It has to be blatantly obvious by now, I love sauces—but really, who doesn't. While I've always been keen on home cooking almost everything, this column has found me pushing out of my normal array of homemade sauces, with most recipes being new experiments.
I've been having such a great time with this that I veer towards new ideas, forgetting about some that seem mundane. Vodka sauce is one of those, being a staple for so long—it's second hat by now—but that also means it's a tried-and-true recipe, churning out an excellent sauce for me for years now.
Vodka sauce's origins don't run back very long, with its debatable invention traced back to Dante, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy in the 1970s. Its popularity was most likely sparked state-side though, at Joanna's Restaurant in New York City.
The main concept behind the sauce is the addition of vodka brings out flavors in the tomatoes that are alcohol soluble, and with vodka being a rather neutral liquor, it cooks off somewhat flavorless and leaves behind a changed tomato sauce. This spicy, acidic sauce is then tempered with heavy cream to create a rich, vibrant flavor in the end.
I like to start the sauce with hand-crushed tomatoes, then depending on my mood/laziness, I'll smooth it out in a blender before adding the cream. Also, for an extra layer of excellent flavor, start it out with some crisped pancetta, then cook shallots in the rendered fat.