Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Back to School

Whenever Joe and I are going out to eat or getting takeout our first choice is usually Italian, and typically, one of us will order penne vodka for our entree. Since we both love the dish so much in restaurants, I've recently begun trying to recreate the dish at home. Last night was my second attempt - the first recipe (an old family one from my friend Kim's grandmother) was good but too spicy and not really what I had in mind. So I decided to try the recipe for Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce from the September 2007 issue of Cooking Light and see how that measured up. I also chose this recipe becasue I wanted to make a special dinner for Joe, since it was his last day of summer vacation before returning to school to educate the youth of Freehold Township for another year.

The finished dish was quite tasty, and Joe certainly enjoyed it, but still not really like the version we have in favorite restaurants. This could have to do with the fact that this recipe called for only 1/4 cup of cream, and I can only imagine the amount of cream in the restaurant versions! Still, the dish was easy and delicious (and relatively guilt-free) and I will definitely make it again - while continuing my search for the "perfect" vodka sauce! I served the pasta with some grilled shrimp and made a copy cat version of the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits - Joe's favorite of all breads. These were also very good - easy and pretty close to the Red Lobster version.

Pasta with Vodka Cream Sauce

1/2 pound uncooked penne pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup vodka
1/4 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup whipping cream (I used light cream)
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil (I omitted this)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and keep warm.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add vodka; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced by about half. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 8 minutes. Place tomato mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Process until smooth. Return tomato mixture to pan; stir in cream. Cook 2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in cooked pasta, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and basil. Serve immediately.

4 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 354(25% from fat); FAT 9.9g (sat 3.9g,mono 4.1g,poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 8.5g; CHOLESTEROL 20mg; CALCIUM 36mg; SODIUM 662mg; FIBER 3.1g; IRON 1.2mg; CARBOHYDRATE 48.6g

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits

2 cups Bisquick (I used lowfat)
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
few pinches of dried parsley flakes

Mix the Bisquick, milk, and cheese together until dough forms. Mix for about 30 seconds. Form into balls and place on an ungreased cooking sheet. Bake in oven at 450 for 10 minutes. While they are in the oven, combine melted butter, garlic salt, and parsley. Remove from oven and pour melted butter mixture over buscuits while still hot. I turned off the oven and then put the bisquits back in and let them sit and soak up the butter.


Renea said...

Yum, that looks great!

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