Penne Alla Vodka

It seems impossible that I haven’t posted about making a plain, simple, minimalist tomato sauce. As a child raised on jarred Classico for the average hurried dinnertime meal or a robust from-scratch bolognese on the weekend, adjusting my palate to the ripe cooked tomato striped of all fancy detractors was an adjustment.

The cookbooks I read all treated the diced tomato with onion and garlic stewed for twenty minutes as the chief recipe, but I was less convinced until I cracked the nut: meat or vodka. Don’t get me wrong – there is a time for this parred down tomato sauce, but I think it should be reserved for summer, when you have the ripest tomatoes in your hands with a bunch of basil growing in the pot outside the back door. It is a recipe for a dinner in the late summer sun when it’s hotter than hell and you want something to refresh, not comfort.

But for now, it’s snowing out side my window and Spring – let alone summer – feels far away. The key to dressing up the simple tomato sauce (using canned tomato, of course) is to add spicy Italian sausage with fusilli, or add vodka with penne and make yourself a proper wintertime pasta. I love the recipe from, which you can get in full here. If I can get away with it, I’ll cook this recipe exactly as stated but add two cups of baby spinach, thrown in the sauce just before adding the noodles. But if Frank has his way, we begin the recipe first with a 1/4 pound of Italian sausage, before adding the onion, etc.


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