I don’t generally eat at Italian restaurants. It’s not that I don’t like Italian food–it’s one of my favorites actually–but I find most Italian restaurants to be disappointing. Hardly any place makes their own pasta. The best pasta I know of is from Petit Oven, a tiny French restaurant with a Polish chef. If I wanted undercooked (or overcooked) boxed pasta, I could do it myself, thank you very much. However, on the rare occasions that I find myself at an Italian restaurant, I opt for either spaghetti carbonara or pasta with vodka sauce. Carbonara I’ve made plenty, but vodka sauce always seemed to exotic and difficult. It only recently occurred to me the vodka sauce is literally vodka, cream and tomato sauce. Who knew?
I scanned the recipe for every recipe I could find. There’s no way my favorite sauce could be so ridiculously simple. My entire life I’ve paid for overpriced pasta thinking I was at the mercy of the restaurant. That was all about to change. Literally, tomato sauce cooked down with vodka, a splash of cream and some cheese. The easiest and tastiest pasta dish I’ve made in a long time. But I couldn’t leave it at that. I needed to go all out. To separate my boxed restaurant pasta meals from my home cooking, I needed something special. I picked up some fresh gnocchi (I wasn’t about to attempt homemade gnocchi as well), the cooked up some mushrooms with sage to top everything off. Like most meals I make, it was the perfect dinner with enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
Gnocchi with Vodka Sauce and Sage Mushrooms (Serves 4)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp minced shallots (about 1 bulb)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pint tomato sauce
- 1 pint chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/3 c vodka (cheap works just fine)
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tsp butter
- 2 c chopped mushrooms (go for a variety)
- 2 tbsp chopped sage
- 2 tbsp dry vermouth, sherry or white wine
- 3/4 c plus 1 tbsp heavy cream
- 1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan plus more for serving
- 1 lb fresh gnocchi or pasta of choice
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Add tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes and bring to a boil. Stir in tomato paste and vodka, reduce heat and simmer until sauce has reduced by at least 1/3.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook gnocchi or pasta according to the box’s instructions. Melt butter in a saute pan over medium, low heat. Add mushrooms and cook until tender, 7-8 minutes. Add vermouth, 1 tablespoon heavy cream and sage. Mix well and continue cooking until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Stir remaining 1 cup of cream into sauce, cooking on low heat until sauce is uniformly warm. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese until melted.
To serve, divide pasta between 4 plates. Top with about 1/2 cup vodka sauce, a few spoonfuls of mushrooms and extra Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.
- egg-less gnocchi in spicy tomato sauce (bitebymichelle.com)
- Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Butter Sauce (Original Grandma Recipe) (the1234girls.wordpress.com)
- Easy Italian – Basic Homemade Gnocchi (blogthebackyard.wordpress.com)
- Spaghetti Carbonara Recipe (greatbritishchefs.com)