What if you could have whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted? Imagine the possibilities. GWB would wake up one morning and decide to "establish" yet another democracy and alienate the other half of the world without any pesky questions. Senator Larry Craig could have the run of airport restrooms around the country where he could "borrow more toilet paper". And for a long time I would gladly have had at my beck and call a plate of Portland's 3 Doors Down Café's iconic dish of Penne alla Vodka, the best version of this homey Italian classic I have ever had. Sadly, for so long it was not to be, and I could only have it at the restaurant. I would go there for one of my regular visits and ignore the rest of the menu, which is awesome by the way, just so I could get my fix. Then one day a couple of years ago, I was looking up their phone number on their website, and came across the "recipe" tab. Hmm.....one click later, magically the rest of their menu opened up to me, because now I can make my beloved 3DD PaV at home! Now I could actually try something else on their menu when I walked in their doors. Just so you know, nobody knows roast chicken like chef/owner Dave Marth!
Yesterday, I found myself with the 3 hours necessary to make this staggeringly luscious and addictive pasta for dinner, and once again I blessed Al Gore for inventing the internet so I could make this discovery. And with all due respect to Mick Jagger, sometimes you can always get what you want!
If you're looking for a pasta dish that is guaranteed to make your friends worship your culinary skills, this is it. It's incredibly easy, and the reward given to effort expended ratio is off the charts!
Penne alla Vodka
from 3 Doors Down Cafe
1 Cup Vodka
6 Mild Italian Link Sausages
1 Cup Whipping Cream
2 Tbl Unsalted Butter
1 & 1/2 Tbl Tomato Paste
1 Medium Onion, Chopped
1 Lb Penne Pasta
1 Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 Cup Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
56 Oz Canned Italian Tomatoes
Fresh, Chopped Oregano, For Sprinkling
In a large pot, bring water to boil. Add the sausage links and boil for 10 minutes. Remove the links and set aside. In a heavy-bottomed sauté pan or skillet, melt the butter and add onion and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat until onion is translucent. Stir in the whole tomatoes with liquid and simmer for one hour. Add the sausage links and vodka and continue to cook at a simmer for another hour. Turn the heat to high, add cream and tomato paste and stir constantly for 10 minutes. Reduce to simmer and continue to cook for another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Drop the pasta in the boiling water and cook, stirring frequently until molto al dente (about 1 minute from al dente-which is tender but firm to the bite). Drain well and toss pasta and sauce in casserole dish with 2/3 cup grated cheese. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup cheese on top. Sprinkle with oregano and serve. Make sure to serve with a nice crusty Italian como or ciabatta bread for dunking in the sauce. We like to drizzle a tiny bit of extra virgin Olive oil over the top right before serving. This is a great dish for company.