Penne with Vodka Sauce

This one’s for you, Alicia!

I often make Italian food when Dr. O and I have guests for dinner. If we have more than 6 people at the table, I usually make a baked dish and a stove top dish, one with meat and one without. Penne with Vodka Sauce from the May 2004 issue of Everyday Food is one of my favorite stove top pastas… It’s quick, flavorful, and it makes a great accompaniment to a variety of Italian dishes. Plus, the bulk of the cooking time is spent boiling the pasta and letting the sauce simmer. Easy peasy.

This is another one that isn’t posted on the Everyday Food Web site, so here’s the ingredient list:

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red-pepper flakes
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, with juice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup vodka
Coarse salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound penne or other short tubular pasta
Finely grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

I put a large pot of water on to boil first so the pasta and sauce would end up cooking at the same time. To start the sauce, I heated the olive oil in a medium saucepan and added the garlic and red pepper flakes. I cooked the mixture until it was fragrant (30 seconds) and then added the tomatoes and their juice, breaking the tomatoes up with a wooden spoon.

I stirred in the tomato paste, sugar, vodka and 3/4 cup of water and then seasoned with salt. I simmered the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it was thickened (25 minutes). I stirred in the cream and cooked just until the sauce was heated through. (It’s essential not the boil the sauce once the cream has been added.)

Meanwhile, I cooked the penne according to package directions. When both the sauce and the pasta were finished, I tossed them together in a large bowl. I sprinkled the pasta with grated Parmesan to serve.

Penne with Vodka Sauce

I just *love* this pasta, seriously. The vodka (which actually evaporates during cooking) really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes, and I adore the hint of red pepper flakes. Parmesan makes everything better too, doesn’t it?

I made this dish for a party once and got so caught up in the whirl of getting the meal on the table that I completely forgot to add the heavy cream. Guess what? It was still absolutely delicious. If you want to keep things light (or dairy free), cut the cream in half or omit it altogether.

TIPS: I felt like such a smart and efficient cook when added the tomato paste to the sauce; this is the first time I used the individual portions of tomato paste I froze when I made Smothered Chicken. I added the tomato paste straight from the freezer and just stirred the sauce every minute or two until I knew it was incorporated. It was so nice to avoid throwing out yet another half-used can.

4 Responses to “Penne with Vodka Sauce”

  1. 1 Finnifog October 21, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    I’ve heard of this before, but not seen a recipe – sounds fab! Also – I have a bottle of vodka which is just sitting there (I like a vodka and orange about once a year tops) so this is a great idea to to use up ‘store cupboard’ basics – as I aways have these ingredients to hand (well, OK, not usually the heavy cream, my kids are starting a serious jam, scone and heavy cream habit). I’m going to try it with single cream instead (here in the UK we have pouring cream which is ‘single’, ‘double’ is heavy and ‘whipping cream’ is somewhere in between – you can pour it or beat it until it’s thick); oh, if you make scones buy McDougall’s imported flour – scones just don’t taste the same made with American flour. Thanks for the receipe 🙂

  2. 2 Melanie April 18, 2011 at 2:39 am

    I love this recipe and have lost the issue it was printed in. Thank you so much for sharing it!

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