Penne alla Vodka is a classic Italian pasta dish made with penne pasta in a creamy tomato and vodka sauce. So simple, but so good!
Penne alla Vodka is one of those recipes that (I think) too often gets over looked in Italian cuisine. To look at the dish – it’s just penne pasta in tomato sauce. But when you look under the hood (so to speak), there’s a lot more to this simple, delicious comfort food.
In Italian cuisine, you don’t often find cream sauce mixed with tomatoes or red sauce because the acidity of the tomatoes makes the oil in the cream separate. But in Penne alla Vodka – the vodka serves as an emulsifier which prevents that separation from occurring.
Plus – the acidity of the vodka is also believed to release flavors from the tomatoes that you wouldn’t normally detect in a traditional tomato sauce. And Jack and I can both definitely vouch for that – this Penne alla Vodka is uniquely delicious!
Penne alla Vodka is an extremely simple dish that can be prepared in about the same time it takes to cook the pasta. After a little bit of chopping, you can get this delicious dish on the table in less than thirty minutes.
How do you make Penne alla Vodka?
We highly recommend using canned, crushed San Marzano tomatoes in this recipe (such as Cento or Pastene brands). This simple sauce also gets a punch of flavor from minced fresh garlic and shallots, prosciutto, a pinch of red pepper flakes – plus chopped fresh basil and freshly grated Parmesan cheese on top as your Penne alla Vodka is served.
A few other notes: Using penne pasta is traditional in this dish (hence, the name) because it holds the perfect amount of sauce inside – giving you the best balance of pasta and sauce in each bite.
When preparing the Penne alla Vodka you see in our photos throughout today’s post, we used a top-shelf vodka brand, but any vodka you have in house will work just fine in this dish.
You may enjoy these other simple pasta recipes:
- Spaghetti all’Amatriciana
- Pasta con Tonno
- Pasta Sauce Raphael
- Pasta al Finocchio
- Pasta with Yellow Pepper Sauce
1 pound penne pasta
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
Pinch red pepper flakes
¼ pound sliced prosciutto cut into pieces
¼ cup shallots, diced
½ cup vodka
1 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes (we used Cento brand)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Few grinds black pepper
½ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
½ cup fresh basil, finely chopped (don’t chop until ready to add to the dish)
Place a large pot of water on to boil and once boiling, add some salt and the pasta and cook just short of done.
While the pasta water is heating, prep all ingredients and in a large sauté pan or skillet, place olive oil, garlic, pepper flakes, prosciutto and shallots and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until shallots are soft.
Add vodka and cook for one minute.
Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook uncovered for three minutes, then add the cream and remove from heat.
Once the pasta is done, return heat to the sauce, and stir in the butter and cook for two minutes. With a spider or strainer, scoop out and add the pasta to the sauce along with ½ cup of pasta water.
Cook just until the pasta is cooked, adding more pasta water as needed.
Stir in the Parmesan and stir.
Chop the basil and add and stir again. Adjust seasoning if needed.
Serve with additional Parmesan cheese.
Keywords: penne alla vodka, pasta