This dish is a spin on a typical Italian pasta sauce made with vodka, a smooth Italian tomato puree, fresh herbs and heavy cream. When all the ingredients are put together, they give this sauce its famous pink color.
I'm not a huge fan of the color pink or vodka, but the creaminess and the popularity of this dish made me explore new options to prepare it. And I'm so glad I did, as this has turned into one of my go-to recipes for dinner parties and lazy afternoons. The proportions in the recipe here make more than enough to have leftovers, which can be stored in the refrigerator or the freezer for future use.
Don't be scared of using tequila in the sauce; the alcohol content reduces as it simmers and the complexity of its flavor remains. However, the alcohol does not evaporate completely — a common misconception. The rule is: the longer you cook a sauce with alcohol, the less alcohol it will have. A short cooking time, like with this recipe, means there will still be minimal alcohol in the sauce. As when cooking with wine, I like to use a good, quality tequila. Stay away from weird mixes and use a higher quality tequila that is labeled as 100 percent agave.
I also find that using almonds instead of heavy cream adds nutritional value to the sauce and cuts back on tons of calories, whether you're on a weight loss plan or have some dairy allergies, like my kids. This dish is also vegetarian, and can be vegan-friendly as well if you use vegan pasta.
Fresh cilantro, slivered almonds and chile ancho rings for garnish, if desired
Bring a pot of water to boil to cook the pasta.
Preheat a pan over low heat and add the oil and the garlic and sweat for a minute, until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add the chile powder and stir for 30 seconds, but be careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the tequila, tomato puree, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover and turn the heat up to medium. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
Add the slivered almonds and blend until smooth using an immersion blender. The consistency you are looking for is a creamy one and not a grainy one, so blend long enough until you achieve it.
Cook the pasta per the package instructions.
Sauce the pasta until all the pasta is covered. Serve and garnish with toasted slivered almonds, fresh cilantro and chile ancho pieces.