I am addicted to reality TV. If I’m honest, I don’t even think Jersey Shore is even the most embarrassing reality show I watch. But no need to get into that now.

I consider Jersey Shore to be a sort of social experiment, with a lot of booze. It’s full of drunken antics, love stories, and plenty of drama. What more could you ask for? I think it’s admirable that they all get together and cook Sunday Dinner, no matter how unappetizing their food looks, and overlooking the fact that it sometimes ends in a fist fight.

If you watch too, you probably know that the season finale (and probably – hopefully for the sake of Snooki’s unborn child – series finale) was on Thursday night. To mark the occasion, Matt and I whipped up a Jersey Shore style “Sunday Dinner” to have while watching: Penne a la Vodka, Broccoli Rabe, and Garlic Bread. This was really a feel-good kind of meal. I think those Jersey Shore kids are really onto something!

The only thing we were missing was the Ron-Ron juice (been there, done that, don’t recommend it) and red solo cups. We took the booze up a notch and drank wine instead. The kind that comes in a bottle.

We mostly followed the recipe from Serious Eats for the vodka sauce, and made the broccoli rabe by blanching it and then quickly sautéing it in olive oil, chili flakes, and garlic. The garlic bread turned out incredible, so I decided it needed a post of its own. Recipe coming soon!

Penne a la Vodka
Adapted from Serious Eats, Serves 2
We omitted the tomato paste in the recipe (mostly because we didn’t have any), seriously upped the chili flakes, and tossed it with freshly grated parmesan at the end. We also made a full recipe of the sauce, but only used about a third for the amount of pasta we made for two.

  • 6 oz. penne
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 c. finely minced shallots
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. chili flakes (or more)
  • 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1/3 c. vodka
  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley (or basil), chopped

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, adjusting the heat if necessary. Stir in the garlic and chili flakes and cook for another minute or so, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

Turn off the heat and add the tomatoes and vodka.

Don’t make Snooki’s mistake and set the vodka on fire.

Turn the heat back on and simmer for about 7 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, start cooking the penne.

Blend the sauce (we used a hand blender) until smooth.

Return to the pan and stir in the heavy cream. Cook until warmed through and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside about a third of the sauce for later.

When the penne is al dente, add it to the pan with the remaining sauce. Add a good amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Top with the parsley, or basil if you have it.

Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Chili Flakes

  • 3/4 lb. broccoli rabe
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • Chili flakes (I used a whole teaspoon, but this was probably too much)
  • Salt, to taste

Blanch the broccoli rabe in batches for one minute. Drain well and set aside.

Heat the olive oil over medium-low heat in a large pan and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic is soft and just starts to get golden.

Add the blanched broccoli rabe. Cook over medium-high heat until it is heated through. Season well with salt.

The spicy, bitter greens were a great compliment with the sweet vodka sauce. Next time I think I’ll add a little lemon zest at the end to slightly cut the bitterness.

Salud! And…congrats, Snooki?

Are there any shows you’re embarrassed to be addicted to?

All Jersey Shore photos courtesy MTV

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