Saturday, August 2, 2014

Penne a la Vodka

by Peg Cochran

I have a vodka pasta recipe that an acquaintance gave me thirty years ago (I remember being pregnant with my daughter and she is now thirty!)  She had cut it out from Bon Appetit Magazine and they, in turn, had gotten the recipe from some fancy restaurant in Rome.  The sauce had obscene amounts of butter and cream in it and also called for pepper vodka (you can buy it or make your own by soaking a hot pepper in some vodka for a few days.)  I can't, in all good conscience, eat something that rich anymore.  I am always mindful of my next doctor's check-up and what my blood test will reveal about my cholesterol!  So far I have avoided needing medication, and I'd like to keep it that way.

I experimented with the basic sauce ingredients and came up with this lighter version.  It's still not exactly diet food, but with portion control, isn't too bad. Of course controlling the portion is the hard part!  This is supposed to serve four (3 ounce portions each) but realistically three people could probably do it justice.

12 ounces penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes (or 1 28-ounce can)
2 shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/3 cup vodka
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook penne according to direction.  Personally I like mine al dente so I check it a bit earlier than it says on the box.   

Cook your sauce first--remember, the sauce waits for the pasta, the pasta never waits for the sauce! This is very quick and perfect for a weeknight dinner that is fast but tastes like it comes from a gourmet restaurant.  

Saute the shallots  in the oil over medium heat until softened--about three minutes or so.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for a minute (be careful not to burn the garlic.)  Remove from the heat and add the vodka.  Add diced tomatoes and bring to a boil (to burn off alcohol.)  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream and simmer until the sauce begins to thicken slightly.  Stir in the Parmesan.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss.  Serve with extra Parmesan cheese.

Note:  you may want to add salt to the sauce -- I try to keep my sodium intake to a minimum, but if it's not an issue for you, season away!

Mince shallots

Saute shallots in olive oil

Add garlic, red pepper and tomatoes

Stir in cream and cook until thickened slightly and stir in Parmesan

Serve with extra Parmesan on the side

Buon Appetito!

Lucille Mazzarella, the Italian Jersey housewife in my Lucille Mystery Series, would definitely make something like this for her family.  Confession Is Murder and Unholy Matrimony are available now.  I also write the Gourmet De-Lite books including Allergic to Death, Steamed to Death and Iced to Death.  Funny, but there's food in all of them!  Well, I love to cook and I do like to eat!

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  1. I may have to try that today. I have some leftover pasta that needs some sauce.

  2. Penne a la vodka is such a yummy delight.
    I've played with it over the years. One trick if you really want to reduce it's bodily impact without harming the deliciousness (too much) is use evaporated milk in place of the cream. It gives a similarly unctuous mouth-feel with less fat.
    But, moderation in all things. If this is a now and then treat, and you are ready and deserving of the "real" thing, go for the cream!

    1. That's genius using evaporated milk! I make a low calorie Thai dish that uses evaporated milk to get that creamy feeling (the recipe refers to it as Pad Thai but it's not even close to the real thing but is very delicious in its own right!) I will have to try that next time.

  3. Sounds delicious. I'm always amazed by how little cream is really needed in dishes. A little goes a long way. And I like Libby's idea is using evaporated milk. BTW, about a year ago there was a big study about salt. Turns out the people who used no salt had more heart attacks than the people who used salt. Go figure. Everything in moderation, I guess!

    1. Interesting about the salt! I still get plenty--it occurs naturally in certain foods like microwave popcorn lol! But I feel so virtuous by not adding any during cooking.