Eating a typical vegan meal with non-veggies:
Me: You’re done? Already? ;-)
Them (graciously): Well, yeah. It’s... a lot of food.
Me (pedantically, probably): It may look like a lot of VOLUME, but when you’re eating vegetables ... (feeling myself getting annoyingly speechy, I trail off without going into my rant about how plant-based meals require more volume of food to get the same amount of calories yadda yadda yadda)
Them (shrug): I’m soooooo full. (Meaning, I’m TIRED OF CHEWING YOU WEIRD HIPPIE!)
Funny, they had no problem eating dessert. Sometimes even I, “2 Heads of Kale for a Snack Katie,” just want to give my jaws a break. Plus, certain occasions just demand the vegan equivalent of a Filet Mignon …. wrapped in bacon!
This Paccheri ala Vodka (from Plant-Based Law) is that rich dish. The luscious pink sauce oozes out and melts in your mouth as the chewy pasta yields pleasingly under your teeth. You eat it for pleasure. And you don’t need piles and piles of it to get full. Although you will have seconds … or in my case thirds. ;-)
This is the thing to eat on a Friday night after a week of spin class, grain bowls, salads and smoothies. That dish you deserve when you’ve been killing it at health and need a little break from the virtue, a small reward. This is NOT the recipe to healthy up with no oil (a great recipe tweak—any other night!), or by adding a few handfuls of kale to (a normal trick of mine to up nutrition and volume) or by, god forbid, using a legume based or even whole wheat pasta (GASP!). Side note: I still regret being talked into subbing whole wheat by my sister (sorry S’er) at her protestations that she just “feels better” after eating whole grain pasta. Well, yes. Of course you do. But this dish is about feeling good in another way. While you’re eating it! This dish says: “It’s date night, get-out-the-fancy wine glasses!” If kale salads are “we’ve been dating for a few months and I finally pooped at your apartment” food, this paccheri ala vodka is third date seduction food (there’s lots of garlic but that’s fine as long as you both eat it, right?). Imagine...you hit it off over coffee and talked for hours. Then your museum date which ended over beers and delicately nibbled popcorn, turned to talk of food and you casually mentioned that you “really love to cook.” Now it’s time to deliver the goods - and not with leafy greens hanging out of your mouth, but with that toothsome white pasta chew don’t talk while you eat kind of way. That stab your fork into a piece of pasta and the thick rich sauce oozes out but still has the heft to cling to the pasta kind of way. It’s about savoring a small plate of it since it’s rich and then going back for more. Because it is just that good.
Make this on a rainy night. Or after a hard day. Or when you have a good bottle of red to open (although ...we had it with a slightly malty IPA and that combo was also pretty sick). Or for an anniversary celebration. Or for company - especially non-veggie company that you want to leave saying “WOW!” Or on a Tuesday just because you’re craving it and we only get one life.
As with any recipe only requiring a few ingredients, quality matters. Get the best dried pasta you can get your hands on. Now is the time to spring for this stuff at Whole Foods - Seggiano paccheri organic pasta - or that pasta at the specialty Italian grocer you’ve been eyeing but can’t bring yourself to pay $14 for - it’s still a lot cheaper than filet mignon (and no animals get hurt!). Actually, any tube shape pasta works (penne, rigatoni), but we really found the large paccheri not only adds to the drama of the dish but really allows the rich pink sauce to fill and cling to its interior. Yuuuuuummm!
Surprisingly, traditional vodka sauce doesn’t typically contain vodka - but it does have cream. Fortunately, the sweetness of white pasta balances the acidity of the tomatoes and replaces the sweetness lost by replacing the cream with almond milk (btw … make your own - just raw almonds and water, blended to liquid and strained through a nut milk bag). And unless there’s a jar of red sauce you absolutely love …. MAKE your own tomato sauce. It doesn’t have to simmer all day. It can be made in about 30 minutes and, in my humble opinion, is soooooo worth it!
AND eat your leftovers cold straight out of the fridge! Like leftover cold pizza after a night of drinking! Saluti!