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Penne Alla Vodka

by . Featured in FEAST
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Introduction

As with all dishes that find their way into a country's repertoire, even oddball ones like this, there are many versions of this recipe: some add chilli flakes, some cubes of bacon: I prefer it with neither, just the tomatoes, a base of onion and the butter and cream stirred through later. The vodka itself - and you may have to steel yourself for this - is better added to the drained pasta and not, as all the recipes I've seen, stirred into the sauce, but feel free to play with it as you please. You could, indeed, consider using pepper vodka.

As with all dishes that find their way into a country's repertoire, even oddball ones like this, there are many versions of this recipe: some add chilli flakes, some cubes of bacon: I prefer it with neither, just the tomatoes, a base of onion and the butter and cream stirred through later. The vodka itself - and you may have to steel yourself for this - is better added to the drained pasta and not, as all the recipes I've seen, stirred into the sauce, but feel free to play with it as you please. You could, indeed, consider using pepper vodka.

Penne Alla Vodka
Photo by James Merrell

Ingredients

Serves: 10

Metric Cups
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil
  • salt (for pasta water, to taste)
  • 820 grams canned chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons double cream
  • 1 kilogram penne rigate (or other short preferably ridged pasta)
  • 125 millilitres vodka
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • parmesan cheese (for grating over at the table)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tablespoons garlic flavored oil
  • salt (for pasta water, to taste)
  • 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 pounds penne rigate (or other short preferably ridged pasta)
  • ½ cup vodka
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • parmesan cheese (for grating over at the table)

Method

  1. If you are cooking this just before you eat, put the water for the penne on to boil before you start the sauce. You will need a big pan, enough to take the pasta and its sauce later.
  2. Finely chop the onion, either by hand or in a processor. In a large pan, heat the garlic oil and add the finely chopped onion and a good sprinkling of salt. Cook the onion fairly gently for about 15 minutes without letting it catch and burn, which just means giving it a stir every now and again. It should be very soft and almost beginning to caramelize.
  3. Tip in the cans of chopped tomatoes and continue cooking over a gentle heat, simmering for another 15-20 minutes. If you're cooking this ahead, and I always do, stop here.
  4. Reheat the almost-finished tomatoes (or just continue as you were if you're making this in one unbroken fluid movement), stir in the double cream and take the pan off the heat. When the water for the pasta comes to the boil add a good measure of salt and tip in the penne. Set a timer for 3-4 minutes less than the packet instructions for cooking it, as you want to make sure it's cooked al dente and will need to start tasting early.
  5. Drain the cooked pasta, tip it back in the pan and pour over the vodka, and add the butter and some more salt. Turn the penne in the vodka and melting butter and then tip it into the tomato sauce unless it is easier to pour the tomato sauce over the pasta: it depends on the sizes of pans you are using.
  6. Toss the pasta in the sauce until it is evenly coated and turn out into a large, warmed bowl. Put it on the table along with a block of Parmesan and a grater.
  1. If you are cooking this just before you eat, put the water for the penne on to boil before you start the sauce. You will need a big pan, enough to take the pasta and its sauce later.
  2. Finely chop the onion, either by hand or in a processor. In a large pan, heat the garlic oil and add the finely chopped onion and a good sprinkling of salt. Cook the onion fairly gently for about 15 minutes without letting it catch and burn, which just means giving it a stir every now and again. It should be very soft and almost beginning to caramelize.
  3. Tip in the cans of diced tomatoes and continue cooking over a gentle heat, simmering for another 15-20 minutes. If you're cooking this ahead, and I always do, stop here.
  4. Reheat the almost-finished tomatoes (or just continue as you were if you're making this in one unbroken fluid movement), stir in the heavy cream and take the pan off the heat. When the water for the pasta comes to the boil add a good measure of salt and tip in the penne. Set a timer for 3-4 minutes less than the packet instructions for cooking it, as you want to make sure it's cooked al dente and will need to start tasting early.
  5. Drain the cooked pasta, tip it back in the pan and pour over the vodka, and add the butter and some more salt. Turn the penne in the vodka and melting butter and then tip it into the tomato sauce unless it is easier to pour the tomato sauce over the pasta: it depends on the sizes of pans you are using.
  6. Toss the pasta in the sauce until it is evenly coated and turn out into a large, warmed bowl. Put it on the table along with a block of Parmesan and a grater.

Additional Information

For vegetarians replace the Parmesan with a vegetarian alternative.

For vegetarians replace the Parmesan with a vegetarian alternative.

Tell us what you think

What 4 Others have said

  • Thanks for this - a real winter warmer! A welcome break from Christmas fair in the lead up to the big day. It works brilliantly with gluten free pasta too although I always prefer fusilli to penne as it is less likely to stick together. More like this please! x

    Posted by optimistic_cook on 22nd December 2014
  • Its fantastic!!!! i love it, although i did add the chilli flakes and some sausage slices. YUMMMMMMMMMMMM

    Posted by bela83 on 1st February 2012
  • Great job....I'm big fan of Pasta and Vodka indeed. You are always surprising me. Thanks a lot for the recipe.

    Posted by siacrow on 2nd January 2012
  • This is so totally my kind of dish. I'm really intrigued by the addition of the vodka, so I can't wait to try this - tonight would not be too soon!

    Posted by suebnz on 1st January 2012
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