“A la Vodka”……for millions of Italian food lovers, Vodka Sauce ranks number one on their list of favorite dishes and it is definitely up there on mine. The classic combination of tomato sauce, vodka, cream, and parmesan seems like it should be one of the most simple dishes to make. I feel like it should be especially easy to create after a couple of years of professional culinary school. But for some reason, I cannot get this darn recipe correct. Am I being hard-headed? Probably…
Attempt A: It all started last summer. I thought making Penne A La Vodka for the boy would be a great treat after a long day of work. I followed a recipe almost perfectly, but realized that I began making the dish too late into the evening. He got home, we were both starving, and I had just added the vodka to my tomato sauce. Obviously, you are supposed to wait for the alcohol to burn out of of the sauce, but my patience jolted out the window, I was getting cranky, and I added the cream and cheese anyway. As the two of us sat down with a beautiful plate of pink sauce, we took a bite….and….got all warm and fuzzy inside. The vodka did not nearly burn out enough whatsoever. I can honestly say that I was a little bit tipsy after that plate of penne a la vodka. Who knew you could get drunk off of food?
Attempt B: At the end of last summer I thought I’d wing it again, only this time, start a marinara sauce from scratch. Carrots, onion, celery, tomato paste, tons of dried herbs, etc. I had exceptional focus on not making another drunken penne a la vodka, cooked out the vodka completely, added the cream, and….disaster #2. I believe it was from the tomato paste, but the sauce became creamy with big hunks of red tomato-y-pieces floating all over the place. It looked like my dish had the chicken pox.
Attempt C: Last night. I thought, “Hey, I’ve got a degree at a well-respected culinary school. I shouldn’t even need a recipe for this!”. I was wrong. I did everything right in the beginning: I sauteed some pancetta, added a little shallot, simple crushed tomato, vodka (cooked it out), cream, and lots of freshly grated parmesan. I even added shredded chicken that I cooked in the rendered fat from the pancetta and quickly blanched broccoli, but the sauce was bland. BLAND! SammyRoo does not make bland food. Many of my chefs ridiculed me for OVER-seasoning my dishes. I love salt and pepper. They are a match made in heaven. But that sauce still was not there.
Is there anyone out there with a Vodka Sauce recipe that cannot go wrong? I’m a bit desperate here. I do not like being bad at something. And I think the poor boy who has suffered through 3 fails at his favorite sauce and I would really appreciate it.