minute.
- Add stock and tomatoes to the pot.
- Stir in parsley, allspice and season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Bring sauce to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and cook 10 to 15 minutes minimum before serving.
- Cook as much of the pasta as needed. Toss the pasta with a couple of ladles of sauce.
- Finish the pasta off with some freshly grated Parmesan and a sprinkle of parsley.
Nobody was more surprised than me by how easy and delicious this recipe actually was.
You have to try this out!
Every once in a while Dana and I go out for dinner. When we do, I always see Dana ordering Penne alla Vodka. So I figured I should tackle this recipe. I wanted to make the sauce from scratch and have that great vodka flavor. Although the alcohol burns off, not all of the flavor does. I had to experiment with the amount of vodka to get the right amount of flavor.
Penne alla Vodka – (adapted from Epicurious)
- One 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with their liquid
- 1 pound penne
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled
- Crushed hot red pepper
- 3/4 cup vodka
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil for finishing the sauce, if you like
- 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing if you like
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to a boil in an 8-quart pot over high heat.
Stir the penne into the boiling water. Bring the water back to a boil, stirring frequently. Cook the pasta, semi-covered, stirring occasionally, until done, 8 to 10 minutes.
Pour the tomatoes into a large bowl and then crush them with your hands, a chopper or whatever you have lying around.
I used a pastry blender that I had lying around. To get a more uniform chop, I would recommend using a food processor for this. Pour in the tomatoes and using quick on/off pulses, process the tomatoes just until they are finely chopped. Make sure not to over-process the tomatoes.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and 1tbs butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Whack the garlic cloves with the side of a knife and add them to the hot oil. Also add the diced pancetta. Cook, shaking the skillet, until the garlic and pancetta are lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
Lower the bowl with the tomatoes close to the skillet and carefully slide the tomatoes into the pan. This can be dangerous as the tomatoes can make the hot oil splatter. Watch out!
Bring to a boil, season lightly with salt and generously with crushed red pepper, and boil 2 minutes. Pour in the vodka, lower the heat so the sauce is at a lively simmer, and simmer until the pasta is ready and the sauce has reduced.
Just before the pasta is done, fish the garlic cloves out of the sauce and pour in the cream and add the 2 tablespoons butter. Swirl the skillet to incorporate into the sauce.
Add the pasta to the pan and bring the sauce and pasta to a boil, stirring to coat the pasta with sauce. Check the seasoning, adding salt and red pepper if necessary. Sprinkle the parsley over the pasta and boil until the sauce is reduced enough to cling to the pasta.
Remove the pot from the heat, sprinkle 3/4 cup of the cheese over the pasta, and toss to mix. Serve immediately.
This was awesome!
Dana and I loved the flavor and the addition of the pancetta was amazing. It took this ordinary dish and made it extraordinary.