A Night In: capellini alla vodka

This past Christmas 2012, Cooper and I were able to fly home for a week to see our families, and to recover from city living in the quiet green beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  This was a week of incredible food and drink.

We cooked in with our families, went out with our friends, and took particular pleasure in what my family likes to call, “the Sip and Stroll”.  The sip and stroll is a well-loved tradition (coined by my sister-in-law, Jenny) of marrying two pleasurable past times: walking and drinking.  Despite how some of us (cough cough) have to stop in our tracks every time we want to take a sip because we lack the coordination to do both without spilling, we find that these two activities go rather well together.  (During the winter months the choice is usually red wine, or if we’re feeling fancy, hot mulled wine, but during the summer it is more likely to mean gin and tonics or white wine.)

One particularly memorable meal was shared with Cooper’s parents following the holiday.  Cooper and I like to give “activity” gifts when inspiration strikes us, and this year we gave them a “Night In”.  This was the first meal that Cooper and I have cooked on our own, for his parents, and it was a smashing success!  We served

Homemade pepper jelly on crackers with cream cheese

First course
Capellini alla Vodka

Second course
Poached egg arugula salad with roasted asparagus and crimini mushrooms

Homemade dulce de leche served on Tillamook vanilla ice cream

Christmas 2012 013

While each course turned out well, and was fun to make, I’m going to share with you the recipe for Capellini alla Vodka as it is just the right amount of decadent and totally delicious.

Capellini alla Vodka
Recipe adapted from this website.

1 lb Capellini
2 Tbsp + olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves, minced
Chicken or vegetable bouillon (amount used to flavor 2 cup broth)
1 cup vodka
1 tsp sea salt
2 cans diced fire roasted tomatoes (undrained)
¼-1/2 cup whipping cream
¼ cup + basil

Cook the pasta al dente, and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skilled over medium heat, and add the onion and garlic, sautéing until just tender. Add the bouillon and red pepper flakes, and sauté briefly, until bouillon is mixed in. Add the vodka, and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced to about half.  Stir in the tomatoes and salt, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Puree the sauce in a blender (be sure to let steam escape from the top!), and return to pan.  Mix in the cream, and add salt to taste.  Cook the sauce over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat, and stir in pasta and basil. Serve piled high, and sprinkled with more basil chiffonade* and freshly grated parmesan.

* If you haven’t done this before, here’s a helpful video.  Garnishing your pasta (or anything else) with herbs chiffonade makes it look so professional!)

For anyone who has ever wondered what the vodka actually does for a vodka sauce, let me tell you: a lot!  I recently made this recipe without the vodka (trekking to the liquor store in the remnants of Blizzard Nemo was uninviting), using water instead.  The dish was still yummy, but was rather two-dimensional.  Virgin vodka sauce is a no go!


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One Response to A Night In: capellini alla vodka

  1. Mark Ashley says:

    As one of the recipients of this activity gift, I want to certify that watching the choreography of this seasoned pair in our kitchen was as satisfying as their smart menu, where each course focused on a single star (in ensemble, not solo). And we didn’t have to deal with stumbling in a sip and stroll nor dirty dishes and kitchen at the end!

    Smashing success, indeed.

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