Penne Alla Vodka

"It is suggested when you make this recipe that you use a premium vodka as a less expensive brand will give a harsh taste. To allow your pasta and sauce to finish cooking at the same time, add your pasta to the boiling water directly after adding the vodka to the sauce. This recipe is from Cook's Illustrated Nov/Dec 2006"
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Ready In:




  • Puree half of tomatoes in food processor until smooth.
  • Dice remaining tomatoes into 1/2" pieces, discarding cores.
  • Combine pureed and diced tomatoes in liquid measuring cup (you should have about 1 2/3 cups).
  • Add reserved liquid to equal 2 cups.
  • Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering.
  • Add onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are light golden around edges, about 3 minutes.
  • Add garlic and pepper flakes; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in tomatoes and 1/2 tsp salt.
  • Remove pan from heat and add vodka.
  • Return pan to medium-high heat and simmer briskly until alcohol flavor is cooked off, 8-10 minutes; stir frequently and lower heat to medium if simmering becomes too vigorous.
  • Stir in cream and cook until hot, about 1 minute.
  • Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large Dutch oven over high heat.
  • Add 1 TBS salt and pasta.
  • Cook until just shy of al dente, then drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup cooking water, and transfer pasta back to Dutch oven.
  • Add sauce to pasta and toss over medium heat until pasta absorbs some of the sauce, 1-2 minutes, adding reserved cooking water if sauce is too thick.
  • Stir in basil and adjust seasoning with salt.
  • Divide among pasta bowls and serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.
  • For Penne Alla Vodka With Pancetta:

  • Heat 1 TBS olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat, add 3 oz thinly sliced pancetta, cut into 1/2" pieces (about 1/2 cup)and cook until crisp, 6-8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to small bowl and set aside. Pour off all but 2 TBS fat from pan and continue with recipe for Penne alla Vodka, using fat in pan instead of oil in step 5, reducing salt to a pinch in step 8, and adding reserved pancetta to sauce along with basil in step 16.

Questions & Replies

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  1. This is an easy and tasty vodka penne. I liked the fresh basil taste, though I still like my friend's recipe that uses cilantro (instead of basil) and romano cheese (instead of parm) a little bit better. Thanks for a nice lunch.
  2. everything turned out really great! My whole party enjoyed the meal! Thanks for the recipe!
  3. 5 Bright Stars! EXCELLENT! My only experience with vodka sauce has been at restaurants and this one is right up there with them! Made two changes to the recipe . . . first used diced tomatoes and eliminated a step. The other change was a big one, used the sauce over cheese ravioli and it was WONDERFUL!
  4. This was a good vodka sauce recipe. My husband enjoyed! I have experienced some of the best vodka sauces around, made from visitors from Italy and from a couple of restaurants nearby. It is hard not to compare, but this one is the closest so far. Still needs a little work. Much better than Rachael Ray's recipe that everyone loves.


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