I didn’t know such a thing as vodka cream sauce existed until I saw Rachel Ray make it many years ago on 30 Minute Meals. Still, I never made it and never had the opportunity to try it until our recent trip to Italy. Upon our return I eyed the bottle of vodka in the freezer and decided the time to make penne alla vodka had come.
Rachel Ray calls her recipe “You Won’t Be Single for Long Vodka Cream Pasta” and I borrowed heavily from it. There are other recipes on the web which add bacon or pancetta. I purchased a pack of “tiras” which are little pieces of jamon which can be pan fried much like you’d use cubed bacon. It was a 70g pack which works out to about 2.5 ounces.
There are commercially prepared vodka sauces on the market, but this is so easy I’m content to make this myself since I tend to have everything I need in my pantry anyway. Sure, it’s a little more trouble than opening a jar and emptying the contents into a sauce pan, but the fresh taste (and lack of industrial preservatives and flavorings) far outweighs the convenience.
This recipe will make four servings. If making for two people, cook a half pound of pasta and reserve half the sauce for later.
- 1 pound penne pasta
- 2-3 oz diced bacon, pancetta or jamon
- 1/2 onion, chopped fine
- 1 cup vodka
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 can crushed tomatoes (± 28 oz)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- fresh basil leaves
- Parmesan cheese (block or grated is fine)
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil for sauteing the onions
- Start the water for the pasta. Add the pasta when the water comes to a boil and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil with a few red pepper flakes in a large skillet. Saute the onions until they start to soften.
- Carefully add the vodka and allow to reduce. (Be smart if using an open flame, ok?)
- Add the chicken stock and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to a simmer while the pasta finishes cooking.
- Stir cream into the sauce and heat through. Remove from heat before the sauce starts to bubble and spit.
- Mix the pasta and the sauce together. Toss with fresh basil leaves and top with parmesan cheese.
I’m not sure penne alla vodka would have been enough to attract Rick’s attention when we were dating, but we certainly intend to enjoy it more often now that we’ve found an easy recipe.