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Vodka Cream Sauce

December 27, 2016 Menu No Comments

Vodka cream sauce is my favorite alternative to a traditional red pasta sauce…aka gravy! While it may be tempting to simply grab one of the jarred varieties available in your grocery store, making a home made vodka cream sauce is not all that complicated. You do need to dedicate a little bit of time to allow the flavors to marry, and allow the sauce to thicken to the perfect creamy consistency. If you are a regular follower of my food blog, you probably know by now that I focus on low-fat alternatives to rich and creamy foods as often as I can. Unfortunately, this is not one of those recipes. Butter and cream substitutes aren’t going to give you a true, rich and tasty vodka cream sauce. But hey, you have to enjoy life to the fullest once in a while…why not enjoy it with a yummy pasta dish?

You may be curious as to why vodka is used in this classic recipe. From what I’ve learned, its purpose is to help release additional flavors from the tomatoes which are normally not released during a traditional cooking process. This is the same reason why certain recipes call for the addition of wine or other alcohols. The vodka also acts as an emulsifier. The oil from the cream would typically separate when it interacts with the acidic tomatoes. The addition of the vodka helps to prevent this from happening.

You can build on the ingredients and taste if you like. For additional spice, try adding a bit of crushed red pepper. If you are really in a creative mood, add a can of crab meat and some cooked chopped asparagus. Whatever way you choose to enjoy this recipe, I guarantee it will put a smile on your face.


Vodka Cream Sauce

Makes enough for 6-8 servings, with 1 lb of cooked pasta
Total cooking time: approximately 1 hour, 30 minutes

2 shallots, diced
1/2 cup butter
1 cup vodka
2 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 pint heavy whipping cream
1 tbspn grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
*optional – 1 tspn sugar

Melt butter in a large skillet or pan over medium heat. Add shallots, sauté until soft. Add vodka, let cook for 10 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes and one tbspn of fresh chopped basil. Stir together. Lower heat to medium-low, let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy whipping cream and parmesan cheese. Stir together. Lower heat to medium-low, let simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Give the sauce a taste. You can add a tspn of sugar to help sweeten it up a bit. Add the second tbsp of fresh chopped basil during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serves well with penne, rigatoni or your choice of ravioli.

To make enough sauce for a half pound of pasta, simply cut the recipe in half. However, be sure to follow the same cooking time.


Stirring the sauce.

Plated and ready to serve!


Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

October 27, 2015 Pasta, Soup No Comments

With the cooler fall air rolling in, now is the time of year that I enjoy making soups and stews. This past weekend’s brisk weather was the perfect time for me to make a pot of Pasta e Ceci (pronounced as pasta & chichi), which is a cousin to the famous Pasta e Fagioli. Instead of using the traditional kidney or cannelloni beans, this recipe uses garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas. Many pasta e ceci recipes use ingredients similar to other pasta and bean dishes, such as pancetta, fresh rosemary and thyme, and a mirepoix (sautéed carrots, celery and onions). My recipe is a bit abbreviated, but I promise you it does not lack in heartiness or rich flavor! My version of this dish can be prepped and served in just under an hour, which makes it a practical and comforting dish for any chilly weekend or weekday meal.



Pasta e Ceci

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbspn olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 14oz can stewed tomatoes
1 16oz can garbanzo beans/chick peas, drained
1 32oz can/container of low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1 tbspn grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for serving
1 cup short cut pasta, such as dilatini or elbow macaroni
salt and pepper

Heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion, stir to evenly coat. Let simmer until onions become soft and translucent. Add garlic, stir. Simmer for 30 seconds, until garlic becomes fragrant. Add stewed tomatoes and their juices, along with about 1/3 can of beans. Add bay leaves, stir together. Let simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Using a potato masher, rough-smash the tomatoes and beans, making a chunky broth. You can also use an emulsifier or remove the beans to puree them and add them back into the soup for a creamier texture, but I prefer to mash them along with the softened tomatoes. Add the remaining beans, along with 3 cups of the broth. The soup will thicken up as it cooks, so you can add the remaining broth as needed. Add 1tbspn grated parmesan, stir. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add pasta, stir well. Again, the soup will thicken up as the beans and pasta cook and expand. You can slowly add more broth or water as needed, or to your liking. Heat another 5-10 minutes until pasta is cooked. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Serve with crusty bread. Top with additional grated or shaved parmesan cheese.

The basic ingredients...plus a little wine!

The basic ingredients…plus a little wine!

Early stages of the soup.

Early stages of the soup.

Rough-smashing the beans and tomatoes.

Rough-smashing the beans and tomatoes.

Served with shaved parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

Served with shaved parmesan cheese and crusty bread.


Baked Pasta, Chicken and Artichoke Hearts in a Lemon Cream Sauce

May 8, 2014 Entrees, Menu, Pasta No Comments

For this recipe, I’m combining chicken with two of my favorite ingredients – lemons and artichoke hearts – to make a tasty and filling baked pasta casserole, perfect for the spring season. You’ll need a little bit of time to prepare this dish, as it is a multi-step recipe. For the first step, we’ll sauté the artichokes and chicken in a lemon, wine and butter sauce. For the second step, we’ll prepare Lidia Bastianich’s lemon cream sauce recipe. We’ll then combine everything and bake it for 30 minutes. This is a great dish to serve to your family and friends as a beautiful weekend afternoon meal.





Step 1: Sautéing the Chicken and Artichokes

1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ to 2″ pieces
2 tbspn olive oil
2 tbspn butter
1 shallot, minced
zest plus juice of one lemon
1/4 cup white wine
6 oz jar artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When butter melts, add chicken. Sauté until chicken is browned and cooked. Remove chicken, set aside. Add shallots, cook briefly until shallots start to soften. Add wine to deglaze pan. When the liquid starts to reduce, add lemon zest and juice, stir well. Add artichoke hearts and chicken, stir well. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until liquid reduces by half. Remove from heat, set aside.


Step 2: Preparing the Lemon Cream Sauce

Recipe courtesy of Lidia Bastianich
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons butter
zest plus juice of 2 lemons
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup heavy cream

Drop the butter into the large skillet, and set it over medium heat. As the butter melts, scatter in the grated lemon zest; stir it around until sizzling. Pour in the white wine and lemon juice, add the salt, stir, and bring the liquids to a bubbling simmer. Cover the skillet, and let cook for a couple of minutes.

Uncover the pan, and slowly pour in the cream, whisking it steadily into the simmering wine and lemon juice. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquids reduce to a saucy consistency you like, 2 or 3 minutes more.

Note: as you are making the lemon cream sauce, you will also start to prepare a pot of boiling water to make 1 lb of pasta (zit, rigatoni or small shells will work well with this dish). As the sauce simmers, start to boil the pasta.


Step 3: Combining the Ingredients

When the pasta is done boiling, you will combine the pasta with the chicken and artichoke mixture (and its reduced liquid) in a 13″x9″ baking dish. Carefully pour the lemon cream sauce over the pasta mixture and stir it until the pasta, chicken and artichokes are all covered with the sauce. Loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake in a 350˚ over for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, serve and enjoy.



Julianna’s Pasta with Garlic Cream Sauce

March 20, 2011 Entrees, Menu, Pasta No Comments
Julianna's Pasta

This week we’re going back to the basics with a simple pasta dish that is my daughter Julianna’s favorite meal. It’s a simple dish that’s very easy to make, and works great for an easy weekday meal. It’s also a nice alternative to alfredo sauce – not as heavy, and with more of a garlic kick.

Since Julianna asked that I share this recipe with you, I thought it would be best that she tells you all the great things about this dish!

So where did you learn about this pasta dish?
My  kindergarten aftercare teacher told me and my friend Maggie about it. But now I am in first grade.

What kind of pasta do you think works best with the sauce?
The bowtie  pasta that my kindergarten teacher used. I think the wheel pasta will work too.

What do you like about the sauce?
The cream and the butter. Yummy! … Continue Reading


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