I came up with the name for this sauce because I was told that calling something vodka sauce without putting vodka in it was unacceptable. Not that this is some teetotaler sauce, it just has whiskey instead. I like the touch of sweetness. The instructions below are for a double-dose as I like to freeze leftovers for later, but you can half it if you only want a few servings. Down to business!
Large saucepan (I recommend 6-8 quarts unless you plan to half the recipe)
Food processor or Blender
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped
3-4 shallots, chopped (depending on size)
Salt and black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon of Za'atar (particularly this Za'atar)
Two 28-ounce cans italian peeled tomatoes
4 ounces aged gouda
1/4 cup light cream (sometimes I do a big dollop of cream cheese instead)
1 pound penne or other tubular cut pasta
1/3 cup bourbon (doesn't have to be the good stuff by a long shot)
1 tablespoon butter
Note: These aren't nearly as fun.
Large onion in place of shallots
Italian seasoning in place of Za'atar
Parmesan in place of aged gouda
Heavy Cream in place of light cream (if you want it thicker and creamier)
Phase One - Prep
1. Chop up the shallots and garlic.
2. Add peeled tomatoes and parmesan cheese to blender or food processor along with za'atar and crushed red pepper. Blend/process until you achieve a chunky but still sauce-like consistency.
Phase Two - Sauce
3. Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the shallots and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallot is soft and begins to brown, about 15 minutes.
4. Add the tomato-sauce mixture from Phase One, raise heat to boil mixture, then reduce heat to medium-low or low so that the mixture simmers steadily, and cook, stirring occasionally and partially covered, for 10 minutes.
5. Add whiskey, then sauté for 30 more minutes to an hour. This is a judgment call as you want the sauce to reduce and thicken but it's a matter of preference how much you want to achieve on that end. I prefer 45-60 minutes, but the sauce will be tasty and ready to eat at 30 if you're pressed for time.
Phase Three - Pasta
5. While sauce is simmering during step 4, bring water in a large pasta pot to boil.
6. When water comes to boil, salt it generously and add the pasta.
7. Stir the cream and butter into the tomato sauce, and turn off the heat.
8. When the pasta is al dente—usually after 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the package instructions—drain the pasta. Toss the pasta with the sauce. SERVE. DONE.