Vodka & pasta. Is that a thing? Why yes it is! According to a good friend of mine with family in Italy, it even is a typical dish for the working class. No vodka 'on the rocks' here, but in between the ridges of penne or other types of pasta if you like to make sure there was lots of sauce in the pasta and people would leave the table with a full belly.
Others say it's not really Italian, but more American-Italian food. Whatever the story is, I was fascinated, so I wanted to try it myself.
Coincidentally there's a new vodka brand in town called Our/Amsterdam. Folks who live in Berlin, Seattle or Detroit might recognize it since Our also has branches in those cities. Our/Vodka is partly distilled, blended and hand bottled in local micro-distilleries built in each town. It is made with ingredients sourced as locally as possible using a global recipe. Therefore the product always looks the same, but each city gives its name and character to the vodka.
When I visited the distillery in Amsterdam, Joris showed me around. It took his colleague Martijn 1.5 years to bring Our to the city. They hope their bottles will become real collectors' items, just like those Hardrock Cafe shirts. Their distellery/cafe in the South of Amsterdam is beautifully decorated and has very clean look and feel to it. The bottles are smaller than normal ones and are sold at the finer liquor stores and places like The Hoxton and We Are Labels. And of course you can pay them a visit yourself and chat over a glass of vodka or buy a bottle in their webshop.
I didn't leave without a bottle myself of course and poured some of it into my pasta sauce. Don't worry, there's still plenty left (I still have to make my own vanilla extract duh ;-)). I was very surprised by this dish. You can still taste the vodka, but it's soft and gentle. Combined with the pasta, the tomatoes and the cheese it just works.
Spelt pasta a la vodka
Adapted from Saveur Magazine's recipe
1 lb or 450 grams pasta/penne/whatever type you fancy
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp crushed red chile flakes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 can (32 oz/900 ml) whole, peeled tomatoes in juice, crushed
1/4 cup vodka
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup parmesan
pepper & salt to taste
1 cup parmesan
chopped parsley, to garnish
How to make it:
1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, cook according to instructions, stirring from time to time.
2. Heat oil in a second (heavy-bottomed) pot and add the chile flakes & onion. Cook for about 4 minutes, until soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic after two minutes. Add the tomatoes & vodka, and cook. Stir until slightly reduced. This takes about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in cream & cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Stir until smooth. Drain the pasta, transfer to the pan with sauce and toss until evenly coated. Serve and sprinkle with parsley. Enjoy!