Christine Hillebrand couldn’t find a vodka sauce that was just right.
Some were too creamy or too watery, and many didn’t hold enough of a vodka taste. She searched recipes, taking a little from here and a little from there to create her own.
“I took a lot of time to really perfect this, and I think it’s my best,” Hillebrand said, adding that her husband, Gregory, and daughters, Kylie 15, and Jenna, 13, also love the sauce. “I’m proud of it.”
It’s no surprise Hillebrand’s vodka sauce is such a hit, considering that her grandfather was a chef and cooking remains one of her favorite pastimes.When she’s not experimenting in the kitchen, Hillebrand is business coordinator at Waverly Community House and, thanks to her Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce recipe, she earned the Comm a $50 grocery gift card through Local Flavor Gives Back.
For this simple recipe, Hillebrand said, cooks can omit and add ingredients to their liking. Hillebrand adds a lot of vodka to her sauce (the alcohol burns off) because she and her husband enjoy the taste. She uses shallots, but they can be swapped out for onions. She adds brown mushrooms, but cooks can use whatever kind they prefer, Hillebrand said, or they also can scrap ingredients altogether. It’s all about making the sauce your own.
“So many things you can do different or to your liking,” Hillebrand said. “That’s kind of the fun of it.”
The Comm hits its centennial this year, and the historic house will celebrate that milestone Friday, July 26, and Saturday, July 27, with an event that includes time capsules, the Comm Square Fair carnival, tours and more.
“We’re going to have all these fun events to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking,” said Gia Reviello, collections manager and grant writer. “It’s about the history of the Comm and the history of Waverly, which are so closely connected.”
There’s always something going on at the Comm, Hillebrand added. In addition to its regular programming — which includes educational, cultural and recreational activities — the Comm hosts special events, such as the Antiques Show and Sale, annual summer concerts, kids’ summer camps and the House and Garden Show. The Comm is an important part of the history of the Abingtons and a place where all community members — even those outside of Waverly Twp. — can come for enrichment or simply to enjoy the space.
“It’s such a beautiful building, and there’s always a lot of great things going on here,” Hillebrand said. “It’s a great place.”
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Christine Hillebrand’s Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup chopped prosciutto
1 cup chopped baby bella mushrooms
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup vodka
2 cups tomato sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 box penne pasta
Asiago cheese, grated (for garnish)
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic to hot pan and sauté for about 2 minutes until soft. Add prosciutto, mushrooms and basil and continue to sauté another few minutes. Add vodka and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until alcohol evaporates and liquid reduces by half. Continue cooking until sauce thickens. Next, stir in tomato sauce. Season with salt and pepper as desired and let cook on low about 30 minutes.
Right before you are ready to serve, add heavy cream to sauce and allow it to simmer for a few minutes until hot.
Prepare pasta in a large pot of salted water as directed. Drain.
Add pasta directly to sauce mixture and stir, or pour sauce over hot pasta. Top with grated Asiago cheese and garnish with basil.