Penne Alla Vodka

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Sometimes you just need comfort food. Whether it's a bad day at work, a fight with a friend or just an overwhelming feeling of 'meh', comfort food is like a warm hug from within. My comfort food staples have a few things in common - they're carby, they're creamy and usually they're cheesy. Comfort food is different from junk food. Whilst these dishes may not be the healthiest in the world - there ain't no kale here - they are so much better cooked from scratch and eaten in (some) moderation. They cease being comforting if you get an intense feeling of guilt once you're done.

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This recipe is the one I reach for if I'm feeling a bit down. It's simple enough that I don't have to spend the whole night in the kitchen, but it still feels a bit special. It's got everything I like in my comfort food - plus vodka, which although is not my drink of choice, adds a certain 'je ne sais quoi' which can't be beaten. You can leave the prawns out if you're not that way inclined, but they add some luxury that you just can't beat when you need to treat yourself.

This recipe makes enough sauce for about three generous portions, but I usually eat this alone and keep the rest in the freezer for emergencies. Serve with a glass of wine (or of vodka, since you'll have it on hand...) and a liberal helping of trashy TV. Feel better, friends.

You'll need:

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes (or passata, if you prefer)
  • a big squidge of tomato paste
  • vodka (a shot and a half-ish)
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 175g raw prawns (or thereabouts)
  • 50ml double cream
  • 300g pasta (or 100g if you're on your own)
  • small knob of butter

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1. Fry the onion in a saucepan over a medium heat until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more, being careful not to brown the onions or garlic too much.

2. Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan along with the tomato paste and a shot of vodka.

3. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sugar and stir through thoroughly.

4. Bring to the boil before turning the heat down and simmering for ten minutes or so until thickened.

5. Meanwhile cook the pasta in a separate pan.

6. With around 5 minutes to go, add the prawns to the sauce and stir through.

7. Once the prawns are cooked through (about 3-4 minutes), remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the cream.

8. Drain the pasta and return to the pan. Add the knob of butter and another splash of vodka (about half a shot).

9. Turn up the heat and stir the butter and vodka into the pasta. Continue stirring for a couple of minutes until the butter has melted and the alcohol in the vodka has burnt off.

10. Turn off the heat and add the sauce to the pan. Stir until pasta is fully coated.

11. Serve with grated cheese of your choice, some extra black pepper and a glass of wine.

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