Penne Alla Vodka With Chicken 4.000

T. Susan Chang

Book Report Oct 12, 2015

The revolutionary takeaway in this otherwise fairly familiar recipe for pasta with vodka sauce is the pasta-cooking technique: You start the penne in the pot, in hot water from the tap, before bringing it to a boil and cooking it until done. It saves only a few minutes, but it's nice to know you can do it. The method gives the pasta a chance to absorb as much water as possible, and it helps release the pasta's starch into the cooking water, which becomes important for adding to sauces.


Servings:
4 - 6

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 4-6 servings

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, cut into small dice (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced or grated on a Microplane zester (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, plus juices, crushed by hand or with a potato masher into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 stem fresh basil (optional)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 8 to 12 ounces dried penne, ziti or other short pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • Reserved pasta cooking water
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch-wide slivers
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish

Directions

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted and the foaming subsides, add the onion; cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, with their juices, and the basil, if using. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low so the mixture is barely bubbling; cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened and reduced to 4 cups. Discard the basil.

Working in batches as needed, transfer the sauce to a blender. Add the cream and vodka. Remove the center knob on the lid (to allow steam to escape); place a paper towel over the lid opening to avoid splash-ups. Starting on the lowest speed and gradually increasing to high, blend until completely smooth, about 30 seconds. Return to the saucepan and bring just to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium-low and cook, allowing the sauce to reduce further while the pasta cooks.

Place the pasta in a large pot and cover with hot water by a couple of inches. Add a large pinch of salt and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking. Continue to cook until the pasta is fully softened but retains a slight bite in the center.

Meanwhile, about 2 minutes before the pasta is done (when you can bite into the pasta, but it still resists more than you'd be comfortable dealing with on the plate), add the chicken to the sauce and stir to combine.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 1/2 cups of the cooking water, then return the pasta to the pot. Stir to combine, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has achieved the desired consistency, about 1 minute, adding some of the reserved pasta cooking water as necessary.

Serve right away, topped with the parsley and grated cheese (to taste).

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "The Food Lab," by J. Kenji López-Alt (W.W. Norton, 2015).

Tested by T. Susan Chang.

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