Recipe: pasta alla vodka

This year we’ve eaten a lot of pasta. I think we needed it this year more than ever. To me, a nice pasta dish is really comforting, especially if it is of the creamy Roman kind, but it also helps that so many pasta dishes are easy and quick to make. It seems much needed from time to time, this year when we have spent so much more time in our kitchens.

Pasta alla vodka has become a firm favourite that we eat quite often, and the creamy tomato-y sauce with a hint of vodka is just the best when in need for a bowl of comfort. I use Bon Appetit’s recipe and like them I prefer to make it with a medium-sized rigatoni.

Obviously one can eat pasta any day of the week but I’ve found it especially nice to make it on Fridays to celebrate the end of the working week with a quick but lovely pasta dish and a glass of wine. It sets one up for the weekend ahead, even in a lockdown.

Pasta alla vodka with rigatoni, serves 4

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s recipe.

500 g medium-sized rigatoni

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

115 g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tube (127 g) double-concentrated tomato paste

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (can be omitted)

60 ml vodka

180 ml double cream

basil leaves for serving

Boil the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Pour the oil into a large saucepan and place on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, just until onion is starting to brown around the edges, approx 5–7 minutes. Add tomato paste, and red pepper flakes if using, and stir until the paste evenly coats the onions. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the paste is deep red and starting to brown on bottom of pot, approx 5–7 minutes. Add the vodka to deglaze pan and stir to incorporate, scraping the bottom of pot. Reduce the heat to low. Using a heatproof glass measuring cup, scoop about 60 ml boiling water from the pasta pot, then add the cream to it and slowly pour it into the tomato paste while stirring. Remove from heat. Reserve about 150 ml of the pasta water and add the cooked rigatoni to the sauce. Add some of the pasta water to the pot and stir on low heat as the pasta continues to cook and the sauce thickens. Gradually add half of the Parmesan, stirring constantly to melt the cheese. You should have a smooth, glossy sauce that coats each piece of pasta. Season with salt and divide pasta among bowls. Top with remaining cheese, drizzle with olive oil and scatter basil on top.

Zucca, Bermondsey – wow!

We had time for another restaurant visit when my friends Malin and Tobbe were here last weekend. They wanted to go to an Italian restaurant and I gave them a short list with a few names on, and from that list they chose Zucca, which I was super excited about since it has been on my to-eat list for quite a while ago.

They are very popular, so book well in advance. I was really happy that they could find us a table and although we arrived a few minutes early our table was ready for us.

We had a seat in the dining room decorated with plush carpet and modern white glossy furniture. On one wall you have the open kitchen so regardless of where you are sitting you will have a view of the kitchen.

We started with the suggested aperitif; prosecco with pomegranate. I can never resist bubbly and this drink was refreshing and nice. After the waitress had taken our order everything was very efficient in a definitely non-stressful way. The waiting staff just did their job really well and knew when we were ready for the next step.

The bread basket consisted of three types of bread, that were all delicious but the foccacia really stood out. It was soft in the middle, nice and oily but crusty on the outside.

Next was our amuse bouche; frittata. Also very nice.

Then our starters. Malin chose the olive crostini with charkuterie and was very please with her decision.

My popo al pomodoro with burrata was pure indulgence and I savoured every bite. The ‘soup’ was full of flavour and the burrata was creamy and salty. Pure joy on a plate!

Tobbe ordered the Zucca fritti and received a smaller mountain of freshly pan-fried goodies in a light airy batter. Malin and I helped him out too and really enjoyed it.

Malin chose rigatoni with cauliflower, tomatoes and sultanas and it looked very scrumptious, don’t you agree?!

My tagliatelle with duck ragu was perfection. I enjoyed every bite.

Tobbe’s seared tuna was perfectly dark red in the middle. It was served with a picante sauce and marinated shavings of fennel and courgettes.

After all of that we still had room for dessert. Tobbe chose this scoop of pistachio icecream and it was absolutely delicious.

I couldn’t resist the pannacotta with rhubarb which felt very light although fillinf. I had to give up after half.

Malin was happy with coffee instead and while that arrived we also got these little treats, which was the only thing I wasn’t ove the moon about. The short bread was a tad too sweet and the brittle was a bit too dark and therefore tasted too much of burnt sugar. But I won’t let my opinion of these little freebies taint my view of the evening, which all in all was perfect.

I think you can see how wonderful the food was. THe wine list was also impressive with only Italian wines.

The staff was very efficient and professional and so pro active they would open the door to the restrooms for you when they saw you were on your way there. That’s service! Also the ambiance was lovely – people really seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Good food is always good food, but sometimes the price helps to make your mind up about something. In this case I would have paid a lot for the food, but the fact that it is rather cheap (including a bottle of wine for £33 we paid about just under £50 each for all of the above) just makes me love this place even more.

I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of our evening here and I will so be back. Pretty soon too, I hope!

Zucca
184 Bermondsey Street
London SE1 3TQ