I am no sauce snob. Yes, I make my own, frequently. Yes, I often freeze various pasta sauces to pull out on a moment’s notice. Bolognese, meat sauces of all kinds, plain old tomato sauce, all tucked into the freezer for defrosting and quick dinners. But I also am never without a couple of jars of store-bought sauce, which have saved me on numerous occasions, and saved my family when I am out and about on even more.
And it is vodka sauce that I keep on hand more often than not, which has an additional layer of lushness and richness thanks to the addition of cream. I toss it with pasta, I make pasta casseroles with it, I make English muffin pizzas with it, too, sometimes. But making your own is even better. The addition of fresh cream to fresh sauce is kind of breathtaking, in my opinion, and give how simple it is to make, it’s well worth the time and energy to treat yourself and your family.
Is there Vodka in Penne alla Vodka?
Yes, there is! But it’s a very small amount, and the alcohol burns off in the cooking, so you’re not going to get tipsy from this sauce, much less drunk. Vodka, as with all alcohol, is a conduit of flavor, so you don’t really taste the vodka itself, but rather it enhances the flavor of the sauce as a whole. You really can use any vodka you have on hand – it will still elevate the taste of the vodka sauce.
But not all of the alcohol will cook off, so if you are pregnant and being very cautious about alcohol in your food, you may want to just skip the vodka. You will still have a terrific creamy tomato sauce, but it won’t be quite as deeply flavored. Same for serving to kids – there truly isn’t enough alcohol to give anyone a buzz, but you may want to omit it, or find another tomato sauce (see below!). I personally am fine with it, but I would never want to tell anyone else what to do with booze + kids or booze + pregnancy.
Penne alla Vodka: Vodka sauce has additional layer of lushness and richness thanks to the addition of cream and deepened flavor thanks to a bit of vodka.Tweet This
How to Make Penne alla Vodka
You start by making a basic tomato sauce, with onions and garlic and red pepper flakes and of course tomatoes. Add the vodka and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Then stir in the cream and oregano (you might want to use a bigger pot than I did).
Add ¾ cup Parmesan, and adjust the seasonings as needed.
Drain the cooked pasta and return it to the pot. Pour in as much sauce as you like; you will likely have leftovers to use later in the week.
Stir until the pasta is well coated.
Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.
Pass additional Parmesan on the side for those who want it.
What to Serve with Penne alla Vodka:
- Light Green Crunchy Salad
- Mixed Greens with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
- Romaine and Slivered Kale Salad with Lemon Dressing
- Romaine, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad
- Endive, Arugula and Orange Salad
- Endive, Radicchio and Citrus Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
- Chopped Winter Salad
Other Comforting Tomato Sauce Pasta Recipes:
- Simple Baked Pasta with Bolognese Sauce
- Instant Pot Ziti “Lasagna” With Bolognese Sauce
- Pasta with Fresh Heirloom Tomato Sauce
- Pasta with Creamy Sundried Tomato and Scallion Sauce
- Simple Baked Pasta with Bolognese Sauce
- Bolognese Sauce
- Cavatappi with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and PestoFresh Linguine with Shrimp and Peas in a Pink Cream Sauce
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Penne alla Vodka
- Kosher salt to taste
- 1 pound dried penne
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onions
- 6 cloves garlic , smashed
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes , or more to taste
- ¼ cup vodka
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (optional)
- ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan , plus extra for serving
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Chopped parsley for garnish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the penne according to package directions, just until al dente, about 11 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pulse the tomatoes in a food processor with their juice until fairly well chopped, but not totally smooth. You can also do this by hand; make sure to mix the juice back into the chopped tomatoes.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until pale golden brown, about 5 minutes; turn the heat down if the onions seem to be browning too rapidly. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook stirring for 2 more minutes, allowing the garlic to become fragrant and golden, but not brown. Add the tomatoes and the vodka, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the cream, oregano and ¾ cup Parmesan, adjust the seasonings as needed, and stir until it is hot throughout, just barely bubbling at the edges, and the cheese has completely melted into the sauce.
- Drain the cooked pasta and return it to the pot. Pour in as much sauce as you like; you will likely have leftovers to use later in the week. Stir until the pasta is well coated.
- Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the chopped parsley. Pass additional Parmesan on the side for those who want it.
The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.
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