Penne alla Vodka

penne alla vodka“I’ve been gone for a minute, now I’m back with the jump off”  (If you dont know this lyric we can’t really be friends)

Its been two weeks since I last posted a recipe and that’s just terrible! But I have a semi-good excuse — I’ve been absolutely swamped with work and life.

This weekend I was in L.A. for what might be my best weekend of the year so far. I got to see my lovely friend Dani get married in Santa Monica at what might have been the most perfect wedding to have ever happened, I hung out with my college bestie, Ashley and we did our usual hiking, oysters/champagne and pedicure ritual and finally, I got to meet my friend Laura’s amazing new baby boy.  My heart is full and I am happy!

penne alla vodka 2While in L.A., Ashley and I decided to run the Santa Monica Steps (so hard!) After our fourth and final pass, as we sat on the street curb trying to catch our breath, we ran into our college friend, Paul (go Tar Heels!)  Its always great to see old friends but its even better to see them when they’ve started an amazing distillery that produces a stunning artisanal vodka called Loft and Bear.   He gave us a bottle to take home and try out and I am happy to report that its absolutely fantastic. Trust me, after many years of studying through drinking, I’m an expert on vodka (plus being half-Russian, I’m pretty sure I was born with a bit of vodka in my bloodstream). The vodka was so good that I was inspired to come up with a vodka-related recipe. Since my creativity is kind of stunted right now, I went with a tried and true classic —Penne alla Vodka.

This is an easy and perfect dinner for quick weeknight meal or for accommodating an impromptu dinner party. It takes just a few ingredients to make the sauce and its great for freezing and bringing out in a pinch — so feel free to double up the recipe for a rainy day.

Penne alla Vodka
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4-6
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, very finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons of dry oregano (or 2 tablespoons of fresh)
  • 2 teaspoons of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup of vodka (preferably Loft and Bear if you can find it)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 2 28-oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound of penne pasta
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese to serve
  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for about 5-7 minutes until they are very soft and translucent. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano and continue to sauté for 1 more minute.
  2. Add the vodka and raise the heat to medium high (be particularly careful when adding alcohol with an open flame). Allow the vodka to cook in the pot for about 3 minutes until about half of it has cooked off. Then add the crushed tomatoes and continue to cook for 10 minutes until the mixture has reduced and thickened. During that time, add salt to taste.
  3. While the tomato mixture is cooking, cook the penne pasta according to package instructions until it is al dente. Drain and rinse in warm water. Toss the pasta lightly in olive oil.
  4. Add the cream to the tomato sauce and stir, cooking for about 2 more minutes.
  5. To serve, toss the pasta with enough sauce to generously coat it and top with grated or shaved Parmesan.


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