When I was stationed at Langley AFB, Va, there was a place in Newport News called Little Italy. It was a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant with some pretty good pizza. After going a couple times, I asked the server what her favorite meal was. She swore by the Penne Alla Vodka. I had never tried it before, but I was hooked after I did!! For those who don’t know, penne alla vodka is a penne pasta dish made with tomatoes, garlic, and vodka. Variations include the above ingredients in a cream sauce, which is how it was served at Little Italy. I went almost weekly to this place and ordered it with garlic knots. Even though this place served the best penne alla vodka, it wasn’t enough to keep the restaurant in business and they have closed.
It had been about 2 years since I left Virginia, and my friend Sassey posted a photo of pasta with a vodka sauce on social media. It was an instant flashback. I HAD to have penne alla vodka and garlic knots. Much to my surprise (and detrimental to my future diets), it is a cheap and easy dish to make and I usually have most of the ingredients in my kitchen.
This risotto bursts with umami from the earthy shitake and hint of licorice from the fennel and tarragon. Finished with nutty parmesan and asiago cheeses and topped with a sunny side egg that creates it’s own decadent sauce when the yolk is broken and cascades all over the creamy rice. Every bite dances with flavor on your tongue…
I love hosting due to my passion for cooking and when I don’t have a lot of time but still want to impress the American palate I pull out this simple very tasty and versatile recipe.
The key for this recipe is the quality of the fish. I grew up by Venice in Italy and fresh fish was an everyday deal, now I live in SC and fresh shrimp vendors are easy to find as well, pretty lucky!
The pesto in this recipe is something I’ve made multiple times for multiple dishes and occasions. It’s different enough from traditional pesto, but enough alike for any pesto lover to love. Over this homemade gnocchi, it becomes a new favorite pasta dish. I save it for special occasions which makes it memorable and exciting every time.