My Brother May Truly Be A Devil…or, Fra Diavolo Alla Vodka

As you saw in my post about the 3-day Bloody Mary, the deep red color of the peppery vodka infusion evokes thoughts of what the Devil himself may look like. Devilishly crimson almost. But definitely packing more punch than Fireball, just minus cinnamon…

So, between the peppery vodka and the tomato sauce that accompanies it, I found myself wondering: How can I incorporate something like that into a great recipe? And as luck would have it, I considered blending two of the greatest spicy dishes in any Italian cookbook: Fra Diavolo and Penne alla Vodka!

Now, if you don’t know, Penne alla Vodka as described by, is best described as “creamy and bright” (bright reads as spicy). Their dish recommends the use of tomato paste to keep the sauce nice and smooth.

So, in my post about the Bloody Mary, there is a recipe for tomato sauce that more than fits the spicy bill. That made a prime candidate for reduction into tomato paste. And naturally enough, we had some fire in the hole with the peppery infusion of the vodka. So I took the tomato juice and placed it in the stove at 250 degrees for about an hour for the paste. I reserved about 1/3 cup of the vodka for the cream sauce Alla Vodka…

Now, where I changed up this recipe was instead of the cloves of minced garlic, I used 2 teaspoons of the garlic paste from another of my previous posts (catch the video on YouTube for directions). I did so in an effort to maximize the silky texture of the sauce, as well as to further deepen the flavor.

Next, I reached for that most important of the Fra Diavolo sauce – the crushed tomatoes. Or, in this case, “my” crushed roasted version. I roughly diced 4 fresh Roma tomatoes, tossed them with a teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano, and a teaspoon of olive oil. I then whipped out the blowtorch and hit the mixture for 30 seconds. All I wanted was a touch of char to bring out the sweetness. The resultant gentle flare up reminded me of how much fun you can have with a blowtorch in the kitchen. Not enough to burn my eyebrows, hate to disappoint you…

Once I had the creamy part of the vodka sauce slightly bubbling, I then introduced the actual vodka a little at a time, to burn off the alcohol but to retain that level of heat – reminiscent of Dante’s descent into Hell. After bringing down the heat to a summer, I gently stirred in the roasted tomatoes and allowed the flavors to meld.

On the side, I had some penne prepped and ready, gently simmering in the water in which it had been cooked. I grabbed 1/4 cup of this water and stirred it into the sauce, which only thickened it enough to maintain its smooth texture. I could now stir in the (freshly) grated Parmiggiano Reggiano, that king of cheeses guaranteed to make any pasta dish sing.

The rest…fiery history.

NOTE: You can adjust the heat as desired by adding or subtracting the crushed red peppers as needed. I warn you, this dish is not for the faint of heart. The cream and the cheese serve as a balm to reduce the effects of the various elements of warmth – but only to a slight degree…

NOTE PART DEUX: Stay tuned for a very involved video presentation to be included on our YouTube channel!


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