Penne alla Vodka

So – this dish is delightful to eat and rather simple (for the kinds of recipes I like to experiment with). It is based on a recipe by Ruth Reichl in The Gourmet Cookbook. When I make it, I make a lot. I like it that much, though. And it’s great for guests.


1 stick of butter
1 large (I mean large) onion
1 1/3 cups of vodka (I like Stolichnaya, myself)
16 oz. heavy/whipping cream
1 1/2 cups tomato puree ( I have trouble finding this frequently, so have used tomato sauce in its place – works just fine)
1/3 lb. cooked ham (or even better, pancetta!)
5 or 6 drops of Tabasco or Texas Pete, etc.
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 lb. penne pasta
1 1/2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


  1. Chop large onion (mince it really fine). If you have a chopper, even better.
  2. Grate cheese with a fine grater.
  3. Chop ham or pancetta (use the chopper again, if you like)
  4. Put large pot of water on to boil (for the noodles).
  5. Melt butter in large skillet.
  6. Add onions to skillet and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Add vodka to skillet and cook for another 5 minutes after returning to a simmer.
  8. Soon, the water will boil. When it does, add the noodles…
  9. Add tomato and cream to skillet and simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  10. Stir ham or pancetta, Tabasco, salt and pepper into the skillet. Keep heating on low if noodles are not yet done.
  11. Once noodles are done, strain and return to pan, reserving a cup of the water.
  12. Pour sauce over the noodles and mix. If things seem dry, use some of the reserved water to add moisture.
  13. Add cheese and stir to mix thoroughly.
  14. Serve.


About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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8 Responses to Penne alla Vodka

  1. Nathan Stitt says:

    mmm, sounds delicious

  2. George says:

    That is a great cookbook, BTW. It has wonderful recipe for Beef Stroganoff (beats the hamburger helper version hands-down). Its Tandoori Baked Chicken Thighs are also tasty. And there are so many other wonderful dishes…

    However, I prefer the Joy of Cooking version of Coq au Vin.

    Do you like to cook?

  3. Nathan Stitt says:

    I love to cook. My main problems are that I don’t have the time, and when I cook it tends to cost a lot of money because I like to use high quality ingredients. In case you can’t tell, I also really, really like to eat, haha.

  4. George says:

    Yeah… time is often an issue for me, too. And recently I’ve had to cut back on my experimenting with the cookbook due to cost. I hear ya’!

  5. Nathan Stitt says:

    I’ve been trying to eat healthier as well, but it takes so much work to do it. I’m starting to eat a lot of apples… Also there are these granola bars by a brand called Fiber One; they taste great and have 9g of fiber in them. There is even a Great Value version of them at WalMart that are also good. I’ve cut way back on fast food and drink almost exclusively water and coffee, no more soda. Ideally I’ll start eating more greens and maybe pasta or fish or something, but it is a lot of work.

  6. George says:

    Familiar with the granola bars. I’m not much on eating “healthy” – nothing against it, I’m just not into it myself. I really should eat better than I do, since I have a sugar condition…

    I stay off the sodas as well. At work I pretty much live on coffee.

    I’m trying to cook a little better for my wife, who is trying to eat healthy. I’m certainly not going to cook two different meals every night! My family does love salads, surprisingly. Though I’m afraid with regular salads, it’s the dressing (which isn’t exactly the healthiest part). We do make a salad with lettuce, walnuts, strawberries and a raspberry vinaigrette that the kids seem to like.

  7. Nathan Stitt says:

    With salads we usually eat Romaine lettuce, and lately I’ve really started to like mixing in spinach. I also really like Feta cheese in them and some type of vinegarette. I’m just trying to eat healthy because I’m overweight and out of shape. I started riding a bicycle last month but had to quit because I don’t have time because of my new job.

  8. Husband says:

    I want pancetta not bacon

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