Penne alla Vodka

I was looking for some new recipes to try out so I headed over to search through Rachel Ray’s recent recipes. I’m not really sure why this particular recipe called out to me, but it did and it was excellent. My friend Dorothy loves Penne alla Vodka so maybe I was  thinking of her.

Cheesy goodness

This recipe for Roasted Tomato Penne alla Vodka was featured on Rachel Ray’s Week in a Day program on the cooking channel. I made a few changes to the recipe but it came out great!

3 lb plum tomatoes (I used Arkansas grown tomatoes instead)

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

~2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

Cut the tomatoes in half or in quarters if they are very big (my Arkansas tomatoes were cut into quarters.) Place on a wire baking rack on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme, salt and pepper to taste. I used fresh thyme as indicated in the recipe but I wonder if using dried thyme would have been a little easier (and cheaper!) Stripping the thyme from the stems was time consuming and a little frustrating because the leaves kept sticking to my wet fingers. Next time I make the recipe I might try dried thyme and update this post with the results. Roast in a 325*F oven about 1 hour or until the tomatoes are slumped.

Tomatoes after they were roasted

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic

1 onion, finely diced

Red pepper flakes to taste

1 cup vodka

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 cup marscarpone cheese

Handful of chopped basil

1 lb penne rigate

1 cup diced fresh mozzarella

1 cup parmesean cheese

Heat the oil over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic in the oil until soft but not caramelized, 12-15 minutes. Season the onion and garlic with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Add the vodka and reduce by half. Stir in the tomatoes and chicken stock; cook for 5-10 minutes until heated through. Mix in the Marscarpone cheese, move the mixture into a blender and blend until smooth. (I used a blender but Rachel suggests using a immersion blender or food processor. This was definitely the messiest step and I bet using an immersion blender would cut down on the mess a bit.) Pour the sauce back into the pot and add the basil.

I cooked the pasta ahead of time because I was planning on using the same pot to make the sauce. Basically, follow the directions for the pasta making sure to cook until just al dente. The pasta will continue to cook during the baking so if you over cook the pasta at the beginning it may end up mushy later. I rinsed the pasta after draining it so that the noodles would not stick together while it was sitting out.

Toss the pasta with the sauce and transfer to a baking dish. Scatter the cheeses over the top of the pasta and cover with parchment and foil. This can be stored in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to bake or can be placed directly in the oven. Bake covered 45 minutes in a 375*F oven. Remove the foil and parchment and bake 20-25 minutes longer, until the cheese is browned and bubbly. (This step took a bit longer than I thought it would. Josh also complained that he didn’t wait until the cheese was browned before he declared it warm enough to eat. I think you could probably take the foil off after a half hour and let it cook an additional 30 minutes)

The results were delicious. I made this during Josh’s visit in July and packed him a couple of foil containers to take home. It is one of the few recipes I have made that did not microwave well. I mean, it was edible but the noodles were a little crunchy. This recipe might be better if you made single serving containers and baked them when you were ready to eat it.

And of course, Josh thought it could use some chicken or sausage…

This recipe was adapted from the Roasted Tomato Penne alla Vodka by Rachel Ray.

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