Iron Chef Shellie

Week 13 – The Cookbook Challenge: Penne Alla Vodka

“Week 13 Theme: Love Cookbook Used: Feast Author: Nigella Lawson   I’ve been wanting to recreate a post Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella did about 2 years ago, for quite some time. Being Valentine’s day, I wanted to cook instead of being sucked into banquets and other over priced set menus that restaurants were offering....”

Week 13 – The Cookbook Challenge: Penne Alla Vodka

Week 13
Theme: Love
Cookbook Used: Feast
Author: Nigella Lawson
I’ve been wanting to recreate a post Lorraine from Not Quite Nigella did about 2 years ago, for quite some time. Being Valentine’s day, I wanted to cook instead of being sucked into banquets and other over priced set menus that restaurants were offering. So I thought, “Ah-ha! I’ll do the penna alla vodka… but it’s not in a cookbook I own.” Then I re-read Lorraine’s post, and I found it was in a cookbook I owned; alas, the love theme was covered.
I headed to Aldi for the heart pasta, heart biscuits and picked up a chocolate rose whilst I was there.
I own quite a few books by Nigella, but I have previously never had too much success with them. I’m not the only one, Rilsta from My Food Trail also has hesitations when trying a Nigella Lawson recipe.
I did however, enjoy her cocoa-cola cake recipe I tried a few years ago.
This dish was very easy to make. The tomato sauce was pretty much instant. I cooked the onion for just under the time required; but still longer than I usually would cook the onion for. It was deliciously sweet and caramelized, thus meaning I didn’t have to add any sugar to the sauce for extra sweetness.
I possibly added a smidge too much vodka, but Hamsley didn’t complain. I did end up flaking some smoked ham through the pasta, as my man likes his meat. I’m glad I did, as the smokeyness of the ham cut through the vodka-y taste of the pasta.
It was a lovely dish, and I would definitely make it again.
And since I re-created the full meal; my delicious red-velvet Valentine’s day cupcakes:
Penne Alla Vodka
Nigella Lawson
Get your hands on:
1/2 good sized onion
1 tablespoons garlic-infused oil
410g can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon double cream
500g Heart pasta or penne rigate or other short, preferably ridged, pasta
65 ml vodka
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Serve it with:
Parmesan for grating over at the table
1. If you are cooking this just before you eat, put the water on to boil before you start the sauce. You will need a big pan, enough to take the pasta and its sauce later.

2. Finely chop the onion, either by hand or in a processor. In a large pan, heat the garlic oil and add the finely chopped onion and a good sprinkling of salt. Cook the onion fairly gently for about 15 minutes without letting it catch and burn, which just means giving it a stir every now and again. It should be very soft and just beginning to caramelize.

3. Tip in the can of chopped tomatoes and continue cooking over a gentle heat, simmering for another 15-20 minutes. If youโ€™re cooking this ahead, and I always do, stop here.

4. Reheat the almost finished tomatoes (or just continue as you were if youโ€™re making this in one unbroken fluid movement), stir in the double cream and take the pan off the heat. When the water for the pasta comes to the boil add a good measure of salt and tip in the penne. Set a timer for 3-4 minutes less than the packet instructions for cooking it, as you want to make sure itโ€™s cooked al dente and will need to start tasting early.

5. Drain the cooked pasta, tip it back in the pan and pour over the vodka, add the butter and some more salt. Turn the penne in the vodka and melting butter and then tip it into the tomato sauce unless it is easier to pour the tomato sauce over the pasta: it depends on the sizes of the pans you are using.

6. Toss the pasta in the sauce until it is evenly coated and turn out into a large, warmed bowl. Put it on the table along with a block of Parmesan and a grater.

Serves 4-5.


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14 comments on “Week 13 – The Cookbook Challenge: Penne Alla Vodka
  1. Hamsley - February 15, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Probably should have gotten him BioShock 2 as well, if you were a good girlfriend ๐Ÿ˜›

  2. What's For Tea? - February 15, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    I had a similar dish once in Rome and LOVED it! Thanks for posting, I am definitely going to try this.

  3. Conor @ HoldtheBeef - February 15, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I've never had pasta alla vodka and have wondered what it tastes like. Looks delicious! Still love those cute cupcakes too. Glad you guys had a loved up day!

  4. penny aka jeroxie - February 15, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Love shaped pasta! Wow! Such cuteness and a nice way to spend V day :)

  5. Hannah - February 16, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Just the other week, I was talking to a friend (in the US, as will become clear… :P) and she started raving about the pasta alla vodka she'd cooked the night before. I asked what the recipe was, and she looked at me blankly.

    "It's the bottle with the blue label?" She responded.

    Oh, America. So I'm rather pleased to find this recipe here :)

  6. Jeanne - February 16, 2010 at 8:22 am

    What an original Cook-up for your Valentines Day Shellie, Loved your theme, pics and all the luvely pressies to, I am sure you both made it a day to remember. After all the goodies Shellie, "What's for supper?"
    Jeanne.x :-)

  7. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella - February 16, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Gorgeous dinner Shellie! And the chocolate rose is new to Aldi-love an edible gift! ๐Ÿ˜€ Happy Valentines Day!

  8. BuBbles - February 17, 2010 at 5:46 am

    That looks like a lovely Valentine's meal Shellie and I love how you've stuck with the theme throughout.

    Nice pressie haul too!

  9. bri - February 17, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Snap with the pasta shapes! Your dish looks great.

    I'm a big Calvin Harris fan too!

  10. Iron Chef Shellie - February 17, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Hi Hamsley – lol, and Bayonetta?

    Hi What's For Tea? – No worries, hope it turns out well for you =)

    Hi Conor – Thanks! It sure was, I thought I wouldn't be able to taste anything, but I used top notch vodka and it was lovely.

    Hi Penny – Thanks =) It sure was.

    Hi Hannah – LOL!! oh dear. Glad to help though!

    Hi Jeanne – Thanks! Supper?? haha

    Hi Lorraine – Thank you! And thank you for the inspiration.

    Hi BuBbles – Thank you =) We agree, it was a nice present haul!

    Hi Bri – Lol! Thanks. Calvin Harris is awesome =)

  11. Rilsta - February 18, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Wow, those heart shaped pasta are too cute! I've never seen them before! I wonder if they are always at Aldi or just a seasonal thing! The addition of vodka to a pasta is something I've never heard of and can't imagine it.

    Ah, new love… as evidenced by the fact you buy Valentine's Day gift for one another! ๐Ÿ˜›

  12. Agnes - March 3, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Aww, heart shaped pasta! Too cute. Your cupcakes look spectacular – I am feeling the lurve!

  13. Erika K - July 9, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Oh, the color of that sauce is just gorgeous. Not sure I can find heart shaped gluten free pasta, but a real recipe for real vodka sauce – yay! And thanks for giving such detailed directions. I think it really gives your perspective in a gentle teaching sort of way.

    Plus I love that the title of this section is titled “Carbohydrates”. Just cuts right to the chase – and is clearly the one I’m drawn to. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Erika K

    Cuisinart 12 cup food processor

Shellie Froidevaux

All content on this site by Shellie Froidevaux, otherwise known as Iron Chef Shellie. Her skills include food styling in her kitchen studio, lifestyle and travel photography across Australia, restaurant photography on location, styling and shooting social media for her clients, recipe development with love and photography workshops for people with discerning tastes :)

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