First of all, authenticity is overrated. It may mean a lot in hip-hop, but when it comes to cooking, food is delicious whether it’s a bastardized recipe thought up six months ago in Los Angeles or if they’ve been cooking it in the Old Country for a thousand years. Case in point: the rich, delicious pasta accompaniment known as vodka sauce. An American spin-off of an Italian marinara sauce married with a traditionally Eastern European beverage of choice, it’s about the furthest thing from a traditional sauce possible, but you know what? It’s tasty, spicy and with the right preparation, fresh and delicious.

Ingredients:

¼ cup fresh basil

3-4 oz. prosciutto

3 Roma tomatoes

3 cloves garlic

¾ tsp chili flakes

½ tsp dried thyme

Salt and pepper to taste (preferably kosher and cracked)

1 can crushed tomatoes (20 oz. or about 2 ½ cups)

¼ cup vodka

½ cup heavy cream

Cooked pasta, preferably a small shape like penne, farfalle or rotini

Chiffonade the basil, which is to say, roll the leaves in a tight bundle and slice thinly. Do the same with the prosciutto. Roughly chop the tomatoes, by cutting length wise down the center and cutting in quarter inch chunks. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Finely chop the garlic, and in the meantime, heat two tablespoons of olive oil on high in a medium saucepot. Add the garlic, chili, thyme, salt and pepper and cook just until the garlic begins to gain color. Add the crushed tomatoes and vodka. Reduce heat and cook down for at least 15-20 minutes to let the flavors simmer.

Add cream to basil-prosciutto-tomato mix and stir. Slowly add prepared tomato sauce while stirring. You should be left with a pale rose colored, rich and spicy sauce to serve over pasta. Pair with a dry red wine and enjoy.

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