Without Vodka

Those bottles of pink sauce in the store always seem to list vodka in their ingredients, but I have to wonder if it imparts any particular flavor, being vodka. This sauce is similar, but less tomatoey, and with mushrooms and pine nuts. [And wine, though it's quite good without it.] Recipes are generally presumed to be finished. But I've varied this sauce so many times... Sometimes more tomatoes, sometimes fewer, sometimes tomato sauce (though I really don't recommend tomato paste--that gives it a sickly, blunt, cardboard flavour), sometimes no mushrooms or pine nuts. And I've tried varying the herbs a lot. Paprika might be nice. Hot chiles are what you would expect--and some people I'm sure would really hate the result. Rosemary is probably a mistake. Sage would certainly kill it. If you have it, fresh oregano and basil really are vast improvements over themselves dried.

1/2 onion

1 1/3 cups heavy cream

4 roma tomatoes

6 crimini mushrooms

2 cloves garlic

4 tablespoons grated parmesan

2 tablespoons pine nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh leaves)

1 teaspoon dried basil (or about 10 fresh leaves)

[1/2 cup white wine]

Oil a large saucepan on medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil and melt 2 tablespoons of butter in it. Put a small saucepan on medium heat. Chop finely onion and garlic and transfer to large saucepan. Don't let the onions burn. Toast pine nuts in small saucepan until well browned but hopefully not blackened. Put pine nuts aside in a bowl. Oil small sauce pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil and turn heat to medium-low. Slice tomatoes into quarters and then 5mm slices and transfer to small saucepan. Don't let the tomatoes stick to the pan. Add a pinch of salt to both pans. Chop mushrooms in half and then into slices and stir into large saucepan. The goal here is to cook the onions until soft and at the same time begin reducing the tomatoes into a sauce. Add black pepper, oregano, basil to large saucepan. [When onions are mostly cooked, add white wine and let it boil off for a minute or two.] Once the onions are done, transfer the tomatoes to the large saucepan. Stir in heavy cream. Once the cream begins to boil, adjust the heat so that it boils just gently. Add toasted pine nuts. Reduce sauce to an almost pudding-like consistency, occasionally stirring to keep from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Grate in parmesan while stirring. Salt to taste. Remove from heat. Serve over pasta.

30 September 2009