I like vodka. I love cosmos. I like the occasional martini. And I love vodka sauce.
Sadly, martini means something drastically different here in France. It’s the name of a brand of aperitif – before dinner drink – that tastes nothing like a real vodka martini. It’s not a bad drink, it’s a dark caramel color sometimes, yellow-white like pastis other times, it’s a little sweet mixed with bitter herbs I think, but it’s not vodka.
Vodka sauce also does not exist here in France. This was horrifying to me, as I had discovered this wonderful pasta sauce only about 1 ½ years before I moved to France and was crushed when I couldn’t find it here.
So, I learned to make my own.
It’s actually not so hard, nor does it take a long time. It’s just a matter of having enough vodka on hand to create the recipe:
- 1 cup of vodka
- 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- 1 can of tomato paste, or concentrated tomatoes
- 1 can of whole, peeled, stewed tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic
- fresh basil
- heavy cream
- salt and pepper
When I make my vodka sauce I like to add something to it besides pasta. I asked the husband what he would like in his sauce and he said “Sausage” so off to the butcher we went. There was some consultation with the butcher when we walked in. I wanted something a bit spicy, but not the spiciness that comes with sausages like merguez or chorizo. In French, they are called piquant. I wanted something épicée, which is different – less burning your tongue off and more of an “ooo spice!” feeling.
Anyway, our butcher, who I like to call our butcher because he recognizes us, recommended these. Porc sausages laced with 3 types of pepper and some fresh herbs. They were 3 euros and the best part is that they are handmade and fresh, as in made that morning. As usual, I made one of my famous language faux-pas and forgot which language I was supposed to be speaking to who and said “OK, we’ll take two” to the butcher in English, right after I had said tu veux l’essayer? to the husband. (Do you want to try it?)
Back to the sauce:
Put the vodka and red pepper flakes into a bowl. Let them sit for 1 hour or more.
Heat up olive oil in a pan and cook the sausage. I recommend cooking the sausage through or almost completely through, so that you don’t have to wait for the sausage to finish cooking in the sauce which can take a long time.
Crush and add the peeled, stewed tomatoes, then add the tomato concentrate. Mix and let simmer.
Here I like to take out the cooked sausage and roughly chop it, and then put it back in the pan.
Add heavy cream or light cream (I’ve used both and they both come out fine) slowly, mixing as you go, until the sauce becomes a nice red-orange color. Let it cook over low heat for another 2-3 minutes and serve with pasta.
Some notes: this recipe does not dilute the vodka, and the taste of the vodka is VERY strong. I like it that way. However, if you do not, and just want the tang of the vodka, I recommend making sure you use a lot of heavy cream and diluting the vodka with some water.
This would be a must if you’re going to serve this to children, because honestly, I think the husband and I both got a little tipsy on this sauce, even though he loaded his down with cheese.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a weekend in France without a protest. The husband and I went to see a movie in Toulon on Saturday afternoon and when we walked out of the theater and stepped onto Boulevard de Strasbourg we saw hundreds of bikers.
Hundreds of bikers. Maybe even thousands. I didn’t know this many people owned motorcycles in France, but it shouldn’t surprise me as this part of the country that gets very little rain and rarely drops below 5°C in the winter.
They were protesting the government’s new decision to take down the warnings for the speed radars on the highways. Seriously. That’s all. The government isn’t lowering the speed limit or raising the fine. But they’re taking down the huge warning signs that proceed these radars about 1km before the actual radar, and people are mad.
They claim that the government is doing this for the money and not for safety reasons – which in all honesty is probably true – but wouldn’t it just be easier and safer to drive the speed limit instead of 150km/hr without a helmet?
Apparently not, and so the bikers of the Var took to the streets of Toulon, blocking traffic for miles – I mean kilometers.
The husband was happy we had taken the boat to the city instead of driving.