And I’m back! Thanks for bearing with me while I traveled and spent time with my sister. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming. I promise I’ll catch up with all of you soon. Penne a la vodka is one of my favorite pasta dishes. It’s not one that I ate much growing up, but I remember ordering it as a teenager in restaurants and feeling very grown-up. My most vivid memory of this dish is from one of our high school haunts called Stingy Lulu’s on St. Mark’s Place in New York City, where the drag queen waitresses would pretend to check our ids before serving us frosty margaritas and steaming bowls of penne a la vodka.
Although you can easily buy a jar of “vodka sauce,” it’s so easy to make that it’s silly not to. But the vodka and cream add up and after weeks of indulging I’m trying to lighten up my dishes a bit for the warmer weather. So I’ve replaced the calorie-laden heavy cream with nonfat Greek yogurt – is there anything that magical ingredient can’t make better? There’s still a splash of vodka and plenty of Parmesan cheese, so I’m not going to go so far as to say this dish is healthy, but it’s a step in the right direction. Whole wheat pasta might help your case.
- 1 pound penne
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (35-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup vodka
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- ½ cup yogurt
- ½ cup grated parmesan
- Salt and pepper
- Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute, 5 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, vodka, and red pepper flakes, if using. Simmer, uncovered, until reduced by half.
- Stir in the yogurt and parmesan cheese. To make it extra smooth, blend it with an immersion blender here (optional). Season with salt and pepper.
- Add the penne and toss to coat. Remove from the heat and serve immediately, with additional parmesan.