Easy Peasy Ala Vodka Sauce

ala vodka sauce_n

If you’re looking for a quick, easy and delicious pasta meal this will be your next favorite recipe! Whenever I am short on time, not in the mood to make “Sunday Sauce” but want pasta and need something my kids will love, this is my “go-to” dish. I love to add prosciutto to the sauce however, it’s just as yummy if you don’t have any on hand. The key to making this scrumptious is fresh basil, lots of grated cheese, and an extra splash of heavy cream.

I feel this sauce is best over a ridged, sturdy pasta because it allows the sauce to stick really well and get in all of the yummy nooks and crannies of the pasta. I usually do a  nice penne rigate but you can also use rigatoni if you prefer. I’ve also made it will gemelli pasta which was delish as well.

One quick cooking tip, you can make this sauce ahead of time however, I recommend NOT adding the cream until you’re about to serve the pasta. Ala vodka sauce has a tendency to separate if the cream is cooked too long in the sauce so a few minutes before your pasta is done, add the heavy cream and warm the sauce through. This recipe is enough sauce for exactly one pound of pasta. Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 oz diced prosciutto, optional
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • One can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 – 1 cup grated cheese
  • handful of fresh chopped basil
  • Parsley, for garnish
  • 1 lb pasta

Instructions

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onion (and prosciutto if using) and cook until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two more.

Slowly add in the vodka, allowing the alcohol to burn off for a minute or two. Add in the crushed tomatoes, red pepper flakes, Kosher salt, black pepper and cheese. Stir, bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and simmer, about 10-12 minutes.

Boil the pasta while the sauce is simmering.

Right before serving, add in the heavy cream and fresh basil and stir gently until well combined. Allow the sauce to heat through, about 2-3 minutes. Toss with the hot pasta and serve. Garnish with parsley.

ala vodka gemelli

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Baked Mac and Cheese

My husband is a macaroni and cheese fanatic, even more than our kids, so I am always on the hunt for great mac n’ cheese recipes for him. Honestly, if left to his own devices, he’d eat it every day, all day. When I came across this recipe for baked mac n’ cheese I knew I had to give it a whirl. I do have a tried and true recipe for both baked and stovetop macaroni and cheese but this one looked too good to pass up. Plus, it was SO quick and easy to pull together. This recipe absolutely did NOT disappoint. It was very rich and flavorful and the pasta was cooked to perfection in the sauce.

The original recipe is from The New York Times and it can be found right here . The only changes that I made to the original recipe was to use ricotta in place of cottage cheese and I substituted mini penne regate pasta for elbows. The great thing about this recipe is that you do NOT need to precook the pasta. You simply toss the dry, uncooked pasta with the milk sauce and cheese then bake. It doesn’t get much easier than that! During baking, I recommend placing a piece of aluminum foil underneath your pan, the macaroni and cheese bubbles up a lot during baking and it did drip a little in the oven. The aluminum foil will help to catch the mess and avoid any cheese from burning to the inside of your oven.

Because this is a baked macaroni and cheese it will not be as creamy or “soupy” as a stovetop version. If you prefer it a little more on the “wet” side, cut down on the cooking time by a few minutes so that the pasta doesn’t have time to absorb all of the cheese sauce. Also, feel free to play around with what cheese you use in this recipe. Cheddar cheese is a classic choice but other cheeses such as Asiago or American will also work nicely in most macaroni and cheese recipes. Be creative and enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 cup full fat ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups milk (not skim)
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  •  Pinch cayenne
  •  Pinch grated nutmeg
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ pound elbow pasta, uncooked

Instructions

Heat oven to 375ºF and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use 1 tbs butter to butter a 9-inch round or square baking pan.

In a blender, purée ricotta cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Grandma’s Macaroni Pie

Macaroni Pie 3

Growing up in a big Italian family there were many food traditions that we had throughout the year, macaroni pie being one of them. We typically made this easy, delicious pasta dish at Easter time along with other family favorites such as sweet rice pie and Easter bread. It became a tradition in my family to serve the macaroni pie for dinner the day before Easter after spending the day baking Easter bread. We’d have a nice big slice and relax while watching “The Ten Commandments” on TV. Such great memories!

This dish is made with perciatelli pasta (pronounced pear-chuh-TELL-lee) however, bucatini is also fine as they are both the same cut which is a long, thin, tube like pasta. The key to great macaroni pie is lots of cheese and letting the macaroni soak after cooking so that it plumps up. Be sure to cook the macaroni very al dente as it will both soak and bake. If you overcook it from the start, your macaroni pie will be very mushy. Also, this is a very black pepper heavy dish so if you’re not a huge pepper fan feel free to cut it back to suit your tastes.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb perciatelli or bucatini pasta
  • 10 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 6-8 oz grated cheese (I prefer Pecorino Romano)
  • 1-2 tbs coarse ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the macaroni until very al dente. Once it’s done cooking drain off most of the water leaving just enough to cover the macaroni. Set the pot aside off of the hot burner and let the macaroni cool until it swells and gets soft, about 10-15 minutes.

While the macaroni is cooling, mix together the beaten eggs, grated cheese, salt and pepper.

Drain off the macaroni and give it a quick rinse under cool water, if it’s is too warm when you add the egg and cheese mixture it will cook the eggs. Combine the cooled macaroni with the egg and cheese, mix well.

Spray a 9X13 dish with cooking spray, pour the macaroni in. Lightly mist or brush olive oil all over the top so that the macaroni browns as it bakes. Cook for about an hour or until it’s lightly browned and the center is set. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then slice and serve.

Macaroni Pie 1.jpg