Wednesday, March 9, 2011
This recipe was born out of my inability to choose between a Penne in Vodka Sauce recipe seen in the most recent issue of Food Network Magazine and Giada's Bucatini All'Amatriciana with Spicy Fontina Meatballs that I found on Kim's blog, Stirring the Pot. Indecision is the mother of invention? Rather than make each recipe separately, I decided to combine the two, keeping the ingredients that most attracted me to each recipe and also utilizing the ingredients that I already had in my kitchen. For example, the Buccatini All'Amatriciana called for pancetta. I used bacon. The vodka sauce didn't call for shallots, but the Buccatini recipe did.... so in went the shallots. I already had meatballs in my freezer, so I didn't make the Spicy Fontina Meatballs. (Although they do look amazing!) There were other changes too but the point is, I just smooshed the two recipes together and the result was delicious! It was a wonderful twist on our usual dinner of spaghetti and meatballs.
I began by frying 3 slices of bacon.
After removing the bacon to paper towels, add the onion and shallot to the bacon drippings and cook until softened. Then stir in a couple cloves of minced garlic and some red pepper flakes. Cook a little longer until fragrant.
Add in meatballs (I added 16, allowing 4 for each member of my family) and the crumbled bacon. Cook and stir until the meatballs warm up a bit.
If you'd like to make your own meatballs, THESE Spicy Fontina Meatballs from Stirring the Pot look pretty amazing OR check out THESE super easy meatballs OR try out my go-to meatball recipe found HERE. Of course, if you're pressed for time, just grab a bag from the freezer section at your local supermarket.
Next I added a can of crushed tomatoes and 1/2 cup of vodka (I used a diluted vodka). I was curious about what the vodka actually does for the sauce, so I did a little online research. I found similar answers on a couple of sites that was most clearly stated HERE in the Q&A section of Food and Wine in the New York Times:
"The alcohol in the vodka enhances the flavor of the tomatoes. Some flavors are alcohol-soluble, meaning that they will be released only by the addition of alcohol. Vodka can help bring out these flavors without contributing another flavor, as wine or brandy would.
So a tomato sauce made with a touch of vodka can be slightly more intense than one made without. This is a particular boon if you are using less than perfectly ripe, late-summer tomatoes, which may need that flavor boost."
Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally for 7-10 minutes.
Then stir in 2/3 cup of cream and cook a little longer, until thickened.
While the sauce thickened up, I grated a chunk of parmesan. Both recipes called for 1/2 cup of grated cheese. I may have used just a little more.
Finally, stir in the cheese and a handful of torn basil. Salt and pepper the sauce to suit your taste before tossing with 12-16 oz. of cooked spaghetti.
Sprinkle with more cheese and basil...if that makes you happy.
Spaghetti and Meatballs in Bacon Vodka Sauce
12-16 oz pasta
16-24 meatballs, thawed if frozen
3-6 slices bacon
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1-2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup vodka
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn, plus more for topping
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook as the label directs. Drain the pasta.
Fry bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Remove to paper towels. Add the onion and shallots to the bacon drippings in the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, a minute more or until fragrant. Crumble the bacon into the skillet over the onions and add the meatballs, cooking until the meatballs are warmed. Stir in the vodka, tomatoes and salt to taste. Return the skillet to medium heat and simmer, stirring often, until the alcohol cooks off, 7-10 minutes. Stir in the cream and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parmesan and basil.
Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to combine. Season with salt. Serve topped with more parmesan and basil.
*I only used 3 slices of bacon to prepare this recipe, but I really enjoyed the bacon in this dish. Next time I would add more. If you choose to add more bacon, you may need to drain off some of the fat before adding in the onions.
**I used half and half instead heavy cream in this recipe- my sad little attempt to lighten it up since I added in bacon and meatballs.