Penne alla vodka used to be our Friday night dinner. We’d stop at Madison’s Pizza Café because it was on our way, the food was good and they were open late (i.e. past 8:00).
One night, Jay, the owner, offered us a bite of some penne alla vodka that he had made for himself. It was great and the secret ingredient turned out to be some chopped jalapenos he had tossed in. We were hooked, and it became our go-to dish. Here’s my take on it. It will take about the same time as cooking the pasta, so get the water boiling:
Penne alla Vodka
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup finely minced shallots
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1/3 cup vodka
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- Kosher salt to taste
- Optional but good: chopped cooked chicken, chopped jalapenos (pickled or fresh), sliced black olives
- Grated Parmesan for serving
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, tomato paste and crushed red pepper and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Remove pan from heat and stir in tomatoes and vodka. Return to heat and simmer until alcohol cooks off, about 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
For a smooth sauce, transfer sauce to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour back into saucepan.
Add in heavy cream and any of the optional ingredients. Cook over medium heat until warmed through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Serve over penne and enjoy!
My penne alla vodka wasn’t quite as indulgent as Jay’s but just what I’d been craving! When you’re adding the tomatoes and vodka, it’s important to remove the pan from the heat, otherwise I’ve been told, weird things could happen.
I also got brave and (carefully) used my stick blender to puree the sauce in the pan. Depending on your tolerance for cleaning tomato sauce from all kitchen surfaces, you could easily do the same.