Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Penne with Vodka Sauce

A while ago, I dated a guy who I’ll call Jamie. He was lanky with messy blond hair and eyes that were piercing pools of blue. There’s no way you could miss his bright eyes in a crowd, if you gazed at him long enough, you could feel him reading every thought running through your mind.

On our first date, we went to see Rock of Ages. I love Broadway shows, they always put me in a good mood, but this time, I was more anxious than excited. I had those first date jitters, uncertain how to behave in front of a stranger. It didn’t help that my date kept glancing over at me, I didn’t know whether to return his looks or pay attention to the show.

At intermission, Jamie grabbed my hand and led me through a winding flight of stairs to the top floor overlooking the stage. This was the first of many explorations, he had a thing for spontaneous mini adventures, a quality I didn’t realize I would like so much. The theatre was musty, ancient, and beautiful. Blood-red walls and tall mirrors filled the halls, gold painted moldings snaked behind us, Jamie turned to face me and flashed a megawatt smile, the stair railing was the only thing keeping me from swooning to the floor.

When the show ended, we followed the hoard of people dispersing into the spring night and made our way to the subway. As chivalrous as could be, he sat beside me on the hour long commute to make sure I got home safely even though he lived just a few minutes from the theatre. As I leaned against the wall waiting for the subway at Bloor, he locked eyes with me, grinned and without missing a beat, leaned in for a kiss. Our lips met and a shot of electricity ran down my spine, leaving me clamoring for more.

On our date number two, we met up at Kensington Market on a sunny Saturday morning to pick up ingredients for lunch. We filled a grocery tote with red and orange peppers and a pound of shiny tomatoes. Jamie then brought me to a fromagerie. As he scoured for a Danish cheese for me to sample, I ogled the cheese rounds stacked so high I could barely see the lady working behind the counter not to mention the charcuterie that hung like Christmas lights around the store. Sadly, he couldn’t find the cheese he wanted, so we stepped out with another cheese instead.

Just as we were about to leave, I declared basil my favourite herb and how sublime it would taste in the pasta dish we were going to make, he spun around, disappeared into another store and seconds later, came out with a bouquet of the leafy herb so intoxicating I nearly fainted. With a spring in his step, he lugged the brimming grocery bag in one hand and took my free hand with the other.

When we arrived at his apartment, we unloaded our ingredients and got to work. Jamie took out the recipe and assigned me on pasta duty. As I familiarized myself around the cramped kitchen, a fluttery feeling flooded inside me. His strong, muscular arms that moved across the chopping board, the clap clap clap of the knife against the board, spilling vermillion tomato juices everywhere, that mischievous smile as if he had something up his sleeve killed me.

I moved on to prepare a salad of mixed greens, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Jamie manned the stove and teased out the most luscious, the sexiest tomato sauce ever to cross your mouth. There was a generous glug of cream to thicken the tomatoes plus a healthy splash of vodka. Anything with booze is a winner in my book, as is a guy who can cook. Heaping portions were ladled onto plates along with the salad. We sat across from each other on the dark wooden table and dug in. After a few bites, Jamie reached over for my hand, and there it was again, his enormous smile. Smooth conversation flowed and he continued to caress my hand for the rest of lunch, my heart swelling like a hot air balloon.

We continued dating for a few more months before reality hit me squarely in the face and I realized it wasn’t going to work. I was crushed. Whenever I walked by his neighborhood, my blood would freeze and all I could picture was my broken heart. But overtime it’s gotten easier.

For months I've hesitated writing this piece for many reasons, however, I’ve been on a crazy pasta binge lately and felt compelled to share this recipe. It’s SO yum. This sauce can be made on a whim, with just a few ingredients that hopefully you already have sitting in your fridge. Each ridge of penne soaks up the sweet, creamy sauce and like all great loves, this sauce will make you swoon.
Penne with Vodka Sauce
Adapted from BBC Food

Don’t judge me, I was too lazy to make my own tomato sauce and bought pre-made tomato sauce. But that makes this pasta dish even more simple, you can have dinner ready in less than twenty minutes.

1 jar of tomato sauce (roughly 700ml or 3 cups)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 handful of fresh basil
1 lb dried pasta (like penne, rigatoni or fusilli)
½ cup of heavy cream
5 tablespoons of vodka
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and cook gently until golden. Add the tomato sauce and basil, allow to simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain well.

3. In a large frying pan melt the butter over high heat. Add the drained pasta. Toss well, making sure that all the pasta is well coated with butter. Add the tomato sauce followed by the cream to the pasta, toss with a wooden spoon. Add the vodka, toss again and turn the heat off. Serve immediately.

Recipe here!

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