Like most of the recipes we post, this recipe has been Healthy-ish-ified. That doesn’t mean it’s healthier than the original recipe (from Cook’s Illustrated), just that it’s tastier—in our biased opinion. Despite our snobbery, we still adhere to one piece of advice from the Cook’s Illustrated folks: don’t use crappy vodka. They found that nine of their ten taste-testers preferred sauce made with the most expensive vodka. We use Absolut—not the most expensive brand, but not the swill we drank in college either.
1 28 oz can of whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
2 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
½ small-ish onion, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 large garlic cloves, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup vodka
½ cup heavy cream
1 box penne (we use brown rice penne)
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil leaves
1 can white beans (cannellini or great northern), rinsed
2 or 3 zucchinis, sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler
1 tbsp butter
1. Puree half of the tomatoes in a food processor. Core and dice the rest of the tomatoes.
2. Combine the pureed tomatoes and the diced tomatoes in a measuring cup and add the reserved liquid until you have 2 cups of tomato stuff.
3. In a large pot, start boiling water for the penne.
4. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onion and tomato paste.
5. Cook, stirring until onions just start to brown, about 3 minutes.
6. Add garlic and pepper flakes. Cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
7. Stir in the tomatoes.
8. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and add the vodka. Return to medium-high heat and simmer 8-10 minutes.
9. While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta. Then drain it.
10. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook until the butter begins to brown, then add zucchini ribbons and cook, stirring 2-3 minutes (until softened). Set aside.
11. When sauce is done simmering, add cream. Cook, stirring for 1 minute. Set aside.
12. Add 2 tsp olive oil to the pasta pot (while the pasta is draining in the sink). Add the beans and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
13. Add the pasta and the beans to the sauce in the Dutch oven. Toss over medium heat for 1-2 minutes. Stir in basil.
14. Divide penne alla vodka among pasta bowls and top each serving with zucchini ribbons.