Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce with Bacon + Giveaway!

>>  Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bryan and I disagree about our favorite pasta shapes.

For him, thicker is better. Chewier always wins. Long and fat is better than short and skinny. The ultimate goal? The ability to wrap the noodles around a fork into a big, dense ball so that he can create the chewiest, thickest bite of them all.

Me? First of all, I love sauce. So, the more nooks and cranny that a pasta shape has, the better. Radiatore or Fusilli are typically my favorites, though I also love a good angel hair.

One thing we both agree on - we don't like mushy pasta. Al dente all the way.

Dried Pasta with Really Good Texture?
This company called Pasta Lensi contacted me in January and asked me whether I wanted to try some of their dried pasta.

Well, Bryan loves pasta and is always looking for that perfect texture when it comes to pasta, so . . . why not? Hey, you never know.

Seriously, I didn't have super high expectations. Bryan is pretty picky when it comes to pasta texture. He almost always orders the handmade pasta option at a restaurant, almost regardless of the sauce with which it is paired. The pasta comes first!

I decided to make one of my standards - a great tomato vodka cream sauce recipe from Cook's Illustrated (see end of post). I make this dish all the time, so I thought it would be interesting to compare a new pasta brand with an age-old recipe.

The Verdict?
According to Bryan, "this is the best dried pasta I have ever had." It far beats out all the other dried pastas we've ever tried. Granted, we haven't tried too many really expensive artisanal dried pastas, but we have tried reasonably well known Italian brands, like de Cecco and Barilla, for instance.

I have to agree that the texture of this pasta is superior to your normal supermarket boxed pastas. We had been buying de Cecco before, which is still very good, but this one is noticeably better. The pasta doesn't go mushy easily.  Typically I try to take out my pastas as soon as possible because they become unbearably soft and mushy so quickly if I don't cool them down quickly. This pasta is unusually dense, or something, making it much harder to accidentally overcook and ruin.

Bryan told me to give away the rest of our pasta boxes and just order Lensi from now on.

Pasta Lensi online

Just a bit of background
Pasta Lensi is an Italian pasta company that has been making pasta since 1920. Their pasta is still not widely available in grocery stores right now, although you can buy it on online at Amazon. Pasta Lensi is a bit more expensive than normal, but if you buy in bulk online, it's comparable to the cheaper pastas.

Giveaway Details
The folks at Pasta Lensi were kind enough to give me TWO sample gift bags so that a couple of you could try this amazing pasta.  Each bag (a Pasta Lensi cloth tote) contains two bags of dried pasta to try.

Seriously, this stuff is really good, and Bryan and I are totally planning on buying a bulk pack soon. We just need to agree on a shape!

To Enter the Giveaway:

For one entry: comment below telling me your favorite way of preparing or eating pasta!

For an extra entry: tweet the link ( to the giveaway and mention @tinyurbankitchn [easiest way is probably to just tweet the example tweet below). Please also comment below telling me that you tweeted.

Example tweet: @tinyurbankitchn is giving away two gourmet Italian pasta gift bags! Check it out here:

For a third entry: please share a link to this post on facebook. Again, please comment below telling me that you linked on facebook and tell me where to look for your link.

Here's my answer to the question:

I love a simple pasta tossed with fresh mozzarella, vine-ripen tomatoes, basil, and olive oil. I also love anything with white alba truffles!

Giveaway ends SUNDAY, March 13th at midnight.

Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce with Bacon
Slightly modified from Cook's Illustrated

1 (28 ounce) can whole tomatoes , drained, liquid reserved
1 T olive oil
3 ounces of pancetta (can substitute bacon)
1/2 small onion , minced (about 1/4 cup)
1 T tomato paste
2 medium cloves garlic , minced
1/2 t hot red pepper flakes
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound pasta
Fresh basil leaves

Puree in a food processor about half of the tomatoes from the can (around 5-6). Dice the other half. Combine the puree and diced tomatoes in a 2-cup measuring cup and add the reserve liquid from the can until you have 2 cups total. Cook the pancetta in a pan until crisp (about 5-10 minutes). Remove from pan and place on paper towels. Pour off most of the oil, leaving 2 T.

Saute the onions and tomato paste in the remaining fat until the onions are shiny and a bit translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute.

Stir in tomatoes and a tiny pinch of salt. Stir.

Remove the pot from the heating source and slowly pour in the vodka. Bring the pot back to the heating source. Turn heat back up to medium high and boil off the alcohol (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, bring a bot of water to boil to cook the pasta. Cook pasta until al dente.

Once the alcohol has boiled off, add the cream and stir it in until hot - about 1 minute.

Mix the sauce with the cooked pasta. Stir in the freshly cut basil and the bacon. Add freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Time to time I receive free products, meals, etc. as a food blogger. I do not receive any payment for blog posts/reviews nor am I required to write a post when I receive free products, meals, etc. The views expressed in this post are completely my own. The pasta in this post was provided for free by Pasta Lensi.

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