Dressing up the Pasta with Pink Vodka Sauce

I can’t stand looking at my face. It is the same old, same old that it’s always been day in and day out, and it’s not getting any better.

When you get tired of pasta on the other hand, you have a million ways to make it better. Even the same old same old sauce is good again if you wait long enough from the last time you made it. The secret to pasta with a classic pink vodka sauce, is the onion and the tomato. I know I’ve told you this a million times, and here I go again, because I want you to remember: buy San Marzano tomatoes, the best variety of plum tomatoes you can buy, and when you are cooking the onions for the sauce, cook them over a low to medium heat for as long as you can stand it. Think about roasting a marshmallow. You know if you hold it over the fire at just the right point and ever so carefully turn it until it is bloated with liquid marshmallow on the inside and crackled with a deep golden brown on the inside, then it is a whole other thing from a raw on the inside and burnt on the outside orb, good for nothing but feeding the fire.

Use the best olive oil that you can get your hands on–one that tastes like the fruit of an olive if you sip it–and heat it up in a sauce pan with four whole cloves of garlic, cut in half. When the garlic is golden, add a small firm diced onion seasoned with salt, and over a lowish to medium heat, cook the onion, stirring occasionally until the onion is completely and utterly soft. It should just squish between your teeth with no resistance. Add a few fresh basil leaves, let them saute a bit until they are crisp and translucent and then add a quarter cup of vodka. Reduce a little, then add a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes that you have broken apart with your hands. Season with a bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and let it cook for at least fifteen minutes, and up to half and hour. Pour in a little heavy cream, maybe a quarter cup, and taste for salt and deliciousness.

Meanwhile, get your pasta water going with enough kosher salt so that the water tastes like a seasoned soup. Add the noodles (usually penne, but anything that has a space somewhere for the sauce and use 9-10 ounces), and cook until al dente. Try using De Cecco or similar brand. The pasta should still have a bit of a white line in the middle when you bite into it. Drain well, reserving some of the water. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir for a minute to let the two get together. Grate a cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano and stir in off the heat. Rip up a few more fresh basil leaves and add those as well. If you need a drop more liquid, add either a bit of cream, or a little of the pasta water. Taste for salt and black pepper. Serve with a big plate of broccoli rabe with garlic and or a Caesar salad.

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