Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me cream sauce?
November 14, 2013 7:27 AM   Subscribe

I am cooking dinner this weekend for an old friend who has requested Italian, preferably pasta with a creamy sauce. I am not very well acquainted at all with cream sauces, apart from this very simple one. I have many extra hours to work on this, and access to several specialty markets and a Trader Joe's. Help me find a crazy delicious recipe! Special farfalle inside...

Recipe must be:

1) Vegetarian (and absolutely no alici, as delicious as they might be)

2) Reheatable

3) Not cost $20 a serving to make

Contorni and dessert suggestions are always welcome, though I will probably be making sauteed spinach as well.
posted by jetlagaddict to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
This extremely simple sauce is very close to a cream sauce, but takes no effort at all and is incredibly delicious.
posted by xingcat at 7:30 AM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

You want suggestions for a cream sauce, or for a creamy sauce? Not quite the same thing.

If you want a creamy sauce, I'd suggest something like the tomato-butter sauce xingcat recommends (which you could cook ahead and reheat, but there is really no need to do so). To make it creamier and more interesting, you could toss in some crushed red pepper and a splash of vodka right before finishing the pasta in the sauce, and then swirl in a nice couple glugs of heavy cream just before taking it off the heat. If you use a chunky short pasta such as penne, small vegetables such as peas, baby artichoke, etc. would not go amiss. Easy peasy lemon squeasy.
posted by slkinsey at 7:36 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

You mention vodka sauce in the title, so do a vodka sauce! It's really easy. I do 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, stick of butter, 1 cup vodka. Simmer awhile. Add 1 cup cream near end. SO DELICIOUS.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:39 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

You want suggestions for a cream sauce, or for a creamy sauce?

Either/or-- I would prefer something that's not straight-up cream, but with a cream component, but I am willing to be swayed by a really phenomenal almost-entirely-cream recipe. I do already have an entire frozen container of the recipe xingcat linked to, so I was hoping for a new recipe to tackle. Thanks :)
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:41 AM on November 14, 2013

Ree Drummond's Pasta alla Vodka is my favorite. I am nuts about the recipe xingcat linked as well. Yet this one is, in my opinion, the crack cocaine of pasta sauces and doesn't even take very long to make.

I am neither wealthy nor fancy enough to grate my own parmesan cheese. I just use the canned Kraft stuff. So if you wanted to make it really special, I've heard that that makes a big difference.
posted by heatvision at 7:53 AM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

The Nigella Lawson Penne Alla Vodka recipe is always a hit for me.
posted by The Michael The at 7:55 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

The America's Test Kitchen recipe for penne alla vodka is dynamite.
posted by General Malaise at 7:56 AM on November 14, 2013

One of my favorites: Penne with Swiss Chard and Leeks in a Walnut Cream Sauce.

I substitute veg stock for chicken broth and toasted sesame oil for the walnut oil. Reheats nicely but also oddly satisfying to snack on cold.
posted by mikepop at 7:59 AM on November 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Penne alla vodka is an obvious choice. I like it with onions, not garlic, and the trick is to make sure the onions are really well cooked - not browned or caramelized, but very soft.

Another technique I like for cream sauces is to use dried porcini:

-heat up some dry vermouth (I usually microwave it)
-soak the dried porcini in the hot vermouth while cooking pasta etc
-saute some garlic in butter
-remove reconstituted porcini from vermouth & chop
-add cream, vermouth, porcini to garlic and simmer till thickened
-add grated parmesan or pecorino romano at the end or at table

Other flavors are up to you; I think this works well with thyme and some frozen peas, but that's partly because I think of it as a pantry staple rather than something I would shop for specially. You could amp it up with fresh mushrooms as well.
posted by yarrow at 8:43 AM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, similar to mikepop's idea, walnuts+garlic+blue cheese+cream+spinach is a great pasta sauce combo.
posted by yarrow at 8:45 AM on November 14, 2013

Drink some of the vodka before using it in sauce. In the US, vodka can be made from pretty much anything.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:06 AM on November 14, 2013

Vodka sauce alla "cheap and easy":
-1 jar pasta sauce (any type)
-1 or 2 shots of vodka
-1 cup of sour cream

Heat up the pasta sauce, stir in the sour cream until blended, add the vodka. Throw it over pasta (one box cooked). Serves 4-5. Goes well with garlic bread to mop up the extra sauce. Add vegetables if you feel like it.

It has never failed me as a hit when company is over.
posted by donut_princess at 10:15 AM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

How about going in a different direction and making pasta with an avocado sauce?

This recipe is similar to the one I make.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:45 PM on November 14, 2013

Well obviously you should make Marcella Hazan's tomato & cream sauce. Recipe here courtesy of Martha Stewart.

This is a very simple recipe and absolutely delicious. The quantities of celery, carrots, and cream can all be increased to your taste.
posted by torticat at 1:45 PM on November 14, 2013

Oh, reheatable... in the event that you take my suggestion, it will be best if you add the cream when you reheat it, just before eating. Actually this might apply to other recipes as well, as cream often turns into something like melted butter when cooked & then reheated.
posted by torticat at 1:49 PM on November 14, 2013

Just wanted to follow-up: I actually hate vodka, but it was the clear favorite! I wasn't blown away, but I think my decision to not double the suggested garlic was to blame. Very tasty and easy to do, so thanks to you all! I can recommend Trader Joe's Honey Roasted Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Ravioli in brown butter sage sauce, which I made in case I screwed up the vodka sauce. Will have to try the blue cheese and walnut sauces next time!
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:44 PM on November 23, 2013

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