We are all missing eating out these days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make some of the more simple dishes from some of your favorite eateries at home! A popular spot for everyday Italian is Jon & Vinny’s. It’s a Los Angeles restaurant brought to you by chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. It brings Italian American food fare to LA with a clean and open restaurant setting. Their Fusilli alla Vodka with Basil and Parmesan is a popular dish and now you can make it at home with a few helpful tips!
Pasta Vodka is one of those recipes that doesn’t require much in the way of ingredients, many of which you may have in your cupboards already. Vodka sauce has a distinct taste and one that is very comforting. Think of it as an adult mac n cheese!
Get the full recipe and instructions at Bon Appetit.
1. Stir the Garlic and Shallots
Shallots and garlic add great flavor to this sauce. Just be sure not to leave the shallots and garlic too long without stirring as garlic tends to burn quickly if left unattended and will add a bitter taste to your end meal. Cook slowly and steadily for about 5 minutes when the shallots and garlic are translucent and the shallots look to be caramelized.
2. Use Tomato Paste from the Tube
Tomato paste comes in a can or in a tube. We highly recommend using the tube version as this one works better for these types of recipes. We like the tomato paste from the tube for a couple of reasons – it is much easier for recipes like this where you need just ½ cup or some that require a teaspoon or two and it also saves you from having to find something to do with the tomato paste that’s left in the can.
3. Brown the Tomato Paste
Tomato paste is concentrated tomato that has been reduced to form a paste. It adds a very nice rich tomato flavor and when it’s browned it has a different taste that adds to the umami (salty and sweet taste) as well. Cooking tomato paste until it is browned is very important. Make sure to cook and stir it for about 5 minutes, you will know when it is done when the color of the paste turns from bright red to a dullish brick red color. At this point, with the color change, you know the tomato paste has started to carmelize.
4. Use Heavy Cream
For this recipe we recommend using only heavy cream. The sauce really comes together nicely once the cream and the seasonings are added. But be sure and use full cream and not half and half as half and half tends to separate and not give you a smooth creamy looking sauce.
5. Salt the Water
Salting pasta water is important for two reasons, one that it is your chance to give the pasta a bit of seasoning which helps to layer the salt and secondly because you will be adding the pasta water to your sauce and it needs to have some salt. Don’t forget to reserve the pasta water – you will need ½ cup to add to the final sauce to help to thicken it.
6. Don’t Overcook the Pasta
Cook just until al dente – or a bit underdone. As with any pasta, keep in mind that if you undercook your pasta slightly, and then finish it in the sauce, the pasta will soak up some of the flavor from the sauce as it finishes cooking. This is a step that makes the final meal taste all the more better!
7. Use any Pasta
Any type of pasta would really work with this sauce. You could use a different variety of pasta such as ziti or macaroni, you could even use this sauce with ravioli for a nice change, but our favorite is using gnocchi! It’s the perfect sauce to compliment the pillowy potato goodness of gnocchi.
8. Cook the Alcohol Down
As with any alcohol, be careful when adding vodka to your dish especially on a gas stove, and be sure to cook it down until the alcohol disappears – this takes about 2 additional minutes of cooking the sauce down until all the alcohol is evaporated.
9. Vodka Substitutes
Don’t have vodka on hand? We have seen people use orange or lemon flavored vodka for an extra zing, but you could use white wine or even sake if you needed to! Just cook it down the same way you would the vodka.
10. Non-Alcoholic Version
Since some people don’t like to add any alcohol to a dish, don’t let that stop you from trying this out! A great substitute for vodka or alcohol in this sauce would be stock, veggie, beef or chicken would work well and you could still add the same 2 Tablespoons.
11. Too Spicy?
Don’t care for spicy food or want to serve this to kids? You could simply reduce the red pepper flakes or omit them all together. Another idea would be to use some oregano in place of the red pepper flakes for some additional flavor, or any of the italian mixes of herbs that you might have in your cupboard. Just be sure it isn’t a seasoning mix with salt as you don’t want to over salt your dish.
We are hopeful that with these tips, you can bring the taste of restaurant style pasta with vodka sauce to your own home. If you follow the recipe and consider the tips we have, you can enjoy a nice meal just like you were out at Jon and Vinny’s!
If you like this post, we think you’ll like our Spicy Miso Pasta recipe post.