Pasta Jenny

What is Pasta Jenny, you might ask? It’s what my husband has affectionately nicknamed my version of Penne Alla Vodka.

I am sad to admit that for me, Pasta Jenny used to be jar sauce (For shame!), with vodka and cream mixed in, and then just adding the pasta. Quick and easy dinner right? But as I start to try more things in my quest to become better at cooking and baking, I’ve found a recipe that makes the sauce from scratch, and I haven’t looked back! No more jarred sauce for me, ever!

I initially found this recipe on one of my very favorite blogs, The Way the Cookie Crumbles. This is the same blog where I found my new pizza crust recipe. Bridget of The Way the Cookie Crumbles is awesome – she has great recipes, gorgeous photos, and she does a lot of comparisons between numerous recipes to determine which is the best. (I am currently trying Alton Brown’s The Chewy Choc Chip Cookie thanks to her – more on that later!). But back to the penne alla vodka!

I saw this recipe on her blog, and I knew I had to try it! It came together easily, and it’s soooo GOOD! The first time Dave tried it, he asked if I made the sauce from scratch, and I was proud to say yes! You can definitely taste a difference if you’re used to using jarred sauces. Give this recipe a try, it’s quick, easy and really delicious! Maybe your husband will give it own nickname πŸ™‚

Check out Bridget’s pictures – they’re way better than mine πŸ˜›Β  Also, I agree with Bridget’s notes on this one. Feel free to edit this however you like, it won’t turn out bad! I use regular canned unseasoned tomato sauce instead of diced tomatoes because we like ours saucier. I usually omit the basil because I can’t find it here. I never make this the same, but it’s always delicious.Β  Trust me πŸ™‚

Penna alla Vodka

(Sourced from How the Cookie Crumbles & Cook’s Illustrated)

My omissions/additions are in Italics.


1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved (I’ve used half diced, half sauce as well as all sauce – it’s personal preference)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Β½ small onion, minced (about ΒΌ cup)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
ΒΌ-Β½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning (I usually add this to the tomato mixture)
1/2 teaspoon sugar – I like a little sweetness along with the spicy in this dish!

1/2 tsp table salt
β…“ cup vodka
Β½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves (I usually omit this since I can’t find it here, but add it if you have it!)
fresh parmesan cheese, for serving

1. Puree half of the tomatoes in a food processor until smooth. Dice the remaining tomatoes into Β½-inch pieces, discarding cores. Combine the pureed and diced tomatoes in a liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1β…” cups). Add reserved tomato liquid to equal 2 cups. (I don’t measure this out, since I use all sauce and no diced tomatoes normally, and it’s fine).

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are light golden around the edges, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3. Stir in the tomatoes and Β½ teaspoon salt. Remove the pan from the heat and add the vodka. Return the pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until the alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8 to 10 minutes; stir frequently and lower the heat to medium if the simmering becomes too vigorous. Stir in the cream and cook until hot, about 1 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta. Cook until just shy of al dente, then drain the pasta, reserving ΒΌ cup cooking water, and transfer the pasta back to the Dutch oven. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss over medium heat until the pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1 to 2 minutes, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick. Stir in the basil and adjust the seasoning with salt. Divide among pasta bowls and serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.

Enjoy! πŸ™‚


A day at the Al-Thani Family Oasis!

So here in Doha, I guess it’s common for some of the royal family to have vacation homes way outside the city, where they can go to escape. An oasis in the desert, if you will πŸ™‚

Well a freshman student at CMU said that her parents were looking to host a party at their vacation home and decided to invite all the faculty to their home for a day to enjoy it! I feel really lucky that we were invited, and was excited to see what the day held πŸ™‚

We arrived at Education City at 10 AM, and hopped on the bus. Since the farm was an hour outside of Doha, Student Affairs had scheduled shuttle buses to run back forth every hour on the hour. It felt like a long ride and we were all starving, but when we finally got there, it was amazing.

Once we arrived, we were taken to the main house, and into a lovely Majlis sitting area with tons of Arabic sweets all over. They had freshly squeezed juices that were being passed around, and it was nice and cool. It was really gorgeous!

Also, as soon as you walked in, there was this large wall hanging that was black with gold Arabic writing. Zeinab, the Arabic teacher here, told us it was an actual panel from the Kaaba, which is the big black box in Mecca, and the gold writing was actually individual gold threads. Apparently, they make new ones every year, so this must have been a gift! I was blown away! What an beautiful and unique thing to have in your house.

After that, it was coffee time! So we headed to the Starbucks, that had been brought out just for us, for the day! It was amazing. Even cooler, one of the ladies recognized me from the branch at the mall, and knew my drink – made it twice without me even having to order! It’s day like this I love living in a tiny country πŸ™‚

After coffee and breakfast, we took some time to just enjoy the lovely weather and scenery around us, and chatted with friends who had joined us. There were coolers full of soda and water, baskets full of snacks and free food at Starbucks. It was really awesome

A few hours later, they announced it was time for lunch. With a crowd as large as ours, and with buses full of people arriving every hour, I expected a grill out – hamburgers, hot dogs, etc. I was so wrong! We were led into a huge room that had two of the longest buffet tables I have ever seen! I bet the tables seated 100 people! We were served an amazing spread of Moroccan food – cous cous with veggies, pastilla, chicken with olives, beef with prunes, and there was even a huge serving dish with rice and some sort of meat (beef I am guessing?). It was really quite an ordeal, and we had a delicious lunch.

After lunch, we relaxed with some tea and they passed out dishes of Baskin Robbins ice cream! Yum!

The next thing we saw were these horse drawn carriages/rickshaw things! We decided to take a ride in one. It was fun, but super bumpy! They took us to the horse stables, where we spent some time feeding all the horses. There were a lot! Some Arabian horses and some super cute tiny ponies. It was really cool!

Then we decided to walk around and see the rest of the animals. It was quite the walk, and there were a ton of animals! We didn’t even make it to see all of them! We did see the one thing we’ve been wanting to see though – the Arabian Oryx. I can’t tell you how awesome this was! The Oryx is like the national animal of Qatar, all over the logo of Qatar Airways, and is always pictured on lots of things, but we’ve never seen one in person. They are gorgeous! (Sorry for the poor picture – they didn’t want to get to close, so I was using the zoom option on my iPhone).

We also saw lots of different types of Gazelles, deer, and oryx from other regions. We unfortuantely missed the peacocks, camels and ostriches. So that was a bummer, but it was late and we had been in the sun all day, so we were getting tired! We headed back to the main house, and decided to cool our feet off in the pool πŸ™‚

We talked about going home, but decided to stay for the portion of the evening where we’d be taken to the camp for a bonfire, more food and live entertainment. We waited for a van to come around that would take us there, and when we arrived, I am so so so so so glad we decided to stay!

We went into separate tents to get traditional outfits – a thobe and bisht for Dave, and a cool red beaded dress for me. Imagine my surprise at the end of the night when we were told that we could keep everything! πŸ™‚ So awesome! I can’t wait to wear this dress again for CMU’s upcoming International Day! πŸ™‚

Then there was more food! Schwarma, falafel, Mixed grill and seafood and even a pizza making station! It was unreal! I had the falafel and it was dee-lish πŸ™‚ There was music playing, people dancing, and lots of tea being passed around πŸ™‚

After eating, we hung out with friends and had a really great time. It was a gorgeous night, and we were happy to be able to relax outside. We were gifted at the end of the night with a reusable shopping bag, polo shirt, hat and mug with the Sulami Oasis name on them. The bus ride home was even fun – we spent it with friends singing lots of songs and laughing a lot! It was a day I won’t soon forget!!!

I am not sure if or when we’ll be invited to do this again. (Actually, it looks like we’ll be invited to the beach house next year, whoop!) I feel really lucky that we had this opportunity.Β  It was truly quite an enjoyable day! πŸ™‚Β  Ending this post with a picture of my handsome husband in his gear, and me in my new dress!

For more pictures of our day at the Sulaimi Oasis, check my FB page (f we’re friends) or this Shutterfly album! πŸ™‚ (I am warning you now – the album has a LOT of photos!)