Penne & Vodka Sauce

The exact origins of penne Alla vodka are unclear; there have been multiple claims to the invention of the dish. According to Pasquale Bruno, Jr., author of The Ultimate Pasta Cookbook, penne alla vodka was invented at Dante, a restaurant in Bologna, Italy. Other historians of the culinary arts recognize James Doty, a graduate of Columbia University, as the inventor of penne a la vodka.

Paula Franzese, an American law professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, has asserted that her father Luigi Franzese, born in Naples, Italy in 1931, devised the first version of penne alla vodka, which he called penne alla Russia because of the addition of the vodka to his tomato and cream sauce base. He first prepared the dish table side for patrons at the New York City restaurant Orsini in the early 1970s.

The Williams Sonoma Essentials of Italian cookbook states that it was invented in the 1980s by a Roman chef for a vodka company that wanted to popularize its product in Italy.

Health Benefits
As a child growing up in New England around family country farms the big controversy around tomatoes “Is it a fruit or a vegetable?” has to be the greatest controversy surrounding the tomato. Technically it is a fruit, but tends to be used as a vegetable for cooking purposes. However on a Bright summer day weeding the garden the best lunch was a fully ripened tomato off the vine one of the only garden vegetables that can be eaten as is. I myself remembering the days when my uncle Yvone in Columbia Connecticut ,would go to check the family garden with a salt & pepper shaker in each overall pocket to check the vine ripen tomatoes and enjoy a fresh grown tomato for lunch . Before tomatoes were grown as food, they were grown as an ornamental plant, known as the ‘love apple’. People did not think that they were fit to eat because they are a member of the nightshade family (many of which are poisonous) and there is a strong, unpleasant odor to the leaves. We can thank Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson for proving this wrong back in 1820. When a crowd in his hometown of Salem, NJ saw that the tomatoes he consumed did not kill him, the food became a staple in the American diet. Tomatoes have a great nutritional value. To start with, tomatoes contain four of the basic nutrients from the recommended dietary allowance (RDA). They contain 40% of Vitamin C, 15% of Vitamin A, 8% of Potassium, and 7% of iron for women (10% for men). The red pigment of tomatoes is lycopene. Lycopene acts as an antioxidant, which helps to neutralize free radicals that can damage cells in the body. Studies have been conducted indicating that consuming tomatoes reduces the risk of developing rectal, colon, and stomach cancer. Tomatoes also contain two powerful compounds, coumaric acid and chlorogenic acid, which seem to be able to block the effects of nitrosamines (strongest carcinogen in smoke) and thus reduce the risk of lung cancer.

Dishes that are based around tomatoes are considered health choices. Tomatoes have a low calorie count at only 20 calories per 100 grams. Tomatoes and tomato-based foods/sauces are often recommended in weight loss because they provide essential nutrients, fill the stomach, but do not add many calories.Most foods lose some of their nutritional value when cooked. This is another wonderful thing about tomatoes because cooking them actually releases some additional benefits. When choosing tomatoes, be sure to pick the best shades of red. Fresh, local produce is always best, but you do not have to actually worry about the availability of fresh tomatoes. Tomatoes do not lose any of their nutritional value during processing. This means that canned tomatoes and tomato sauces are just a beneficial as fresh tomatoes.

So in reality it doesn’t matter, cooked or raw, tomatoes taste great and provide far too many health benefits for you to not consider them. My personal favorites are fresh tomato sandwiches with vegenaise and whole-wheat pasta with tomato sauce.