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Pas de Pasta

Spud’s Inaugural Pasta Sauce w/ Tomatoes & Vodka

This is just a particular incarnation of a simple pasta sauce that happened in my kitchen lately. To get the low-down on a general framework for putting together this kind of pasta sauce, you would do well to check out Jenni’s guidelines [1] for same.

spaghetti sauce

The Pasta:
  • Enough of whatever pasta takes your fancy. 100g of dried pasta makes for a large dinner portion, so somewhere between 50g and 100g per person, depending on how hungry you all are. I never actually weigh pasta, I just throw in what looks like enough. The sauce below makes enough for 2-3 pasta eaters.
The Saucy Stuff:
  • 1 large onion (around 150-200g), finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot (around 150-200g), diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tblsp tomato puree
  • 1x400g tin of tomatoes
  • approx 60 ml vodka
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tblsps sunflower seeds
  • olive oil for frying
The Finishing Touches:
  • a splash of olive oil
  • a small pat of butter
  • some shavings of parmesan cheese
  • chopped flat leaf parsley
The Steps:
  • Heat your pan over a medium heat and add some olive oil, enough to coat the pan well.
  • Add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery and a good pinch of salt to the pan. Stir well so that the veg get coated in the oil.
  • Lower the heat, cover and let the veggies sweat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The onions should be translucent (but don’t let them brown or burn) and the carrot and celery should have started to soften a little.
  • Uncover, add the tomato puree and stir and fry for a couple of minutes.
  • Now add the vodka and stir and fry for another minute or two.
  • Take your dried basil and (as Jenni recommends), take it in one hand, and rub with the thumb of your other hand to release some of their oils.
  • Add the dried basil, the tin of tomatoes, the remaining salt and a few twists of black pepper to the pan. Stir and bring the whole lot to a simmer, adding a little water to the pan if the mixture appears too thick.
  • Cover again and simmer for around 30 minutes, or until the carrot and celery are well softened.
  • Meanwhile, heat a small heavy pan over a medium high heat and toss in the sunflower seeds. Allow them to toast for a few minutes until they start to turn brown, stirring frequently. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • You can also use this opportunity to cook your pasta in lots of boiling salted water until al dente [2]. Once the pasta is done, drain, but reserve about half a cup of the pasta cooking liquid.
  • When the sauce is cooked, add the toasted sunflower seeds and stir to mix.
  • When you’re ready to serve and want to finish the dish like a pro, do like Jenni does:
  • Return the pasta to its pan and place it over a high heat. Add a splash of olive oil, a small pat of butter, some shavings of parmesan, the pasta sauce and the reserved cooking liquid. Stir around for a minute or two while it sputters, then transfer to your plates of choice. Top with more grated cheese if you like and with the chopped parsley.
The Endless Variations:
  • Use red peppers instead of carrot and celery and you’ve got peperonata.
  • Add some chopped chorizo just before the end of cooking.
  • Use oregano instead of basil.
  • Use red wine instead of vodka.
  • I could go on, but you get the idea…
The Results:
  • About 3 servings of sauce, or 2 if you have really hungry people.