Saturday, August 18, 2012

Enjoying Shrimp and Tortellini with Vodka Sauce

What a beautiful evening.    
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...

The best part of this recipe is probably the 1/2 lb. of bacon, sliced into 1" pieces and fried until crispy in a large skillet.  Remove bacon to paper towels to drain.  Then - I am serious about this - fold the paper towel over it and put it somewhere you can't see it.  Unless you are the kind of person who doesn't snitch fresh, crispy bacon while it's waiting around for its next instruction.  I am not that person.

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.


  1. Yummy! Great post - but where was my invitation? Anotther note on prairie farms products- friends of ours sell to them and they told me that the cows have to be hormone free. Very important! -abby

  2. This idea was just a vague plan about the time you guys were eating! Will keep the recipe on the Abby-list, for sure. I think the boys might like this!