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Week 13 - The Cookbook Challenge: Penne Alla Vodka


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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 you’re cooking this ahead, and I always do, stop here.

4. Reheat the almost finished tomatoes (or just continue as you were if you’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 it’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.

We both did well in the present department.
Hamsley received a video game he had been wanting for quite some time, as well as some cliche chocolates in a heart shaped box to eat whilst he games away.

I received a shiny new necklace; which I love! As well as Calvin Harris' new album which I've been wanting for while.

Hope you all had a lovely Valentine's day whether you are in a relationship, or celebrating being single and fabulous!


Probably should have gotten him BioShock 2 as well, if you were a good girlfriend :-P

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

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!

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

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 :)

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 :-)

Gorgeous dinner Shellie! And the chocolate rose is new to Aldi-love an edible gift! :D Happy Valentines Day!

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

Nice pressie haul too!

Snap with the pasta shapes! Your dish looks great.

I'm a big Calvin Harris fan too!

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 =)

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! :P

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

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