My baby girl was born at 5:02 am, and by 8 pm that evening, I was enjoying my first meal of sushi after a nine month hiatus.  It was spectacular.  The evening we came home from the hospital I had my first glass of wine.  When she was less than two weeks old, I made this pasta alla vodka.  Even though it is not fun to give up things like sushi, wine and vodka for nine months, I think it goes without saying that the outcome of a healthy baby is so completely worth any sacrifice on my part.  Not only that but when the ban is lifted, it’s pretty wonderful to experience all those favorites again.  As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder…

Now, a lot of people feel perfectly fine eating pasta with vodka sauce during pregnancy and I have nothing against them.  I am just not one of those people.  The concept that all the alcohol added to a dish cooks or bakes off entirely is quite simply wrong.  A quick internet search on the subject will reveal various charts that show how long something must be cooked and at what temperature for a certain percentage of the alcohol to be eliminated.  You might be surprised at what you find – I was.  Ultimately it is up to each person’s individual comfort level with ingesting any amount of alcohol, but for my own purposes I generally avoid using more than a splash of wine in a dish during pregnancy.  I saw this pasta alla vodka pop up on Shanon’s blog, and then Tara’s, and I filed it away under “to make very soon after giving birth”.  The night I made this we had originally planned to grill but the weather decided otherwise.  Afterward, we were all glad for the dark and stormy evening.  There isn’t much to convince you of here –  I mean, it’s pasta with a tomato cream sauce, kicked up with a bit of vodka.  The flavors are simple and subtle, and blend together to make an indulgent and comforting meal.  If it were up to Ben, this is the sauce we would make every time we make pasta.  And you know, I think he might be on to something.

Oh, and to since I’ve posted a few pictures of Andrew lately, here’s one of my sweet girl.  She is growing so fast!

  • Yield 6-8 servings

Ingredients

16 oz. dried pasta (I used orchiette)
1 (28 oz.) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup minced onion
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. table salt
¼ to 1/3 cup vodka
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup reserved pasta water, if needed
2 tbsp. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

  • 01

    Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for cooking the pasta.  When the water is boiling, add in the pasta and cook according to the package directions until just shy of al dente.

  • 02

    Meanwhile, divide the tomatoes in half.   Add half to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Coarsely chop the remaining tomatoes, discarding the seeds.  Combine the puree and diced tomatoes in a liquid measuring cup.  Add in enough of the reserved tomato liquid so that you have about 2 cups.

  • 03

    Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and mix just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

  • 04

    Stir in the tomatoes and salt.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka.  Return the pan to the heat and simmer briskly until the alcohol flavor is cooked off, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir frequently and lower the heat if the simmering becomes too vigorous.  Stir in the cream and cook until heated through, about 1 minute.  (Take care not to cook the cream too long or the sauce will separate).

  • 05

    When the pasta is finished cooking, drain, reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water.  Add the pasta to the pan with the sauce and toss over medium heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1-2 minutes.  Add some of the reserved pasta water if the sauce is too thick.  Stir in the basil and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

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