Shades of February

February 4, 2020

For once that annoying woodchuck, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, so that is a gift in itself in February. I call this hump month because we are now more than half way through winter, give or take a few weeks if Mother Nature is in a bad mood. And this year, February is the month of choice if you are a candidate running for President because it is a leap year so an extra day of rallies, blitz ads and promises, promises, promises…aren’t we lucky. And to bolster all those presidential candidates, we have Presidents Day on February 17 when we honor car sales.

February is a month that still draws us to crave comfort foods that keep us warm and satisfied. Chili, soups, stews, spicy pasta dishes and casseroles get my vote. And the sweetest thing happens right in the middle of February, we pour out the love on Valentines Day. Share the love with rich and decadent pasta with vodka sauce and put a little spark in Valentines Day! It’s the best thing about February.

Penne with Vodka Sauce
Serves 4

1/2 pound penne rigate (penne with lines)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2-teaspoon hot red pepper paste (or more if you wish)
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup pureed fresh or canned plum tomatoes
1/4-cup vodka
1/2-cup heavy cream
Fine sea salt to taste
½-cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons reserved pasta cooking water

Melt the butter in a large sauté’ pan. Add the garlic and cook until soft. Stir in the red pepper paste and cook about 1 minute over medium heat.

Add the tomatoes and vodka and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stir occasionally.

Lower the heat and slowly pour in the cream and cook over low heat for an additional 5 minutes. Add half the cheese, cover and keep the sauce warm while the penne are cooking.

Cook the penne in 4 to 6 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain the penne, reserving 2 tablespoons of the cooking water.

Transfer the penne and reserved cooking water to the sauce and stir the ingredients well over medium heat until hot. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and stir to blend.

Transfer the penne to a serving platter. Serve hot.

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