Homemade Mini Pasta Bar

Pasta is one of the world’s greatest comfort foods. Now that it’s well into September, those temperatures are finally starting to cool down a bit, which calls for warm, hearty meals. But sometimes, it’s hard to decide which type of pasta sauce I’m in the mood for. Plus, if I’m cooking for a group, not everyone always agrees on what to have for dinner. (My family can be pretty picky.) That’s when I got the idea to create a mini pasta bar, complete with three types of sauce, parsley, and fresh Parmesan. People can grab a bowl of pasta, top it with their sauce of choice, and finish it off with a few toppings if they choose. It was the perfect idea for a Sunday dinner.

Vodka sauce is a personal favorite of mine, and a basic recipe doesn’t require much more effort beyond classic tomato sauce. Essentially, you build a classic tomato sauce recipe, then add in heavy cream and vodka — and that’s it. If you’re already buying heavy cream, you might as well grab some fresh Parmesan and whip up a quick Alfredo sauce. If you already have the cream and cheese, you’ll likely have the other ingredients sitting in your pantry.

The ingredients list looks a bit long, but again, it mostly features ingredients you already have on hand.

3-4 servings of pasta (about 8 ounces)
Tomato and vodka sauce:
12 ounces crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon vodka
1/3 cup heavy cream
Alfredo sauce:
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup packed fresh Parmesan, grated
dash of salt and pepper

Cook pasta according to package instructions. In a medium pot, add tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Let simmer on low for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
After 30 minutes, transfer 1/3 of tomato sauce to a separate sauce pan. Stir in vodka, then heavy cream, and let simmer on low another 20 minutes. (Tomato sauce can keep simmering as well, but cover it to prevent reduction.)
In a third saucepan, melt butter. Add flour and whisk to combine. Add olive oil, then cream, and heat on low for a few minutes. Add Parmesan and whisk to combine. Add salt and pepper and cook for 10-15 minutes on low, stirring occasionally.
Pour pasta into a large bowl, then add three sauces to three separate bowls. Serve with Parmesan and fresh parsley if desired.

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