EAT This Week: Azzara’s Penne Vodka
To try and decide each week where and what to eat around the basin can be a challenge — there are so many amazing choices. In this feature we’ll dive into dishes that will surely satisfy those hunger pangs and leave you wondering where to go next.
I write a drink of the week column, so if you’re going to throw out a food dish featuring booze, I’m all in. While it’s not enough booze to be featured on the drink side of things for the week, it’s definitely got all the moves for the food side. Enter the Penne Vodka from Azzara’s.
Now don’t let the vodka scare you. Just picture where you’d normally deglaze a pan with wine in Italian cooking and swap it out for vodka. All the alcohol burns off — in terrific fourth of July fireworks fashion — and you’re left with a dish that’s super creamy and layered with flavor. Plus, Azzara’s has been doing this for 43 years, so you’re in good hands.
The Lego build of flavors all start in the skillet with a sautée of garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. Then comes the chicken to give it a smattering of color on the edges before throwing in the mushrooms. A little fresh basil and red onions and you’re ready for the vodka show. Seeing a dish get completely engulfed in flames is quite exhilarating. Not so much if you’re at home cooking with something flammable nearby, but in a professional kitchen, it rocks. Don’t worry. No kitchen was harmed in the writing of this column.
Once the flames die down, it’s time for the red sauce and cream. Each is added for a light simmer until all the flavors meld together like they’re forging a family bond. Add in the cooked penne and this dish is ready for plating.
The depth of flavor really shines through and you can almost taste each layer the dish was building upon. Even though it’s pasta with heavy cream, it stays light and refreshing. I’m a sucker for penne pasta. Any pasta with ridges, actually. Give me a vehicle that allows for richness to get caught up in each and every bite and I’ll ride it to the end.
Speaking of the end – if you hit the bottom of the bowl and there’s still vodka sauce hanging around, you’re not done. It deserves a swipe or two with some crusty bread. Fa la scarpetta!
If you don’t know, you need to.
Azzara’s restaurant is located at 930 Tahoe Blvd., Ste. 101 in Incline Village. Visit them online at azzaras.com for a complete menu and online ordering information or by phone for reservations at 775-831-0346.
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