Penne alla Vodka with Grilled Chicken
This penne pasta dish tossed in a light and smooth tomato cream sauce is an Italian-American classic. The vodka is used to bring out the flavors of the tomato in the sauce while also acting as an emulsifier to keep it all together. Just make sure that the sauce cooks for a few minutes with the vodka in it to rid it of any extra alcohol. The grilled chicken adds a slight smokiness to offset the sweetness of the vodka sauce.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup diced yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ cup tomato paste
1/3 cup vodka
2 cups heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound penne pasta
1 pound chicken breasts
2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Heat a medium saucepot over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through, then add the butter and allow to melt. Add the onion and sauté for two minutes before adding the garlic. Continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine, letting the paste cook for about 2 minutes, until deep red.
Add the vodka and stir to combine, then let reduce by half before stirring in the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper then add the red pepper flakes.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil; add the salt and bring back to the boil. Pour in the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and return the pasta to the pot. Ladle the sauce over the pasta and stir to combine.
Heat a grill to medium-high heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill the chicken, flipping once, until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes on each side. Remove and let rest on a cutting board for 10 minutes. Slice chicken and set aside.
Ladle the pasta into warmed pasta bowls and top with basil, Parmesan cheese and chicken slices.