This Penne alla Vodka has a rich and flavorful creamy tomato-based sauce that is infused with a hint of vodka. It is a comforting medley of tangy, creamy, and savory goodness that has won the hearts of many in our family.
The tomatoes provide a subtle acidity, which is complemented by the richness and smoothness of the cream. The vodka adds a unique depth of flavor, elevating the overall taste of the dish.
One of the best things about Penne alla Vodka is its versatility. You can customize it to your liking by adding ingredients like crispy pancetta, or even a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for a touch of heat. It's a dish that allows for creativity and experimentation, making it perfect for both casual weeknight dinners and special occasions.
In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Once the pan is heated, add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, which takes about 8 minutes.
Bring a large pot to a boil. You want to give the pasta plenty of room to move around once the water is at a rolling boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the penne pasta and one teaspoon of salt. Salting the water will not only enhance the flavor of the noodles, it helps to slightly firm up the pasta while cooking. This will give the pasta a better bite and prevent it from becoming overly soft or mushy. This is particularly important when aiming for the ideal "al dente" texture.
Add the tomatoes to the saucepan and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour the vodka into the tomato mixture and cook until the sauce thickens, achieving a saucy consistency. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes.
Stir in the cream and remove the saucepan from the heat. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add it back into the pot and pour the sauce over the pasta, ensuring all noodles are thoroughly coated. Allow the pasta to sit in the sauce for about 1-2 minutes.
NOTE: If you desire a thicker sauce, combine 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water, and stir into the mixture. Simmer for additional 5 minutes.
Finally, add the parmesan cheese, give it a final mix. Serve the pasta hot, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with extra grated parmesan if desired.
- Penne: Penne pasta is the ideal choice for Penne alla Vodka due to its ability to hold onto the creamy sauce. The ridges and cylindrical shape of penne allow the sauce to cling to the pasta, while its firm texture retains its al dente bite. The hollow center of penne captures sauce, adding bursts of flavor with each bite.
- Vodka: Any cheap vodka will do! You do not need to break the bank for a high-end vodka.
- Onion: Finely chop the onion to release its aromatic flavors and to avoid large chunks of onion in the sauce.
- Garlic: Crush the garlic cloves before mincing them to unlock their full flavor.
- Tomatoes: Opt for unsalted, canned tomatoes to have better control over the seasoning.
- Cream: The velvety texture and high fat content of heavy cream harmonizes with the acidity of the tomatoes and the subtle bite from the vodka. The high creaminess also binds the ingredients together, resulting in a cohesive sauce.
- Parmesan Cheese: Grate your Parmesan cheese fresh. The savory notes of freshly grated Parmesan add a delightful finishing touch to this dish.
- Crushed Chili Flakes: If you prefer your tomato sauce spicier, add ½ teaspoon of chilli flakes.
- Optional -Cornstarch: If you desire a thicker sauce, add a cornstarch slurry after sauce has completed cooking for 10-15 minutes. Create a thickening slurry with a 1:1 ratio of cornstarch to water, using 1 tablespoon of each for this recipe.
Penne alla Vodka
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic crushed and chopped
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon crushed chilli flakes
- 27 ounces canned diced tomatoes no salt added
- ¼ cup vodka
- ½ cup heavy cream (35% Milk Fat)
- 1 cup parmesan cheese freshly grated
- 1 pound penne rigate pasta
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt added to water for cooking pasta
- 1 tablespoon Cornstarch mixed in 1 tablespoon cold water
Prepare the pasta as the sauce is simmering.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiled, add the pasta and 1 teaspoon of salt to the boiling water. Ensure that the water remains at a rolling boil as the pasta cooks for around 10 minutes.
- In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Once the pan is heated, add the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, which takes about 8 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes to the saucepan and simmer for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour the vodka into the tomato mixture and simmer until the sauce thickens and achieves a saucy consistency. This usually takes about 10-15 minutes.
- Stir in the cream and remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add it back into the pot and pour the sauce over the pasta, ensuring all noodles are thoroughly coated. Allow the pasta to sit in the sauce for about 1-2 minutes.
- Finally, add the parmesan cheese, give it a final mix, and serve the dish hot.
- If you desire a thicker sauce, add cornstarch at the end of the cooking process. Create a cornstarch slurry with a 1:1 ratio of cornstarch to cold water, using 1 tablespoon of each for this recipe.