I am not quite sure what vodka does to this dish. I think it has made it sweeter, but I am not sure. However, I am not willing to risk the oh so delicious flavor of this dish by omitting it next time (although I am certain you can, you would simply have a wonderful creamy tomato sauce on your hands.)
You might have noticed the “con pollo” part of the recipe. Adding chicken is not a standard in most recipes, but I must have protein with every meal, didn’t feel like making it separate, so I figured why not just add it straight to the sauce. Hey, maybe my chicken drank all the vodka and that is why I couldn’t taste it. Hmmmm…
When you go to add the vodka, do so slowly as to avoid making a flambé. For the basil, use fresh if you can, but if you use dry, only use about a ½ teaspoon.
The salt was a fun experience. I started with just putting my standard ⅛ of a tsp in and I felt like nothing was added. I added another ⅛ teaspoon, still, nothing. Canned tomatoes usually are packed salted, but crushed tomatoes have no added salt, so I continued to add a bit of salt at a time. By the time the cream was added, the dish still needed more salt and I was now at ¾ teaspoon and finally, perfect. But I do understand we all have different salt palates, one taster salted the dish after it was served, so go with your own tastes, just start with a bit and work your way up.
My plan was to use two full cups of cream, go big or go home right? But by the time I was at a cup and half it was where I wanted it to be, but add a two full cups if you so desire. It won’t be bad.
Penne alla Vodka con Pollo
- 2 large chicken breasts , rinsed & cubed small
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1-28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 onion; finely diced
- 2 large/plump garlic cloves
- 1 cup vodka
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes +/- to taste
- 11/2 cups heavy cream +/- to taste
- 3/4 tsp salt; to taste
- 1/3 tsp black pepper; to taste
- 1 tbsp freshly chopped basil +/-
- 1 lb penne or any large sturdy pasta
In a very large skillet/pan (12") add the olive oil and butter and turn onto a medium-high heat.
Add the onions. Cook them for 2-3 minutes.
Add the cubed chicken and garlic.
When chicken is mostly done, about 3 minutes, slowly add the vodka.
Allow the vodka to reduce by half.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package but cook one minute less than the printed cook time. The pasta will continue cooking in the sauce at the end.
Once the vodka has reduced, reduce the heat to medium and add the tomatoes.
Add the basil. Mix in well, bring to a high simmer.
Add salt, a bit a time, until it is seasoned to taste.
Add pepper and red pepper flakes. Taste.
Reduce heat to low and slowly begin adding the cream and mix in well. Do not pour it in all at once.
Once the sauce to the desired creaminess, slowly return it to a simmer, allowing all the flavors to blend.
Remove from heat.
In another large pan, add the nearly-cooked pasta over medium heat, incorporate the sauce a ladle-full at a time, until the pasta is coated.
Serve topped with extra sauce and more fresh basil.