Cooking has been a little challenging for me lately, mostly due to lack of inspiration. The problem is I’ve been trying so hard to eat healthy and graze throughout the day on (mostly) nutritious snacks, that I haven’t been cooking the foods I really want to cook, which I suppose are not considered overly nutritious.
The thing is, I love fish, vegetables, fruits, and all sort of healthy and nutritious food combinations. But I find that most of my inspiration comes from cooking with seasonal ingredients and really embracing what is just right to eat in right now. This is a great way to eat if you live in, say, southern California. Here in the frigid, windy tundra known as Chicago, well, not so much.
Today I decided to throw in the towel, so to speak, and make myself a big, steaming bowl of rigatoni alla vodka. I love this dish but rarely eat it. In fact, it’s one of the first I tried to make when I was brand new to cooking. This was when I was living in Italy during college and I tried SO hard to make pasta with vodka sauce on more than one occasion, but each time ended with a big fat FAIL. I’ve learned a lot since then and have moved onto recipes written in English (I like to think my poor Italian language skills were partially to blame), and now this dish has become easy for me to pull together on the fly.
I don’t make it often as I’m trying to stay away from pasta-centered meals, but tonight was a worthy exception. After all, what’s the point on living a healthy life if you can’t have a cheat once in a while?
Here’s the recipe:
Rigatoni alla Vodka – makes two serving
2 ounces dried rigatoni or penne pasta
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 shallot, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon vodka
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 cup milk (low fat is fine)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil, for garnish
Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Set a large pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil. Add the dried rigatoni and cook until al dente following package instructions.
Prepare the sauce while the pasta is cooking: Melt the butter in a saute pan or small pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes, stirring often.
Carefully pour the vodka into the pan (remove the pan from the heat if using gas burners). Simmer the vodka and reduce until nearly dry, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste; mix well. Slowly stir in the milk until well combined; add 1 to 2 tablespoons pasta cooking water if needed to thin the sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Drain the pasta and mix into the vodka sauce. Adjust seasonings to taste and divide between two bowls. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.