Who doesn't love Rachael Ray -- with her big smile, bouncy hair and corny jokes? Even if you find her constant perkiness annoying, she's too nice too really hate. And her 30 Minute Meals show is often good for a meal idea or two. I've been watching it on and off for years, so when I saw her cookbook of the same title, 30-Minute Meals, I decided to give it a try.
I have found her recipes to be really either hit or miss. Some turn out fabulously well, while others leave much to be desired. After finding a pound of rainbow linguini in my pantry recently, I decided to try out her Vodka Cream Sauce to go along with it. I love Vodka Cream Sauces in general, and this one seemed simple, straightforward, and promising. I already had all the ingredients on hand, which is always a plus. Though I was excited to try it, I was a bit skeptical at the lack of salt, pepper, or many other seasonings.
The first time I made it, I followed the recipe exactly. While it wasn't unappetizing, my dinner guests and I found it be a bit bland. It was ridiculously easy to make, however. So I decided to try it again, this time really making it my own.
I love garlic, so I doubled the amount to four big cloves. The basil was perfect as is, and since many of us have it growing at home during the summer, this is a great way to use up a bunch of those leaves. For the vodka, I had Absolut on hand, so I used that. I remember RR often preaches about using a good quality alcohol when cooking since the liquid condenses and the flavor intensifies. The Absolut was perfect: mild but still present. I simmered the tomato sauce on low for about 30 minutes to really enhance the flavors, but 15 minutes would do if you are short on time. Then I added the cream element. I used half-and-half, mostly because that's what I had in the fridge, but also to not make it overly heavy. Though I didn't measure exactly, I would say it took closer to a third of a cup to really make the sauce pink and creamy. I also added a few good shakes of sea salt and a big pinch of freshly ground pepper. The salt and pepper complemented the sweetness of the sauce and made the whole dish much more palatable.
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One side note: Though Ms. Ray promised I wouldn't be single for long, this was a fallacy. Do not believe her false promises. But with a few tweaks, you will end up with a damn fine pasta sauce that is wonderfully easy to make. Make extra as it reheats very well for the next day or two.