Welcome to the second installment of our Cook Eat Be Healthy recipe series featuring cashew cream! Today we’re talking Vodka Sauce! A rich, creamy, tomatoey sauce, perfectly and simply seasoned to enhance the flavors of whatever dish in which you choose to use it. And on top of all that goodness – it’s vegan as well!
But first let’s address the elephant in the room! What about that bottle of Vodka?!? I feel like I need to explain why it’s so humongous!
Last October I had my second rotator cuff surgery in a 13 month period, and I wasn’t able to drive for several weeks. So I decided to try ordering from our local grocery store via their new on-line shopping service. It was super convenient, I was able to pick exactly what I wanted, and then either my husband could pick them up, or I could have them delivered! I figured it was a way to let Mr.CEBH off the shopping hook, and considering it was just me, the 2 cats, and Netflix for 10 hours a day, the on-line shopping experience was a welcome distraction. I planned our meals according to what I could prepare with just one arm, then I’d make my list and submit my order. It made me feel at least a little bit productive, when otherwise I was pretty much useless when it came to doing my normal activities around the house.
Anyway….I could lie and say I wanted the bottle solely for culinary pursuits……but I’m no liar! I could fib and say I would never drink alcohol while still taking an occasional pain pill….but I’m no fibber! In truth what I wanted was an itty bitty bottle of vodka and a big bottle of orange juice. You know – for medicinal purposes only! But here’s the thing…the bottles don’t look very big on the screen when doing on-line ordering. And being as how I’m used to measurements in ounces, not milliliters, I feel like this was an honest mistake. Anyway that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉 I can only imagine what the person pulling my groceries thought when they got my order. Lots of fruits and vegetables, eggs, milk, cereal for my husband, orange juice, and the world’s most ginormous bottle of vodka! I bet they wondered what was going on here!!!
Now in keeping with my theme of full disclosure, I did indeed enjoy an occasional nip from that bottle of vodka, but for the most part, it’s been hanging out in the freezer just waiting for me to come up with the perfect recipe in which to use it! I’d had vodka sauce before in a dish at an Italian restaurant we visited in North Carolina, and I loved it. But for some reason I guess I thought it was too difficult to make at home. I mean, if I paid big bucks for it at a restaurant, it seemed like it must be a pretty involved recipe! But guess what?!? I was wrong – and happily so! I did some research and discovered that Vodka Sauce is delicious in it’s simplicity! Somehow the vodka contributes to a depth of flavor that transcends the sauce’s simplicity, and elevates it to a level that really should not be attainable considering the few ingredients in the sauce.
So to review the ingredients….vodka….duh! Canned crushed tomatoes, onion, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of red pepper flakes. I’m not sure if vodka sauce traditionally contains red pepper flakes, but I’m not really a traditional kind of cook…..so……add it or leave it out. It’s completely up to you! If you’ve read my posts before you know that I
like love spicy foods, so I’m always adding extra heat to most my dishes! It’s just who I am!
What is it about vodka sauce that makes it seem like cooking it should be a complicated and time consuming process? Or is it just me? Maybe I think anything with booze in it is fancy?!? Hmmmm….not sure how I feel about that! The good news is that the alcohol completely cooks away and there’s absolutely no residual vodka flavor to the sauce, so it’s 100% kid friendly!
Anyway – down to cooking – dice up 1 small onion fairly small. Into a large saucepan add the EVOO, onion, and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 or 3 minutes – just until the onion starts to soften and become translucent. Then pour in the vodka and continue simmering over medium heat for about 5 more minutes.
After simmering the onions, garlic, and vodka, pour in the can of tomatoes. I use crushed tomatoes with no added sugar. Some recipes call for puréed tomatoes and that would work just as well, I just happen to prefer a teensy bit of texture in my vodka sauce. I think it’s more of a rustic sauce with the crushed vs. puréed tomatoes. After adding the tomatoes (and red pepper flakes if desired), continue simmering another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly reduced. Finally it’s time to add the cashew cream, and to check it for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste.
Adding the cashew cream is my favorite part…I love swirling it together! It’s just so pretty!
In a few weeks I’ll be sharing at least one recipe using the vodka sauce we’re making today, but for now, I’ll let you decide how to use it. Some ideas would be to serve it very simply over pasta with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Or maybe you’ll choose to use it in homemade lasagna. How about instead of traditional pizza sauce? Or served over some zucchini noodles with a chiffonade of basil…oh my gosh….that would be divine! Anyway – for now it’s up to you. But for heaven’s sake just make it – and eat it – you’ll be glad you did!!!
- 1 can crushed tomatoes, 28 ounces, sugar free
- 1 cup vodka
- 1 cup cashew cream (see recipe at cookeatbehealthy.com)
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- Drizzle a large saucepan with EVOO and heat to medium.
- Add diced onion and minced garlic, cooking 2-3 minutes until onions just begin to soften and turn translucent, stirring frequently.
- Pour in vodka, stir, and simmer 5 minutes.
- Add crushed tomatoes, and red pepper flakes if desired, stirring well.
- Continue to simmer over medium-low heat 10-15 minutes, until onions are soft and sauce is slightly reduced.
- Stir in cashew cream.
- Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Continue simmering another 5 minutes, adjusting seasoning one more time as needed.
- Serve immediately or store in a covered dish in the refrigerator for up to one week.