Penne with Vodka Sauce


Vodka gives this sauce a bright flavor and most of the alcohol cooks off (so don’t worry  about feeding it to the kids). Start with a nice salad, the penne, perhaps some garlic bread and some vino. You can add your own meatballs or sausage, but it stands alone quite well. It pairs nicely with a Merlot or Pinot Noir.

I like a Vodka sauce with penne or ziti…a pasta that holds on to the sauce both inside and outside. A sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan to top it off and dinner is a breeze.

Penne with Vodka Sauce

  • Kosher salt
  • 12 oz. penne
  • 3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil,divided,  plus more for drizzling
  • 1 large shallot, minced or 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1/4 c vodka (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 c heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1/2 c grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping (optional)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil (or parsley)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; add penne and cook as label recommends to the ‘al dente’ stage. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, and drizzle with a bit of the olive oil.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, vodka, and the reserved pasta water, 1/2 tsp. salt, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a rapid simmer and simmer for about 12 – 15 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cream and simmer 1 minute longer.

Add the cooked pasta, remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil, grated cheese and fresh basil to the sauce. Cook, tossing the pasta through the sauce, 2 – 3 minutes until thoroughly mixed and heated through. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Divided among 4 plates and top with more cheese and basil.

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