CReamy Penne alla Vodka

penne pasta with vodka sauce
By Vegan Feast Catering (Penne alla Vodka) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 40 mins
  • Yield: 6 to 8 servings

The sauce is rich with bacon and cream or lean with skim evaporated milk and takes on a slightly spicy flavor from the crushed red pepper . This is a classic Italian dish. 

Recipe reprinted with permission from Cooking With the Firehouse Chef by Keith Young (Berkley Pub Group).

What You'll Need

  • 1/4 pound bacon, diced (can also use pancetta)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup vodka
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes with juice (pureed in a blender)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream or 1-1/2 cups evaporated skim milk (for a leaner version)
  • 2 (16-ounce) boxes penne pasta
  • 24 fresh basil leaves (chopped)
  • 1-1/2 cups freshly grated Romano cheese

How to Make It

  1. Place a large pot of cold, salted water over high heat to come to a boil.
  2. In a large saute pan on medium heat, cook and render fat from the bacon. (If you are using pancetta or , skip this step and just saute it with the garlic.) Once the bacon is almost crisp, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Do not clean the pan.
  3. Add the olive oil and, when it is hot, return the bacon to the pan along with the garlic. Saute until the garlic turns light golden brown, then add the onion and saute until it becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and let it reduce by half, then add the tomatoes, red pepper, and salt.
  1. Simmer the sauce uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the heavy cream and simmer another 10 minutes.
  2. Once you've added the cream, put the pasta in the boiling water and cook until al dente according to package directions. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the basil and the cheese, and stir well. Drain the pasta, shock it with a little cold water, and return it to the pot it was cooked in. Pour the sauce over the pasta and mix gently until the pasta is coated completely. Serve immediately.
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
768 Calories
23g Fat
102g Carbs
30g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)