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  for same.
- 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
- 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 . 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…
- About 3 servings of sauce, or 2 if you have really hungry people.