Penne Vodka

Mary Kay DeSola | Homemade Cravings Updated
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Penne Vodka is an Italian restaurant staple. Now you can make it at home, complete with fire!

Penne Vodka Photo

Penne Vodka, the main stay of Italian American restaurants everywhere. Doesn’t everyone love Penne Vodka? Also know as Penne alla Vodka, or as we call it around here, “Vodka Sauce.” Whatever you call it, this rich and creamy pasta dish is the ideal Sunday supper.

Aside from Alfredo Sauce, vodka sauce is the most loved in our house (although I’m currently obsessed with Spaghetti with Walnut Pesto and Gorgonzola, but the kids are not). I’ve had many a penne vodka at restaurants and the first time I saw vodka sauce being made was in the kitchen of a restaurant.

Penne Vodka Picture

I worked at an ice cream shop that shared a back entrance with an Italian restaurant. We regularly ordered their takeout for dinner, and as I waited in the kitchen for my meal to be cooked, I was taken aback when the sauce caught on fire and the chef continued chatting with me while shaking the pan around. Little did I know that would one day be my favorite trick to do for my kids in the kitchen.

What exactly is Penne Vodka and where did it come from? The “what” is basically onions, tomato, vodka and cream; sometimes there is a type of meat involved. Where it comes from no one seems to know for sure, but the most likely scenario is that it was created in the United States and not Italy. Regardless of where is comes from, I love it!

Penne Vodka Image

The first time I had my mother-in-law’s recipe, I knew I would never be ordering it from a restaurant again - this was impossible to beat. I have been making my mother-in-law’s recipe for many years now which includes shallots, thinly sliced Proscuitto, vodka, crushed tomatoes, and of course, lots of heavy cream.

In a restaurant, the vodka may catch on fire just from the high heat of the pan, but I find it difficult to replicate on a home stovetop. I use a long lighter wand to set the vodka on fire. DO NOT use a regular match or lighter!!! You should also have a tight fitting lid at the ready to smother the fire if it should get out of control.

The shallots and reduced vodka add a sweetness, and the Proscuitto, a saltiness. Pour in velvety cream to crushed tomatoes and you have the perfect pasta dinner for your Sunday Supper.

Penne Vodka Pic

Looking for some additions to this Penne Vodka for Sunday Supper? Try this Panzanella Salad or Stuff Zucchini to add some vegetables to your plate.

Penne Vodka Recipe

    6 Servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Penne, 1 box
  • 2 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup Shallot, chopped
  • 1/2 pound Prosciutto, thinly sliced and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1/2 cup Vodka, good quality
  • 28 ounces Crushed Tomatoes, 1 can
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook penne to al dente according to box instructions.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat.
  3. Add garlic, stirring until golden.
  4. Add shallots, stirring as needed for about 5 minutes until soft.
  5. Add prosciutto, cooking and stirring for 5-10 minutes until cooked through and a little bit crispy.
  6. Turn the heat to high and add vodka.  Have a tight fitting lid on hand to smoother the fire should it become out of control. Set on fire with a long match or wand lighter.  Hold the handle of the pan and shake it around gently until the fire goes out.  
  7. Add tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook over low heat for 20 minutes.
  8. Add cream and stir, cook for another 5 minutes until the cream is warmed.
  9. Toss with cooked pasta and serve with freshly grated parmesan.

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Mary Kay DeSola

About Mary

Mary Kay is known for all sorts of lovely family meals on her blog, Homemade Cravings. Around these parts, she's known for her fabulous Sunday Suppers.