Rotini with Vodka-ish Sauce

I loveeee me some vodka sauce. It’s creamy and delicious but still acidic thanks to its tomato base. When it’s on top of al dente pasta? Oh baby oh baby.

My beau claims there’s no actual vodka in vodka sauce. I’m here to tell you that’s not true. It’s there. The alcohol burns off, but it’s there. The reason I call this vodka-“ish” sauce is because I used a jarred tomato sauce rather than canned tomatoes (that I’d then purée) and I cooked the protein in the sauce (in this case, ground turkey) rather than, say, grilling chicken separately and adding it at the end. It’s not traditional but it still tastes so good.

Start by sautéing a small/medium onion in butter over low heat. After about 7-10 minutes, when the onions are translucent, add some vodka and simmer for another 5+ minutes. I didn’t measure, but I’m sure I added more than a standard recipe because I knew my sauce would have the protein and cooking longer on the stove. Next add in 1 lb ground turkey and cook til it’s browned. Then, add in a jar of your favorite marinara and crushed red pepper flakes and let it simmer away. A few minutes before you’re ready to eat, stir in some half and half until it’s the level of pink you like. When you serve, top with plenty of Parmesan to give it a nice creamy texture. It needs the extra help to thicken up because the turkey wasn’t cooked separately. That means it releases some grease as it cooks (it’s lean, but still) that will keep the sauce from getting super thick, especially if [like me] this is a weeknight 30 minute meal and you’re not letting it sit on the stove all day. Serve it over one box of rotini, which is the perfect shape to capture the ground meat in this sauce.

Wednesday was the first day it started feeling cold in NYC so this pasta was perfect cold weather comfort food. And that vodka really does add a unique layer of flavor. Pink sauce is basically marinara and cream. Any knucklehead can do that. There are but a few simple additional ingredients in this (onion, vodka, and red pepper flakes), but they create a new – much better – sauce. And knuckleheads can still do it.