Growing up in an Italian household I always knew there were two kinds of Penne alla Vodka – the first is the kind of vodka sauce you might find in jar or at a chain restaurant. It’s more American-Italian than Italian-Anerican. This sauce is thick and heavy – almost too rich to enjoy and usually leaves you feeling like you’ve over-indulged. The second is a more authentic vodka sauce – light pink in color and creamy yet delicate, with chunks of tomato, a hint of vodka and good cheese. This is the kind of sauce you’ll find in both authentic Italian restaurants and kitchens – and in this recipe. This Penne alla Vodka with Pancetta recipe is very easy enough to pull together for a weeknight dinner, but elegant enough to serve on special occasions.
It took me a few years to really perfect this penne alla vodka with pancetta recipe, and over time it has become one of my favorite meals. You’ll only use two pots for this recipe – one for the sauce and the other to boil the pasta – so cleanup is a breeze as well!
This is one of my favorite meals to prepare – each of these ingredients smell wonderful on their own, so when you put them together in a pan your house will fill with an aroma that is guaranteed to have the whole family eagerly lingering in the kitchen. This is a good time to put them to work setting the table and putting together a salad. This penne alla vodka with pancetta recipe will be ready in under 30 minutes, so I love to keep things simple by serving it with nothing more than some good bread, a simple salad with homemade croutons and some wine.
To take this recipe over the top use only a good vodka that you would enjoy drinking. I don’t bother to chop the whole canned tomatoes before adding them to the sauce, just simply break them up with a spoon as the sauce is simmering and you’ll be left with some delicious chunks of tomato in your finished sauce!
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- 3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 3 Ounces of Pancetta, cubed
- 1 Can of whole tomatoes
- 1/4 Cup Vodka
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- A pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
- 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
- 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
- 1 lb of Penna Pasta, cooked to al-dente
- Fresh Basil for garnish
- In a large pan melt the butter over medium heat.
- Add pancetta and cook until crisp, 5-6 minutes.
- Remove Pancetta with a slotted spoon and reserve on the side.
- Pour off all but 2 Tablespoons of the fat.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Stir in tomatoes, vodka, salt and red pepper flakes.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes.
- Stir in heavy cream and cook 2-3 minutes more, stirring occasionally.
- Remove sauce from heat and stir in the reserved pancetta, penne pasta and Parmesan cheese.
- Serve, garnished with fresh basil.
- Bring the pasta water to a boil while the pancetta is cooking, then cook the pasta after you add the vodka to the sauce - this should allow the pasta and sauce to finish around the same time.