Penne alla Vodka (Recipe!)

I made this ridiculously easy and mouth-watering dish last night. Everyone in my family gobbled it up. My picky 3-year-old even asked what was in it, amazed that it could be so good. The 1-year-old wiped it all over his face and head, hoping to absorb it through his skin. I totally get it. If it weren’t so messy, I might have done the same.

Recipes for this classic dish vary, but the one below is how my brother and I prepare it. And it is fool-proof. Buon appetito!


  • 1 pound of penne pasta
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 4 oz diced pancetta (I use Citterio Cubetti Pancetta)
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 5 tablespoons of butter, divided
  • 1 cup of vodka
  • 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 1 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (plus more for sprinkling, optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (optional)


  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente
  • In a large saucepan that will be able to hold all the pasta and the sauce, heat the oil over medium heat.
  • Add the pancetta and cook until it starts to crisp
  • Add 1-tablespoon of butter and the shallot. Cook until shallot is soft and translucent, but not brown
  • Melt the remaining butter in the pan
  • Raise the heat to high and add the vodka. Bring to a quick boil and simmer for 2 minutes
  • Add the tomatoes, heavy cream, crushed red pepper, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add the pasta to the pan of sauce and toss
  • Add the grated cheese and mix everything together well
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Serve with a sprinkle of cheese on top

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