Can Sauce Seduce? — ‘You Won’t Be Single For Long’ Vodka Rosé Pasta

10 Dec

There was a bit of whipping cream kicking around after I’d made pumpkin crème brûlée for a dinner party. Last week’s grocery shopping impulse buy was smoked salmon and now a few uneaten slivers languished in the meat drawer. A partial carton of chicken broth was getting the cold shoulder in a back corner of the icebox. And colder days were turning this Savvy single’s appetite to pasta.

What to make that could use up these odds and sods and satisfy my yen? Could I get these ingredients together and see if we could make some magic?

I have enjoyed a vodka rosé sauce in restaurants, but never made one myself. I set to surfing for recipe ideas. I came across Rachael Ray’s recipe cheekily called ‘You Won’t Be Single For Long’ Vodka Cream Pasta. How could a Savvy Single Supper cook resist giving that saucy dish a try?

Vodka Rose Fettuccine with Smoked Salmon

Vodka Rose Fettuccine with Smoked Salmon

A quick dish, whipping up this full-bodied, surprisingly sweet pasta sauce will make you feel like a culinary goddess. And if you’re someone who likes to play around (with cooking I mean), this sauce can serve as the basis for any number of divine evenings.

Vary the type of pasta, add some fat, garlicky shrimp or a few perfectly grilled, plump scallops and you have a seductive start to a New Year’s Eve party. Invite a friend home from end-of-the-week celebratory drinks and impress with this sauce as the base for a quick supper. Lightly sauté bite-sized  mushroom caps and crisp slices of yellow pepper with wedges of onion and slices of Italian sausage (or substitute baby spinach leaves if you’re wooing a vegetarian). Have your work mate spring for a fresh loaf of crusty bread and s/he may never leave your home.

But before that fantasy unfolds, we’d better get back to making the basic sauce. This comes together so quickly that you could give it a try some night after work or Christmas shopping. Then you’ll be well placed to seize any opportunity the approaching holidays may offer.

Not certain how suitable this sauce is for freezing, I halved Ms Ray’s recipe and had plenty for two servings. I used a large, deep skillet (mine was non-stick) to make the sauce. Set a pan of water on the stove to boil for your pasta.

Start with half a small onion (or one shallot) and finely chop. Mince one clove of garlic. Heat the empty skillet on medium, then add ½ tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), ½ tablespoon of butter, the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 3 – 5 minutes. You may need to lower the heat to avoid burning the garlic or onions.

Swirl ½ cup of vodka around the pan, stirring with the onions. Allow the vodka to cook until it reduces by half (about 2 – 3 minutes). Add ½ cup of chicken stock and 16 ounces (475 mL) of crushed tomatoes (or strained tomatoes, also known as passata) and salt (I omitted salt as I used a commercial, i.e. salty broth) and pepper to taste. Stir well and allow the sauce to bubble up.

Preps too fast for photo-taking!

Preps too fast for photo-taking!

Reduce the heat and gently simmer the sauce. At this stage cook your pasta to al dente, toss a salad and slice some crusty bread. Slice the smoked salmon in to slivers.

I used 1/3rd of a package of fresh fettuccine noodles per serving — which cook in a couple of minutes. Allow the vodka tomato base of the sauce to simmer for about 8 minutes. Slowly stir in 1/4 cup of whipping cream, stirring to mix well with the tomato base. When the mixture returns to a bubble, the sauce is ready. Remove from heat.

Finish with Parmesan Cheese. For a change, add garlicky shrimp or grilled scallops.

Finish with Parmesan Cheese. For a change, add garlicky shrimp or grilled scallops.

Drain the pasta, adding noodles to the sauce along with 10 torn or shredded leaves of fresh basil. Stir in the slivers of smoked salmon. Serve with Parmesan Cheese and savour.

When preparing variations that include fat shrimp or plump scallops, I’d set those on top of the individual pasta bowls of sauced pasta for a mouth-watering presentation.

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