The weather - delightful.
The food - delicious.
The wine - a cabernet/shiraz combo from Australia.
Lately it seems we've turned Saturday nights 'out' into Saturday nights 'in.' Last week was a great example of that, a fun evening with friends and delicious food, bumped up a notch with the opportunity to sit and visit for hours. Tonight, I took some nice big shrimp and a pasta idea and turned it into dining al fresco - with candles and wine - I'm sayin', there's no restaurant in this part of SoIL that compares.
This recipe for Shrimp and Tortellini with Vodka Sauce was the main course...
Now, back to the bacon drippings. I could switch to butter here, but - there really wasn't any point in it! Leave about 2T of the bacon drippings in the skillet, and pour the rest into a 3 - 4 qt. saucepan. Add water to the saucepan for boiling the tortellini; bring the water to a boil.
I started with 14 oz. parmesan tortellini - I mixed the regular and spinach varieties. Boil the tortellini for approximately 15 minutes.
While the tortellini was boiling, I stepped outside to snip some fresh basil. This is a photo of the actual piece I clipped for the recipe - hasn't it recovered nicely from near-death in the heat of recent weeks?
Vodka sauce isn't hard to make. I've never tried it before - and was very happy with the results. Simply combine 1/3 cup vodka with the pan drippings (or 2 Tablespoons butter if you want to make it for another recipe). Stir until reduced by about half, about 4 - 5 minutes.
Add 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce and 1/2 cup whipping cream (ohhh I don't remember saying anything about this being lo-cal...) and simmer uncovered for about 10 - 15 minutes. My dad was a dairy farmer, and he sold milk to Prairie Farms - I remember that big tank truck pulling into the lane, and the fresh, super-cold 'raw' milk. I tend to grab the Prairie Farms milk products when they are available, just for memory's sake.
Add basil and thyme to taste (I had a little bit of thyme that had finally grown - from seed - large enough to use. This year's herb experiment has been a treat!) and a generous sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.
So - the tortellini's boiling, the sauce is simmering, and you have a couple of minutes to peel about 1 lb. of nice big shrimp - of course, you can use whichever shrimp you like for this recipe. I like the large ones from the seafood truck that shows up in Carbondale a couple of weekends a month. Expensive? Yes. But worth it. This is a meal that equals a night out - it's still a bargain compared to restaurant fare!
When the tortellini is done, toss it (strained) into the sauce - and use the boiling and bacon-y water for the shrimp. Shrimp take only a few (less than 5, even for large ones) minutes to cook. When they come to the top of the water, all pink-and-white, they're done. Be careful not to over-boil, they tend to get tough if you do. Toss the shrimp into the skillet with the sauce and tortellini, sprinkle with a generous helping of grated parmesan cheese to your liking, and you're done!
I thought some fresh Italian bread seemed like just the right addition to this meal. Broccoli would add just the right touch of green. We don't always follow the 'have a vegetable rule. Oops.
Time to eat!
And toast to the beautiful evening.
Enjoy - God's gift of beautiful evenings - great food - and life.